Heartbeat: Doris Mitsch’s Posies for Predators Asks, “Can you See Red & Green?”

Posies for Predators questions whether colorblindness lends some advantage to seeing the world.

Doris Mitsch seduces us with her observations of nature, which are always a little too sumptuous and a little too gorgeous to be picked organically from a garden. Not only does Mitsch see things differently, she photographs them thus. Instead of using a camera and traditional lighting, she utilizes a scanner as her instrument, and works for hours to achieve her desired effects. Her incessant imaging process creates an otherworldliness that is, as she says, “a eulogy for a diminishing natural world, a meditation on visual rhythms and rhymes that aren’t easy to notice, codes we’re not smart enough to interpret, as pieces of the pattern vanish day by day.”

In her newest ongoing series, Posies for Predators, which debuts here, Mitsch is working with ideas about the visual experience of people and carnivores with Protanopia and Deuteranopia-type (red-green) color blindness, which affects about seven or eight percent of American men and most predatory animals.

She speculates:

For the carnivores, it seems to affect the effects of some kinds of camouflage. But what about the men? Do they have some advantage in seeing the world on a more level chromatic playing field, eliminating both the fiery end of the spectrum and the calming middle? Or are they just missing something the rest of us can’t imagine doing without? (One man told me he had only a little trouble distinguishing between red and green, but it turned out that he thought they were pretty similar anyway – as close as, say, beige and taupe.) Are aggressive men more likely to be colorblind? Are colorblind men more inclined to seek thrills in other ways? Is love still like a red, red rose when it appears in shades of drab from petal to stem? What about that lady in red?

The original colors of the flowers Mitsch photographs are traditionally associated with feminine, often fiery, colorations including reds and pinks.  She shifts the hues to help us imagine how the colors might appear to those with severe red-green colorblindness.

“At first I couldn’t work on these for very long at one time, because it made me feel a little sick. Now I’m starting to get used to it,” she says.

And so Mitsch’s series asks us to consider her musings. Though the answers may be harder to suss, she is perhaps encouraging the other 92 to 93 percent of us to understand the striking differences of color recognition as we contemplate her luscious images stripped of their “natural” color.  Or, at least our perceptions of it.

Images: Doris Mitsch

Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her personal blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.

Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.