“The Island of the Color Blind” by Sanne De Wilde

In 1775 the Pingelap island, a tiny atoll on the Pacific Ocean was blasted by a typhoon. Only 20 people have survived this natural disaster. One of them was a king who had an extremely rare vision defect called achromatopsia manifesting in an inability to recognize colors. The king had many children thereupon in the fourth generation after typhoon most of the island inhabitants saw the world in black and white.

Starting to work on a project in Micronesia I wanted to find out how people affected by achromatopsia perceive the world. I tried to see it through their eyes. I’ve learned that the daylight glares them, moon glow turns a night into a day and colors transpose.

Imagine fire bursting with black and white flames, pink trees or grey waves and a completely new rainbow. The color for those who can’t see it is just some word. What happens in the imagination of these people? What taint really looks like and what color are trees. How do they perceive themselves?

Green is often times described as a favorite color of islanders who are brought up among flamboyant vegetation of jungle. This is also the color that most people with achromatopsia don’t recognize. Reportedly, despite they can’t see it, it’s the red that is the easiest one for them to distinguish. This is the reason I decided to take pictures in infrared with camera adapted so as to map colors in a different way. Thanks to the lack of colors, which people with achromatopsia called also the blind are accustomed to we perceive their eyes, faces, and even reality in a brand new way. We enter the oneiric world full of endless possibilities of color interpretation.