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“The Boy With the Sapphire Eyes” by Vanessa Bristow

The image of the African boy with gorgeous blue eyes below was taken by the photographer Vanessa Bristow while she was in Africa. As soon as the image made its way onto the Internet, it was received with great skepticism by a lot of people who claimed the photo was doctored in Photoshop.

The boy with the sapphire eyes
Image copyright Vanessa Bristow


According to the blog which first featured it:

Within minutes of posting this magical picture, there was an enormous flood of comment and feedback. Amongst much of the rumpus was a fair degree of suspicion, doubting and downright slander about the picture’s authenticity. Swoops of ‘blatant Photoshopping’ were amongst the commotion. The majority of people drew their immediate conclusion – this photo was a fake!

It always amazes me how some people’s very first reaction to a photo on the internet is a negative one. I’m not sure what qualifies a ‘real’ or ‘doctored’ image, but many of the comments assured that this pic had all the tell-tale signs of photoshopping.

Then the photographer herself had this to say:

To all of you DOUBTING THOMAS’S out there who distrust the originality of this photograph: It is NOT Photoshopped. I was in the local communal lands looking for my lost Dalmatian dog, and I stopped to ask his mother if she had seen it. While I was talking to her, her son, who was playing with his siblings and friends nearby, caught my eye. I asked her if I could photograph him, and this is the first picture that I took of him – it was possibly his first interaction up close with a white person, and his fascination in me, or in the camera, is plainly evident. I took a few photos of him at the time, and a few more later on a follow-up.  An ophthalmologist friend had this to say about his unusual eyes:

The picture of the little boy with the blue eyes and dark skin probably represents Ocular Albinism or Nettleship-Falls albinism, or Juvenile uveitis. Both conditions cause the pigment of the iris to be less dense.”

Thanks for all the support from those of you who like my picture.

The below picture of Theuns was taken a week or two after the first. This time, he was much more relaxed with me, and I let him “click” the camera a few times to get him to engage with me.

And she submitted yet another photo of the boy to prove the naysayers wrong:

The boy with the sapphire eyes
Image copyright Vanessa Bristow


A website that deals with sorting out hoax from real photos on the Internet had this to say, too:

The picture of the boy with Sapphire eyes is genuine. The photograph was first showcased in African Safari Readers’ Gallery, where it got plenty of views and comments questioning the authenticity of the picture as many believed it was Photoshopped. The photographer, Vanessa Bristow, later replied that the photograph of the boy with Sapphire eyes, taken by her, was completely genuine and also found out the reason behind the unusual eyes through an ophthalmologist friend of her who explained saying:

Ocular albinism is congenital disorder of the eyes, characterized by complete or partial absence of the eye pigment, Nettleship-Falls albinism being the most common type of it. Juvenile Uveitis is Uveitis in young people, which is inflammation of the interior or middle layer of the eye.

The conclusion is that the picture of the African boy with the Sapphire eyes is genuine, and yes, it kind of shows the complexity of climate we are living in today.




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