These are notes on my first day with Enchroma glasses, designed to balance my colour vision and counteract my colour vision deficiency (mild protan). I paid for these and I’m not getting payment from Enchroma for ads or anything, so this is an honest appraisal.
There are many different aspects to this, regarding not only the sense data from our eyes but also the neurological processing that follows. I might get onto that another time. For now, here are notes on pictures I looked at with the glasses on, in sunlight. I looked at hundreds of images, all familiar to me. These are some that jumped out, for various reasons.
I’m including two versions of each image: first seen through Photoshop’s filter to simulate my type of colour blindness; and second with normal colour settings. The filter isn’t an accurate simulation of my colour blindness, but it might help to illustrate the difference between how I’ve seen the paintings in the past and how I see them now with the glasses.Schutz’s Mulch is a pretty extreme distortion of natural colour and physiognomy, even to people with normal colour vision, but for me the form is much more legible with the boosted reds drawing attention to the severed limb and bloodied mouth. Shaving wasn’t one of my favourite paintings by Schutz, and I only recently noticed the redness of the ground and the beach (the Photoshop filter neutralises reds and greens very aggressively, whereas I’m able to see reds and greens, just duller than normal colour vision). With the glasses on today, the red parts of the painting sung out more clearly and the balance between the colours in the picture became far more enjoyable. This changed the effect of the composition, and the relationship between the environment and the figure. I know this painting well, but seeing Men’s Retreat with the glasses was a real transformation. In particular, the vividness of the red ground in the bottom left corner totally changed the sense of space and contrast with the greenery above. The glasses give me a much clearer impression of the red/green contrast of the picture’s palette. I don’t usually find the word “beautiful” to be helpful, but in this case that’s what came to mind when I saw the painting this way. Yuskavage’s Northview is another image I’ve seen many times before without particularly enjoying the colour, but with the glasses it absolutely popped for me. The increased redness on the body was the most obvious difference, but the colour relations of the whole picture was what really surprised me. The colours added up to a much more enjoyable whole. The single red flower in the bottom left corner is a good example of the kind of small patch of red that I sometimes don’t notice until I look at it directly, but with the glasses the redness of it drew my eye right away. This Tracey Moffatt photograph was everywhere when I was studying art in the 90s. This Photoshop simulation doesn’t capture my colour blindness – I can easily see that the ground and the dress in the real image are bright red. However, it was the blue sky contrasting with the golden corn that I remembered most clearly from this image, whereas today with the glasses on it was the ground that jumped out at me as the most wildly expressionistic colour in the picture, glowing impossibly red like burning embers. Often I overlook small areas of colour, especially red. Previously, when I looked at Baumgartel’s The Dependent Independent, I hadn’t spotted the strip of red by the shop door. With the glasses, I notice it immediately, and consequently it plays a much more important role in the composition as I perceive it. Mark Bradford’s Measuring the Moment is another example of small patches of red that caught my eye immediately with the glasses on. I’d hardly noticed them in the past. The colour of black skin has been for me, until now, pretty much a mystery brown. I’d seen Masriadi’s Hisap (Suck) before today, but with the glasses I noticed how red the man is compared to other black faces in the same book (in paintings by Nina Chanel Abney and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye).
I’ve spoken a lot about red in this post, but there was also a photograph of a work by Heimo Zobernig in which the green absolutely captivated me. Unfortunately I can’t find the image online to post here.
My sense of what green actually is seems to be more complicated than red. The bright green of grass is not a problem, but I can easily get very confused with cooler “cyan” greens. The complimentary relationship between red and green might be part of this – it wouldn’t be surprising if a deficiency in one impacted the other.
There’s much more to be explored with these glasses but, as a first day experiment, I’m interested in what they do. They don’t allow me to see “new colours”, but they change the balance of colours to give reds more prominence and, as a result, to distinguish greens more easily from browns. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. More to come…