Humanæ: The Skin Color Index

Humanæ is an ongoing photography project, a “chromatic inventory” to be specific, attempting to use an external color system, namely PANTONE®, to index the spectrum of human skin colors. The project, created by Angelica Dass of Rio de Janeiro, uses color as a “bridge between masks and identities.”
In an attempt to subvert our typical skin color classifications Dass reached for the external framework of PANTONE® Guides, one of the major classification systems for color in the world. The system differentiates colors not with nice sounding names but by a consistent alphanumeric code which allows them to be reproduced reliablly in both the material world as well as in digital formats. The system has become such a standard-bearer for the industry it is often called real color. 
Much like a natural history museum strives to maintain a thorough collection of life on Earth, a frankly impossible task if you think about it, Humanæ’s goal is a complete index of all possible human skin tones. By indexing the faces of humanity, not with our complex system of moral codes, national borders, and historically unjust racial divides, the project attempts to reveal the spectrum instead of the classification of skin colors.
The color chosen for each volunteer is taken from an 11 x 11 pixel segment of their face and a background is dyed that exact color. But the photographs do more to illicit the color association than simply matching the face and the background color. The series eliminates the external contexts of height, build, and fashion choice. 
The project ignores race classifications such as Asian, Caucasian, American Indian, African American or Other labels which wars have been fought over, and replaces them with the impersonal 71-4 C or 7522 C. Strife and disconnection long associated with skin color is being neutralized by the use of present technology to forge ahead on equal footing, creating an future free from racial divides and privileges. The series challenges the viewer to create an identity independent from “nationality, origin, economic status, age or aesthetic standards.” Who knew color could be so integral to how we know our selves and how we know others. 

Portraits of Color: Sara Cwynar


Here at Colour Studio we are interested in people who are interested in color and while we often profile icons, long in the field, we also wanted to introduce you  to a younger individual with new and sophisticated ideas about color. Sara Cwynar is an artist and designer, originally from Vancouver, but now working out of New York, who takes photographs of stuff. Sounds really specific right? But its true. Her work focuses on the collection and visual organization of what might other wise be see as junk: photographs, shopping bags, coffee cups, animal skulls, curlers, fake flowers, rubber gloves, cleaning supplies, food, books, plants, empty soda cans, and plastic spoons.


Much of her work focuses on piles and spills, the accidental curation of objects and colors inherent in any type of collection from hoarding to arranging flowers.   In a recent series titled ‘Color Studies’ Sara took her magpie instincts a step farther and organized her chaos by color themes:  grey, pink, red, blue, green and yellow. On the surface each image is just a small landscape of assorted stuff of an arbitrary color but the longer you look the more the images become sun bleached collections of the leftovers of day modern life. Mostly faded, the colors and the objects look lost in time, a bottle of orange juice hopefully bought yesterday next to rollers not seen at the dollar store for twenty years.


Essentially shrines to color, these photographs are not just the technical composure of color fields but also the cultural feedback loop inherent in our experience of color. Our specific associations with color are feed by what objects in our surroundings are available in those colors.   In turn,  our decisions to acquire certain objects in specific colors makes those connections stronger over time. Each image exists as a portrait of our color choices and associations not as individuals but as a collective consumer culture.


This  blue photograph illustrates the blue we encounter in everyday life. Not just the paint chip or color swatch but blue in the wilds of our object filled world. Want to see more of Sara’s work? Visit her site here and leave us a comment about how you observe color in your world or tell us about an artist who has changed how you see color!