Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflecting on Color & Photography

The picture appearing below was taken recently, before our cold spell spilled down from the Arctic, and appeals to me because of the contrasts in color—that is, the dark branches next to green leaves and the orange in the treetops at the top of the picture. Even though I am color blind, I still appreciate color.

When I was tested for colorblindness in the Air Force, I could only identify nine of the twelve numbers among the pages of colored dots. Now when I sit at one of the portable blood pressure machines at the grocery store, it gives me the option of testing my color vision, and I cannot identify any of the shapes on the five screens of colored dots, some of which make up a martini glass or a palm tree.

The Air Force recruiter, when I enlisted in 1969, assured me that I would be able to work as a photographer. Once I got to Lackland AFB and started boot camp, I discovered that my color blindness prevented me from entering that career field. Stubborn, I refused to sign up for any other career for which my test scores made me eligible. The Air Force soon chose for me and decided that I belonged in what was then called security police. It didn’t matter that I had been developing my own pictures while I was in high school. It was a skill that I had learned from my roommate during my junior year. He was on the yearbook staff, and we often spent our weekends in the photo lab.

The 35mm Voightlander that my Dad had gotten in Germany in 1957 became mine until it was stolen from my barracks room. For some reason, I never bought another camera and missed the opportunity to take pictures of the people and places that I knew during almost two decades of my life. All I have are my memories until it becomes possible to record those mental images that we bring up from a much earlier time in our lives.