The Ishihara Color Test is the most common clinical test for red-green color vision deficiencies in humans. It comprises 38 plates, each containing a circle of dots randomized in color and size, which form a number that is visible to people with normal color vision. However, the number in the dots is invisible, or difficult to see, for those with a red-green color vision defect.

One example from the Ishihara color blindess tests

But, like mirages and memories, the Ishihara numbers are just optical phenomena. Each shows an image of things elsewhere, where refraction and reflection coexist and, to some extent, can be captured on camera.

My project, Attentional Landscapes, undertakes quasi-scientific experiments by photographically stripping and manipulating intended meaning and function. I combine the original plates from an Ishihara test book with family snapshots. A mutated memorial results – ambiguity through neutrality and absence, where vision and memory are simultaneously reduced and enlarged.

My paternal grandfather, who loved family photographs, had monochromacy – the rarest form of color blindness for which there is no treatment or cure. It meant that he could see only shades of black, gray and white, as in a black and white movie or photograph. One of his favorite sayings was ‘the gray horse always wins’. It was only as an adult that I understood what he meant.

Thus in this body of work I seek to question observation, exposure, recognition, insight, and all the contexts of memory and contemporary culture with which we are bombarded by ever-increasing amounts of visual stimuli, and yet in which there are always varying shades of gray.

This work is inspired by the research of Professor Boris Velichkovsky whose paper, Attentional landscapes and phasic changes of fixation duration in picture perception, discusses how memories and emotions are linked to how people visually perceive different scenes.

Professor Velichkovsky was kind enough to contribute an essay with is thoughts about my photographic project, which you can read here.

— Odette England