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It started innocently with a box of crayons. My two-year old grandsons proudly announced the colors of each one to their Uncle Joey. “Wed. Yeddow. Gween. Boo.” But then they said the word that triggered a lengthy explanation from their artist uncle—“popo.” “Purple is not a color,” he declared.

According to Wikipedia, purple is closer to red, and violet is closer to blue on the traditional color wheel. Although both appear similar, violet is a spectral color. It occupies a place at the end of the spectrum of light (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) and also has its own wavelength.

On the other hand, purple is a perception. It is a combination of the two spectral colors of red and blue and does not have its own wavelength. There is no pure purple light as there is for orange, also a combination of colors. This is similar to the color white, which also is a blended mixture of many colors.

I know little of color or photography, but perhaps this is why purple does not photograph well. All of the fabrics in the photo here are what I consider to be shades of purple, yet all look different to me in the photo than they do in reality.

Even if artists don’t recognize colors not on the spectrum, the Merriam-Webster dictionary does define purple as a color.  The best part of this acknowledgement for me is that we can continue to hear our little ones say “popo.”

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

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