Being different can be difficult and scary. Not everyone can easily understand or accept a dissimilarity, especially if it sets you apart from others. About 5 years ago, Maria Cavali was struck with an attraction towards people who had discordantly coloured eyes. To celebrate this peculiarity, she started to work on her series, The Heterochromia Project.
Growing up in Lithuania, Maria Cavali heard mythological stories about many Pagan traditions. According to the Pagans, people who had contrastingly coloured eyes were named “Children of Hags”. When becoming aware of this genetic anomaly, Cavali first started out by looking for a scientific explanation to it. She learnt the term Heterochromia — an irregularity in coloration, usually of the iris.
But in the process, she soon realized that what actually struck her were the beautiful looking eyes and the stories behind them. Thus, she began working on a new series and her now recently published book, The Heterochromia Project.
While the kids were just curious, it sometimes made me feel like an animal in a zooBy unnamed photographed subject
My left eye is from my father, the right is my mother’s colour. It was too hard to choose.Tim – One of the Heterochromatic individuals photographed for the series
For most of these people with rare eyes, it has been difficult to be accepted. Heterochromia is not understood by all and always seems confusing. The society gives importance to symmetry and when it doesn’t come in a manner which is expected, a large portion of the community doesn’t react well.
The story of K. Branson, mentioned in the book, proffers that it hasn’t been a smooth ride for him either. Branson has always had a golden/yellow ring around the pupil. Even though the ring stays constant, the eyes keep changing colour from time to time.
People always ask me if I am wearing contacts. My father has ice blue eyes and my mom has “hazel.” I have asked an eye doctor what colour my eyes are and he says blue. I refuse to conform to it.K. Branson – As quoted in the book
I honestly never know what to say and so, I usually go with Hazel.
Lince, another of the photographed subjects, is a 33-year-old Manager and chooses to be positive towards this difference. As quoted in the book, she strongly believes that:
Fairies truly exist. And now they are also protecting my colourful life.Lince – As quoted in the book
Nevertheless, not everyone with Heterochromatic eyes has been looked down upon. Many of the portrayed subjects have also spoken about how they love their eyes, even though they sometimes feel self-conscious due to the attention they receive.
Not everything is negative about the perception of these beautiful humans and a lot of people have found interest and inquisitiveness in these eyes too.
These characters have spent their lifetimes either celebrated for their beauty or shunned as freaks, often both. I started a series when I realized that this project means the same to them as it does to me.Maria Cavali for The Rough Online magazine.
The series which was initially called The Children of Hags, started as Maria‘s passion. But the author in her, felt the urge to take it to a completely new level in the form of a book filled radiant photographs that showcase the diversity.
We, the Children of Hags, are a beautiful reminders that symmetry is overrated, a superficial illusion. Entropy is swirling in our eyes.
We are magical reminders that the Universe is so much more. And we are not alone.From the Fundraiser for The Heterochromia Project
Currently based in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Maria Cavali is a Lithuanian freelance photographer and author. She enjoys maintaining a balance between inspiring personal projects and working on her own portrait studio.