Visual Snow, the Film Grain Over the Universe


Visual Snow, the Film Grain Over the Universe by Melodie Yvonne Ramey

Today I’d like to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart, and recently given a new name… Visual Snow. I have always been very interested in light and the way it works. In 6th grade I remember my science project was on light rays, and prisms, and such. I don’t remember if I won, but I remember thinking about how amazing it all was that what we see is actually determined not just by an object alone, but by how light bounces off that objects and reflects back to our eyes in a way. It was a very natural thing for me to want to be a photographer. All of the principles of light and chemistry, and, well, I had visual snow. I could see the film grain of the world.

Of course as a child I had no idea visual snow was some kind of disease. Heck, I didn’t even know that it was called visual snow. I’ve always had insomnia, and suffered from night terrors. I remember being as young as 5, lying in bed in my pretty pink nightgown, unable to sleep for hours on end. Every night I would pretend I was sleeping beauty, close my eyes, lay really still, and try to count the little dots. Often I would just go ahead and open my eyes and stare at the little dots. Blue, green, and magenta dots hustling and bustling like a curtain hovering just in front of the entire world. I thought everyone saw it. It never occurred to me to talk about it or mention it because I always just took it as a fact of life. As I gradually made the move into photography the whole “film grain” thing was perfectly natural to me. I know it might make me sound kinda like the blonde that I am, but when printing my photos in the darkroom I pretty much thought, “Ok, cool. If my little dots are in focus then the rest of the photo is in focus,” so even then it didn’t occur to me that it was odd.

It wasn’t until one day while I was working at my “day job” and I was chatting with a friend that I discovered it was not normal. I use quotes around day job because I have predominantly stayed on 3rd shift most of my life. At the end of night shift one evening I stood with my friend watching the sun rise over the building from outside a back receiving dock. I believe I mention that my favorite time of day was sunrise, but it was part of the reason why that had my friend baffled. The reason is because I have always felt the sunrise is the perfect mixture between day and night and seems the most alive. The sun isn’t bright enough to wreak havoc on my eyes, and the night is still prevalent enough that I could still see the “film grain” in front of the world, crackling and sparkling, making the fresh start of a new day that much more alive. It’s like the world gets to be reborn and start anew every day. WE get to be reborn and start anew every day. Of course then my friend gave me an exasperated look and said, “Huh? What do you mean film grain in front of the world?!” I tried to explain, but gave up very quickly. I didn’t speak of it again until much later.

I added the noise to this black and white self portrait to mimic the color dots dancing throughout my vision continuously.

I am friends with many very spectacular artists, and one of them in particular is a beautiful girl in Madison, Indiana. I visited her one day and was privileged to get to view her upcoming art show in progress. She led me to a beautiful room filled with her paintings, all dancing with life and swirling with extraordinary swirls of color. She had a painting she was not sure of including that she directed my attention too, and that’s when I saw it… her painting had colored dots somewhat like what I saw. Of course I told her she HAD to leave it in, and that’s when I finally shared my story again. My friend mentioned Googling it. It totally shows my age that the thought never occurred to me.

I have now Googled the heck out of visual snow. My type of visual snow is mostly blue, magenta, and green dots, sometimes yellow, but not often. The first place I went was Wikipedia. They had a wonderful article with many, many links to more research. I’m not going to bore you here with all of the technicals, but if you’re curious about what I see you can check out the Wikipedia article here… It has a pretty cool video of visual snow. I’ll also list some other sources you can check out at the end if you wanna scroll on down after the read.

An example of Red-Blue Visual Noise

Like I said before, I never thought of visual snow as a disease, and even after all of this reading I still don’t. I’ve always associated my eyes to that of a camera lens. To me visual snow was and still is the film grain that helps make up how we see the world. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I do understand why some people are looking for a cure. It’s a lot to handle sometimes, but I guess so am I, so I think I’ll just keep considering it as being blessed enough to see a little extra.  Thank you so much for reading and sharing this article and for all of your support in raising awareness to this phenomenon plaguing a silent many. Please take a moment to visit some of the following resources to learn more on this topic now at…

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Melodie Yvonne

Melodie Yvonne, lead photographer and owner of Photographic Melodie, grew up in the small southern Indiana town of North Vernon. She picked up her first camera at the age of 5, and was immediately hooked. By the age of 15 she began to turn every trip, even just to the local park, into a fantasy scene of her own imagination, and started mentoring with many local professionals. Melodie received an Associates of Applied Science in Visual Technologies majoring in Photography from Ivy Tech in 2002 after studying under acclaimed professors and many other masters in the field.

Melodie’s main focus has always been music photography. Growing up listening to many amazing musicians inspired her dream to create visual images that made people feel the way they do when listening to music. Her goal was to help people SEE the music.

Melodie has done numerous jobs around the country ranging from working for bands to being the official photographer on many southern Indiana Poker Runs. Her specialties are in nature, music, and candid event photography. She published her first print work, a collection of images & poetry, in 2011, and has since published many more print works. Melodie currently acts as owner & lead photographer at Photographic Melodie, House Photographer for Purdue Theatre, and Tour Photographer for multiple Billboard Charts topping bands as well as freelance work with many other media outlets, venues, and musicians.

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