Colour Blind

People who know me in person are aware there's another reason behind my preference for not being a visual person – my colourblindness. I am mild Protan, which means I have a colour vision deficiency that results in a lower sensitivity to red light, making it harder for me to distinguish certain colours. While it primarily involves reds, I also struggle with differentiating between some blends of red and green. For example also browns and oranges can appear similar, making it challenging for me to distinguish certain shades. This does not mean I am unable to see colour, despite the term "colour blindness" being used.

Identifying this condition is very difficult. It is said to affect, according to various sources, between 2 - 10% of the adult male population. I first realised I might have the condition while playing a version of the Tetris game that incorporated colour. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't figure it out, until someone asked me why I was mixing up the green and yellow blocks. Ouch.

This experience, coupled with my lifelong curiosity about how individuals perceive the world around them, led me to question the entirety of visual perception. Colour perception, sensitivity, and sense are highly subjective matters. While some people have a natural ability for it, others either find it unimportant or mask their lack of these traits. At the end of the day, how can you say that two random individuals perceive the same imagery in the same way? It may differ due to physical differences in eye structure, neural recognition, image processing, and interpretation.

Interestingly, colour blindness has also been the subject of scientific research. Theories range from evolutionary advantages that made Protans better at spotting objects and patterns camouflaged against a red-green background, hence giving them (ahem, us) advantages in tasks like hunting or spotting predators. Another theory suggests that, in some cases, this limitation might offer slightly better vision in low-light conditions. And it's not just about ancient skills. While I cannot provide sources, there are several references to the condition being sought after for snipers.

While I'm not planning to change the career path so quickly, my colour perception does make me wonder about its impact on photography, a hobby of mine. Again, while I believe I can see (and even appreciate) colour photos just fine, they are tricky for me to produce. It has been notoriously difficult for me to get the colours right in post-processing. It's not uncommon for me to get some shades completely wrong. Therefore, I tend to gravitate towards black-and-white photography. Here, colours are no longer a distracting factor. Instead, details and patterns are highlighted.

Regardless, the topic of visual perception is fascinating. We cannot literally see the world through another person's eyes. And as far as colour blindness goes, try to take online tests today and maybe (if you are male that is) you might find out interesting results...