Do You See What I See?

April 02, 2016  •  11 Comments

Many years ago, when I was racing bicycles, in a race through Jemez Springs to Los Alamos, NM, one of my teammates, Joe Green, broke away, and had a pretty good gap on the peloton. A few of us were up front blocking for Joe, when all off a sudden Rich, another one of our teammates, came flying around us from off-the-back with riders from other teams on his wheel, and they started chasing down Joe Green. We yelled for him to stop chasing, but Rich had blasted by so fast he couldn't hear us, so he pulled the whole peloton up to Joe Green. We were racing for Nunzio's Pizza at that time and we wore red, white and green striped team jerseys. At the end of the race, Joe Green came up to me and asked "What's the deal with Rich? Is he colorblind or what?" Rich is colorblind with a red and green deficiency, and he told me many times that the Nunzio's jersey looked pretty much the same as any other jersey to him.

If you have ever wondered how the 1% to 2% of the population who are "colorblind" see color, my good friend and fellow photographer, Susan Graham, has just published Seeing Color Colorblind: Protanopia Part I on Kindle books available from Amazon at Susan is working on a print edition, as well. Since you need to view the photographs in color to see how "colorblind" people see them, you will need to use a Kindle Fire, a Kindle reader on your color hand held device or computer, or open it in Amazon's Cloud Reader to see the book in color.

Seeing Color Colorblind: Protanopia Part I is an excellent introduction for people who see color to see how "colorblind" people see the world. Susan's father was colorblind and her son is colorblind, also, but she said she never really understood the impact that color blindness had on them until recently. Through her photography and the many tools available for digital image processing, she has created a series of diptychs, with a normal color photo and the same photo processed to the colors that a person with protanopia (severe red deficiency) sees set side by side. Her son has helped her with the images so when he looks at the pair they look the same to him (if you look at the photos on a regular or paper white Kindle, both photos look the same). YOu can see samples of the diptychs on Susan's blog at

It's really amazing what Susan has accomplished by putting this book together and showing us what people with protanopia see when they look at color photographs. I had the common misconception that people with severe colorblindness see the world in more of a black and white or gray scale, when it turns out that they see color in black and white because they are not seeing the colors of the spectrum blended together that make black and white as I see it. Seeing Color Colorblind: Protanopia Part I is a fascinating view into another world, and is uniquely Susan because it is 100% art on the one hand, and 100% science on the other blended together into a single source.

Susan always wondered how her father and son could watch a football game on their black and white TV and talk about the "blue team" and the "yellow team". She thought it was a joke, until she finally realized they were seeing the teams in blue and yellow. Susan writes:

On March 15, 2015 I saw the first in a series of videos made by EnChroma, a company that makes glasses that help many people with color deficiencies see a broader range of colors. I must have watched the video at least twenty times that day, and cried throughout. I thought of the times my son had said, "I wish just once, even if just for a minute, I could see the world the way other people do." Finally, here was a chance, I thought." My mother saw the video, and immediately ordered some of the EnChroma glasses for her grandson.

It turned out that the glasses didn't really do a lot for her son, but they helped a little. Since the technology is not to the point that it can help her son see color more like the most people, she started to wonder if there was a way that she "could see the would through his eyes." And the answer was "yes" and the result is Seeing Color Colorblind: Protanopia Part I.

About Susan:
Susan Brandt Graham, an award winning photographer, is a photographic artist offering a unique view into the creative feminine mind. By training, a social anthropologist (PhD University of Arizona), and board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist (MD University of Kansas, and Ob-Gyn Internship and Residency University of New Mexico), she has taught Anthropology at the university level and had a private Ob-Gyn practice until retiring. Living in the "Land of Enchantment," she is never at a loss for photographic subjects. Currently her main interest lies in conceptual photography and photo essays.


T & L Photos
Thanks, Lavinia! Imagine being tone deaf and colorblind? That would change everything.
Lavinia Ross(non-registered)
Great review, Tim, of a fascinating book by Susan. Well done, both of you! I have sometimes wondered what the world would look like if I were color blind, or my color perception was not the same as other people.
T & L Photos
Hi David. The SW sun does bleach hair. Just the issue of getting a print to look like what you see on the screen shows the problems technology can have with color..
Teagan noted about how we perceive color. To reduce the randomization in color perception on computer monitors, that's part of the reason each color and shading has a hexadecimal code attached to it. By no means does it mean my high-end HP monitor sees the color (or shading) the same as a low-end HP monitor, Dell monitor, let alone a Mac.

As for blondeness, either it's natural or out-of-a-bottle. Out-of-a-bottle has more of a brassiness. My neighbor had her blonde lightened from a "dishwater" to a lighter color. My daughter Tara is a red head. But after a summer of riding, I've seen her hair nearly blonde. Most of the time, it's closer to a lighter strawberry blonde shade after a summer of riding.
T & L Photos
Hi Teagan! Blondie, Huh? For many people and in many cultures any hair color that's not dark is considered blonde. But your coworkers swearing you are blonde goes well beyond colorblindness — it's more like swearing! How we manage to communicate is so often a mystery to me.
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