After Image and the Hot Lady

I’ve heard a bunch of people misrepresent this image. If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t been flowing in the dorky viral online color snobs stream the last month.  I hesitated to post it on facebook afraid it might be redundant. But there are enough questions about after image, chroma,  hue and value, and surprisingly wrong interpretations of what is happening.

So first here are the instructions going around the internet: (1). Stare at the blue dot on her nose for 30 seconds (2). Then stare at a white wall blinking often. What do you see?

You saw the beautiful woman in full color right? So the first question I got was how does a black and white image get color? Let me slide down the rabbit whole a bit before we actually answer that. Because, the first thing I was interested in was why the three dots? What is the point of Red Green and Blue? Is this to trigger some kind of full color response in our visual perception?

So if you are curious, try this again. Now without RGB as dots, stare at the yellow + sign on her nose and then look at the white wall.

You get the same exact thing- a full color photo of the woman.

So the first thing to note is that the image you are staring at is full color. Note the green in her lips and the red in her dress. Many people look at the image and because it’s so heavily blue it almost looks monochrome- and we sometimes deceive ourselves into thinking monochrome is black and white. I’m curious how many people already got that and how many thought at first glimpse it was black and white.
The RGB dots have nothing to do with it except to give us a point to stare at. Why the creator of this image did that I don’t know. Anyone have a hypothesis?

If you are curious about how afterimage works, our eyes essentially get fatigued of the color we are staring at and, seeking neutral, start to emphasize the complementary color. Essentially, the dark blue in the woman’s skin is the complement of her light yellow white skin color. For more on the amazing effect of complementary colors check this out.

Now what was really fascinating to me was not just that this was going viral and that three people sent it to me, but that I had just gotten back from TEDxMaui showing the Colorbox and the most impactful piece I showed in the box was “Portal” which deeply worked with the idea of complementary colors and after image.

Complementary lady in actual black and white
More on that in the upcoming TEDxMaui post. For a preview, check out the photos on Facebook from the Colorbox FB page.