At the end of 2015, Belgian photographer and artist Sanne De Wilde travelled to Pingelap and Pohnpei: two islands in Micronesia, a country in the Pacific Ocean comprising hundreds of islands and islets. She spent a month there, dividing her time between Pingelap and Pohnpei where a high percentage of inhabitants have the genetically inherited condition, achromatopsia. Not only are those with the condition unable to see in colour, they also suffer from a painful intolerance to bright light and an inability to see fine detail, says De Wilde.
Pingelap has become known as ‘the island of the colourblind’, and it is believed that in the 18th century the king of the island carried the achromatopsia gene and contributed to the spread of the condition.
De Wilde, whose work often explores themes that include geographically or socially isolated communities, collective identities, and genetic "trails", found out about Pingelap when a young Belgian achromatopic man got in touch after hearing her speak on Belgian radio. “The man sent me an email saying ‘I have a story for you’,” the 30-year-old recounts. He told her about a travelogue by neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks who first wrote about the phenomenon in his book published in 1996. Inspired by what she learned, De Wilde decided to embark on a trip to the region to make a body of work, which she later named after Sacks’ book, The Island of the Colour Blind.