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Flesh Tones
July 6, 2012 2:06 PM   Subscribe

PANTONE® Guides are a system of classification of colors represented by an alphanumeric code, allowing accurate recreation in any medium. Humanae is a project from Spanish artist Angelica Dass that applies the alphanumerical classification of the PANTONE® coloring system to human skin tone, communicated through a photographed portraiture series. The exact shade is extracted from a sample of 11x11 pixels from the face of the people portrayed. The ongoing aim is to record and catalog human skin tones through scientific measurement.
posted by netbros (35 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The ongoing aim is to record and catalog human skin tones through scientific measurement.

What could go wrong!
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 2:13 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


What are you concerned about going wrong?
posted by the jam at 2:18 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems like it depends as much on exactly which 11x11 sample is chosen as anything else. It would be much more rigorous if she simply clipped out the non-skin parts of the photo and then took an average. Of course, it's critical that lighting and camera settings be the same also, but I think she's got that down.

The way it is now though, it's one of those art projects that makes the scientist in me go "interesting idea, but you're doing it all wrong!"

Also: holy crap that is almost totally white people. It's as if you took my hometown and made them all get naked portraits taken. A little variety, please!
posted by Scientist at 2:19 PM on July 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


on not-preview: I think that ThisIsNotMe is most likely referring to the long and sordid relationship between the sciences (biological, sociological, anthropological) and bigotry (especially government-enforced bigotry). C.f. IQ tests, The Bell Curve, etc.
posted by Scientist at 2:21 PM on July 6, 2012


This seems like it depends as much on exactly which 11x11 sample is chosen as anything else

Yep.

I present to you Mr. Confounding Factor of Louisville, KY.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:23 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be specific, she's using the Pantone Goe system, and not the traditional Pantone Color Matching System that we all know and love. Thus, the oddly-hyphenated color numbers. There were a few CMS numbers in there, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:23 PM on July 6, 2012


I was thinking more like Charles Davenport and "Heredity of Skin Pigmentation in Man", but Scientist has the general idea.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 2:25 PM on July 6, 2012


Science done by an artist: Pantone is designed for color reproduction using inks. If all you need is a color measurement, RGB or HSV measurement is all you need.
posted by cman at 2:28 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once, while we were waiting for our paint at Home Depot, some friends and I held swatches up against our wrists to figure out which Behr colors best matched our skin tones. I was "tamarind tree." My boyfriend, much to my amusement and his chagrin, was "clam."

One day, we will paint our apartment both colors, and nobody will ever know if we're home.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:29 PM on July 6, 2012 [20 favorites]


Pantone? Pfft. Newcomers. Kick it old school with the BCC.
posted by zamboni at 2:30 PM on July 6, 2012


Where does vitiligo fit in?
posted by scratch at 2:34 PM on July 6, 2012


Ha the guy with a sunburn
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:34 PM on July 6, 2012


The background colours don’t look anything like skin. That shows that skin isn’t just one flat colour.
posted by Termite at 2:37 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Measuring the colors from the photo is terribly inaccurate, not only the sample location but the lighting and post processing will change the values as will the camera's sensor. There are colorimeters for measuring colors of actual objects that would be more accurate. Also, I would guess that if you did multiple samples of each person from different body locations, you'd find that individuals have as much difference in color as the difference between the any single measurement of two people of similar color. It has a high degree of arbitrariness that makes it more artsy than scientific, and a bit less interesting.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:37 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought I saw it here, but I immediately thought of damali ayo's project that involved her own body and the different parts of it - leg, arm, face etc, and paint stores. The best link I can find is this transcript because the art section of her website is broken. I thought it involved more of the scanning machines but apparently most of the matching was 'by sight' by employees.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:40 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm having trouble finding a color, 7520 U maybe? Yes, I am actually sitting at my desk with a Pantone solid uncoated formula guide matching swatches to my upper arm (no tan there). It's 10 till five on a Friday, what do you people want from me?
posted by MikeMc at 2:45 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also: holy crap that is almost totally white people. It's as if you took my hometown and made them all get naked portraits taken. A little variety, please!

I thought these were Spaniards though, which while they do have more swarthyness in the 'native' population thanks to interbreeding with the Moors, than say, Swedes, they have their ethnicity broken down by various groups of 'white' folk: Leonese, Corsican, Catalan, etc... You can't be Ameri-centric in viewing this work, you have to take it in the historical context that Spaniards themselves saw important distinctions here.
posted by Phalene at 2:47 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


155c represent!
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:49 PM on July 6, 2012


I'm glad to hear the critiques from the more informed science people, because I was pretty sure Pantone was a technical system for particular applied use and not a scientific measurement system.

What I would like to see, though, is a more diverse sample , shown in the context of the total range of Pantone colors (or any range). Because really, despite all we may make of it, the gray-to-dark-brown spectrum that humans fall along is ultimately a fairly narrow band of all possible colors. We're all pretty close together when you put the rest of the big picture around us.
posted by Miko at 2:57 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that the entire Pantone System was intended to avoid issues like the differences between photo colours, on screen colours and print colours?

I think without holding an actual pantone swatch against the skin of the person in the photo you are just cheeating and it undermines the whole project.
posted by mary8nne at 2:59 PM on July 6, 2012


What's the Pantone code for "splotchy"?
posted by benito.strauss at 3:13 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interior designers often slyly suggest you should pick a bedroom wall color or sheets that make you look good naked. I will have to rethink that concept.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:32 PM on July 6, 2012


Looks like 94-6 C could use a trip from the Valtrex fairy...
posted by disillusioned at 4:29 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


A relevant vision study: It's Pat! Sexing faces using only red and green.
To prevent observers from relying on shape information useful for sex classification, the 200 Caucasian faces were dramatically blurred using a Gaussian filter. Faces were presented for 100ms and observers simply judged whether each face was male or female. For female faces there was a -0.66 correlation between red/green ratio and accuracy in sex classification; for males the correlation was +0.42.
posted by tybeet at 5:09 PM on July 6, 2012


Anyone who's ever played a video game knows that there's much, much more to convincing skin tones than finding a particular color that is the "right" color. Skin is translucent, for one thing and the way it reflects light is very complicated.
posted by straight at 5:18 PM on July 6, 2012


This seems like it depends as much on exactly which 11x11 sample is chosen as anything else.

I assumed this was the point.
posted by DU at 6:14 PM on July 6, 2012


I assumed this was the point.

How would that be the point, though? You can choose the lightest tones in someone's complexion, or the darkest, and get a very different result.
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on July 6, 2012


cobaltnine, I found the audio (and a still picture of some of the paintings) of that Studio 360 interview with damali ayo. She's done some fascinating work.
posted by argonauta at 6:37 PM on July 6, 2012


Humanae: Because the brown paper bag was just too impersonal.
posted by Rykey at 5:36 AM on July 7, 2012


How would that be the point, though? You can choose the lightest tones in someone's complexion, or the darkest, and get a very different result.

Continue this line of throught.
posted by DU at 11:38 AM on July 7, 2012


I'm sorry, I really still don't know what you're getting at.

The artist says " The ultimate aim is to record and catalog, through a scientific measurement, all possible human skin tones." She's choosing to do that by sampling from many people of very different skin tones, but the sampling seems biased in that the "average" produced could easily be skewed by the choice of pixels. In other words, you could end up with something that is no one's skin tone, or something that really doesn't reflect an individual's "average" skin tone.

If she were just trying to show that skin tone can vary even in an individual, she could have done the project with one individual and pulled hundreds of tones from that one person's skin.
posted by Miko at 4:01 PM on July 7, 2012


I think that the arbitrariness of the color selection reflects our racism. I mean, what a ridiculous reason to discriminate against people, right? We can't even agree on what specific shade a person is.
posted by desjardins at 4:51 PM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


That’s really interesting. Beautiful colors, and I like how the colors actually look like the people even though the skin has much more variation.
posted by bongo_x at 7:32 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


desjardins: so do you think that the artist was doing a straight-man (straight-woman) act that the true premise of the work was to get people to say "What a stupid idea! A person is all sorts of colors! Trying to reduce a person to a single shade is just ridiculous... Oh.

I'm not quite buying that, but I can see it. Do you have any support for this conjecture?
posted by Scientist at 10:10 PM on July 7, 2012


Yeah, I mean I agree with your observation in general, but the artist makes a different statement about what she's doing and seems to have constructed the project along the lines of her own statement, not this observation about race in general.
posted by Miko at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2012


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