Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Color

In the last few years, I've taught color theory a number of times.

I think it's important to note that our ideas on color change all the time. I don't just mean as a culture, over decades, but that even as individuals we react differently to color from day to day.

If you're approaching the concept of color in just one way, you're making a mistake.

Is a black and white photo perceived as a more significant document than a color snapshot? Is a hyperstylized color motion picture perceived as more "real" by some audiences than a documentary shot on 16mm black and white film? Is the reverse true for other audiences? Will our current mode of hypersaturated color look silly when an appreciation for "natural" color cycles back into fashion? Will it once again look right, ten years after that? Is a monochromatic palette for sophisticates, a bright green house a place for the poor in postcolonial countries?

The answer to these type of questions is ... whatever. All theories on color are true for a little while, then something else is true.

The important thing -- and this is really only my opinion, not something I can prove -- is that color and our perception of it and how it functions in any kind of serious visual work is a very, very fluid thing.

You're ideas on composition will probably still hold up in ten years, but I guarantee that in the future, you'll look at the color work you do today with very different eyes.

Above: I saw the Eggleston show in Manhattan a while back, but I went to the version installed at LACMA on Monday -- and enjoyed it more.


Anonymous said...

Great post. The photo is super, also. I have a theory about blue and orange, but I've never googled it, so I don't know if I'm a lone theorist. Happy Holidays, btw.

Ted Fisher said...

Thanks, Lee!

Over the holidays, I've been shooting anything that looks vaguely like a Santa -- so I have snap after snap of red and white in various combinations...