Color Images

The use of color film changed the aesthetics of photography, which had been primarily based on black and white (greyscale) before 1935.

The wider use of color film after 1935 added another dimension to photography. Color can give a stronger sense of reality: the photo looks much like the way we actually see the scene with our eyes. Moreover, the use of color affects the viewer's perception, triggering memory and reinforcing visual details. Photographers can manipulate color and its effects either before or after the picture is taken.

Even though there is no figure present in Grand Canyon, 1973, we observe the landscape through the eyes of the photographer. Joel Meyerowitz makes use of raking light and two sets of complementary colors; orange and blue, yellow and violet giving stark contrast and vibrancy to the photograph. The foreground, bathed in warm light, has details and patterns created by the scrub brush dotting the hill. A bright yellow spike plant rises up out of the desert like a beacon, an exclamation point on a vast, barren landscape. The cool blues and purples in the background soften the plateaus and hills as they disappear on the horizon.

In a final example, the finely meshed screen sporting flies in the foreground dilutes and blurs a warm monochromatic color scheme in Irving Penn's Summer Sleep (1949). Distortion in the center of the photo takes on a blue hue, visually hovering like a mist over the sleeping figure in the background. For its seemingly informal set up, Penn's photo is actually a meticulously arranged composition. And the narrative is just as meticulously crafted: serene, gauzy sleep within while trouble waits just beyond.

Source: Christopher Gildow, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 9:47 AM