Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Contemplative Look at the Visual Elements - Color

   I know I've said this before but here it goes again...I can't believe I really didn't embrace color photography until 2009!  For four years I only  created monochrome images.  But there is a whole range of contemplative possibilities in the use of color.  In some respects, it is the visual element that has the longest history of psychological associations. (To explore some of these associations, visit this link.)

   Color is also very culture specific but, as in all the visual elements, how you react to certain colors can be based on all sorts of reasons and non-reasons.  As I talked about in the post  about attraction, you will pay attention most to colors you find "pleasing" and you will not see others.  I could list all the standard implications for specific colors, like red = passion and yellow = happiness but that's like telling everyone there is only one shoe size and you just have to deal with it.  People get very passionate when the talk about color. 

   Explore your own personal responses to color in your journal. (You can read my post, The Power of Green here.)  Go to a paint store an pull out two samples of colors you really dislike...then go in search of them and photograph them.  Make it a point to find as many examples of them as you can.  As you create your "color collection" do you find your initial repugnance modifying?

   Then there is the whole area of color harmonies; specific pairings or groups of colors that designers/artists use for creating certain effects.  Color theory is an important field of study in art schools and you can find out about some of the basic theories here.  But all this is really irrelevant to the contemplative photographer. Whereas some knowledge of color theory will help you create more dynamic images, in the end it gets down to the old question of creating vs. receiving your images.  How much manipulation is necessary?  Enhancing is one thing, controlling is another.  You have to decide how far you want to go and how important all the theory is.

   In her wonderful new book,  Eyes of the Heart , Christine Valters Painter mentions the 1938 movie The Wizard of Oz.  In the beginning, the film is black and white and only when she opens the door of the farmhouse that has landed in Oz does the film become color.  A lovely metaphor for awakened perception and I can't help but see myself as Dorothy, awakening to the power of color in my camera work.  Below is a video which uses this device of showing something in black and white and then slowly bringing out the color.  It will get you thinking about...

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