I stumbled upon this thanks to i09, and just had to share it. The tumblr site humanæ is Brazilian artist Angelica Dass’ ongoing project to sample the skin tone of as wide a variety of people as possible, matching an average sampled value from each to a corresponding Pantone swatch.
It’s an ambitious effort to chart the range of possibilities of this most memorable of memory colors, one that I tackled in a tiny way (with the help of photographer Sasha Nialla) in my Color Correction Handbook. However, where my small sample size was meant merely to illustrate a point, the much larger sample size of this project makes the survey that much more compelling. I’m also interested by how they choose the single representative value. In a Google translation from the original Spanish, the About page shares the following:
The development of the project is conducting a series of portraits whose background is dyed the exact shade extracted from a sample of 11×11 pixels the very face of the people portrayed. The ultimate aim is to record and catalog, through a scientific measurement, all possible human skin tones.
I’m curious which part of the face she chose to sample, given the variation in hue and lightness that comes from sun exposure, and the highlights and shadows of ambient lighting (this is something that came up in my simple illustrations). The single Pantone representation doesn’t strike me as all that interesting in terms of representing one person’s skin tone, but the aggregate of all of these sampled patches is much more interesting when seen as data points on a scatter graph that could illustrate a cloud of possibility, where human skin hue and lightness are concerned.
Another interesting aspect of skin tone analysis that can be seen in these images, although it has nothing to do with what’s being presented, is how much variation in skin tone there is from one region of the body to another; the faces are often markedly different from the torso given (I imagine) varying sun exposure.
This is a fantastic project, and I look forward to seeing the sample size continue to grow and expand to illustrate more and more of the subtle hues that can be found in humanity. Bravo.
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