My journey into the world of photography started at the tender age of 12, a time when most kids my age were more concerned about football scores and comic books. For me, my tiny darkroom became a sanctuary. I even managed to turn it into a profitable venture. My domain was the world of black and white photography, where each frame told a story beyond colours—a world where I felt completely at ease.
Everything was going swimmingly until technology threw a curveball my way. The arrival, in the sixties, of colour printing for home darkrooms was a monumental leap. As excited as I was to explore this new dimension, it wasn't meant to be. Despite multiple attempts, I couldn't get the colour filters right for the enlarger. This was a defining moment for me, the first instance that revealed the limitations of my colour perception. While others might have felt discouraged, I took it as a sign—my destiny was in black and white.
Years later, I found myself in a somewhat awkward situation while judging a photography contest. I was fully engrossed in the process, meticulously analysing each piece, when a photograph of a ballerina caught my eye. Its composition, balance, and mood were perfect—or so I thought. "Why isn't this masterpiece in the black and white section?" I asked, fully expecting a logical explanation. My fellow judges looked at each other, stifling their laughter, before one finally spoke: "Because the tutu is pink, Peter!" It was another humbling reminder of my unique way of seeing the world, but it was also a teaching moment for me.
Then, there I was, feeling every bit a fashionista. Thought I had it all together in the fashion department. For me, style was simple: blacks, whites, and greys. This strategy served me well until one lunch outing with my sister. I strutted into the café, confident that my white slacks perfectly accented my monochrome ensemble. My sister couldn't help but ask, "Are you supporting gay pride today?" I was puzzled until she pointed out the now-infamous pink pants—a fashion faux pas courtesy of a rogue red towel in the laundry.
Living with colourblindness has its unique challenges, especially in a field as visual as photography. Yet in recent years when I ran the largest photo studio in the state, it never hampered my ability to deliver exceptional work. How, you ask? I was blessed with two talented full-time Photoshop gurus who brought images to life in post-production. Additionally, before every shoot, I made it a point to manually set the white balance using a grey card. This ensured that the colours in the initial shots were as accurate as possible. So despite my colourblindness, colour itself was never really a stumbling block—thanks to a reliable system and a skilled team.
My love for black and white street photography found the perfect platform in a Cartier-Bresson-Inspired group on Facebook. As for the technicolour world, my dear Parichad brings that to life in our Urban Life in Colour space. Enjoying immense success and a buoyant following these groups now have 360,000 members. And these two special street photography groups are now replicated on our own private domain, www.streetphotographygroup.com.
While some people might see my colourblindness as a limitation, I've turned it into my own unique superpower, especially in the realm of black and white photography. Because I perceive colours differently, my eyes naturally focus on the subtleties of contrast, shade, and texture that might escape others. I'm not distracted by the 'noise' of colour, which allows me to zero in on the raw emotion and intricate details so beautifully captured in black and white images.
This unique perspective allows me to 'see' colour in a whole different way. In my mind's eye, I understand what each shade of grey represents, creating an internal experience that is rich and vibrant. It's like my vision composes its own visual symphony, filling in the gaps that the absence of colour leaves behind.
And let's clear the air on one thing—traffic lights aren't an issue; red is at the top, just like on a British soldier’s tunic!
Through all these experiences—be they whimsical wardrobe incidents, enlightening professional challenges, or eye-opening creative moments—I've come to appreciate life's texture in my own special way. Yes, some shades might be missing, but the tones and nuances I do perceive make my life's canvas just as fascinating.