“The resonances of losing stereoscopy can be unexpectedly far-reaching, causing not only a problem in judging depth and distance, but a “flattening” of the whole visual world, a flattening that is both perceptual and emotional. People in this situation speak of feeling “disconnected,” of a difficulty in relating themselves not only spatially but emotionally to what they are seeing. The return of binocular vision, if this occurs, can thus give great pleasure and relief, as the world once again seems visually and emotionally rich.
—Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia
Reading through Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia, I was struck by the idea that it might be our deficiencies or our weaknesses that lead us to our talents.
Art Spiegelman has amblyopia, or lazy eye — he’s virtually blind in his left eye.
“[W]hich means that I don’t have binocular vision, and have difficulty seeing in three dimensions. This might have been part of what made me a cartoonist rather than a baseball player. I was rotten at sports, but I found that if I could draw good caricatures of the teachers I wouldn’t be doomed to be the butt of everybody’s scorn.”
Today I found a good scan of Spiegelman’s cartoon, “Eye Ball,” which originally ran in the New Yorker:
(Why such an interest in vision? I should note that I have poor eyesight, mild red/green colorblindness, and a grandmother with cataracts and glaucoma. I’m terrified of going blind!)
Ever since I read David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge, I’ve been very interested in binocular vision. Longtime readers might remember this sketchbook page from a post I did about the tyranny of linear perspective in comics:
Thinking about all this, I dug up an old New Yorker article by Oliver Sacks about stereoscopic vision (the article is called “Stereo Sue” — I’ll post the beginning in the comments below). Sacks talks about the discovery of stereoscopic vision, and then some alternatives for those who don’t have it:
There are, of course, many other ways of judging depth: occlusion of distant objects by closer objects, perspective (the fact that distant objects appear smaller), shading (which delineates the shape of objects), “aerial” perspective (the blurring and bluing of more distant objects by the intervening air), and, most important, motion parallax–the change of spatial relationships as we move our heads. All these cues, acting in tandem, can give a vivid sense of reality and space and depth. But the only way to actually perceive depth rather than judge it is with binocular stereoscopy.
And uh, well, I guess that’s all I’ve got on the subject at this point…