Saturday, May 5, 2012

Assignment Three : Colour

Assignment Three : Colour

Using colour has been a controversial step in photography. When colour film was first introduced by Kodak in the 1960s it was mostly used in advertising and publicity. It was first made popular by William Eggleston whose “subjects were mundane, everyday, often trivial, so that the real subject was often seen to be the colour itself”(1). Master photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson has been quoted as saying “Colour photography brings with it a number of problems which are hard to resolve today, and some of which are difficult even to foresee, owing to it’s complexity and it’s relative immaturity... Peronally I am afraid that this complex new element may tend to prejudice the achievement of life and movement which is often caught by black and white.” (Cartier-Bresson 1952)(2)

Saying this I did my very best to embrace colour for this project which was a switch was the previous part where I used only black and white for both the exercises (bar one) and the assignment. Colour is “intimately connected with exposure” and “has it’s own influences on our perceptions”(3). I thought quite a lot about how to tackle this assignment as I wanted to have a narrative running through, but this proved difficult when varying between found situations and still life. I decided to resolve this by choosing one set of colour combinations for each colour relationship and then picking four different subject matter and taking a picture of each colour relationship per subject matter. The colour relationships I settled on were :

Accent - Green with Orange

Complementary - Yellow and Violet

Contrasting - Red, Yellow and Blue

Similar - Blue and Violet

This covered all of the primary and secondary colours. The four types of subject I decided on after much thought were :


Out and About
I had initially wanted to do butterflies for one set and went to Butterfly World near Swindon, but the colour combinations just wren’t there so I had to rethink. The first one I decided on was out and about for my non posed and found situations. The second that jumped straight out at me was doing a beauty shoot with fantastically bright makeup so I enlisted two friends to model for me and a third who is a makeup artist to come up with the four looks. I provided the ideas to the MUA and we worked on the looks together on the day. Below are the results of all sixteen photographs along with drawings to show the balance of the colour, although I tried really hard to keep the photographs simple and just containing my chosen colours. 

Accent : Beauty

I got close up to my model who had ginger hair to ensure that the only orange was the makeup on her cheeks. The orange works nicely as an accent here and breaks up the main green around her eyes. Green is very much the dominant colour with a literal splash of orange. 


Accent Beauty Drawing

Accent : Flowers

I used a macro lens to separate one petal of the bright orange flower against some green card which I placed over a window so the light shone through it. The orange takes up such a small part of the frame, but instantly draws the eye to it. This is mostly due to the brightness and saturation of the colour against the plain green background. 

Accent Flowers Drawing

Accent : Household

It looks like I used green card again, but the green is actually a green saucer that matches the orange teacup. To make the orange teacup an accent rather than taking over the frame, I again used a macro lens to focus on a small part of the handle only. It has the same effect as that of the flower in drawing the eye to the teacup and the shape of the handle against the plain green background. 

Accent Household Drawing

Accent : Out and About

A shot of an orange ball in a lake. The green trees behind reflect their colour into the water causing the whole background to be green. It’s a dark green in comparison with the other shots were the green is much brighter. I placed the ball in the bottom left corner rather than the centre to give the eye time to travel around the picture and take in the trees and lake.
Accent Out and About Drawing

Complementary : Beauty
I tried to get the ratios (yellow 1 : violet 3) correct in this photograph and the following ones. I love the makeup and I think that the colours look beautiful together. It’s my favourite pairing of the complementary sets. Again I made sure to get nice and close to remove other external colours and I shot against a neutral background so as not to detract from the colours and makeup. 
Complementary Beauty Drawing

Complementary : Flowers
A macro lens was used again to do a very close up shot of the yellow rose and violet flowers. The violet flowers had a lot of green just below the petals and were very small in comparison with the rose which proved difficult when getting the ratio. I focused on the violet petels in the middle of the shot and the yellow petal on the far left giving a nice depth of field while still retaining a clear image of the subject.

Complementary Flowers Drawing

Complementary : Household
I had to be careful with this or a few less yellow stars and this would have been colour accent rather than complementary. I focused on the large yellow star and surrounding violet balls. I think the yellow works nicely spread throughout the violet rather than all bunched up together due to the star shapes.

Complementary Household Drawing

Complementary : Out and About
Taken on a busy train on the way back form our beauty shoot, I noticed the violet jumper and nail polish stood out beautifully against the yellow rail. The light outside the window is also yellow so it all came together. The ratio is more 1:1 here, but still works with the perpendicular lines or colours.

Complementary Out and About Drawing

Contrasting : Beauty
I think this is my favourite of the beauty shots and was the first look we did. The colours are just so striking and I deliberately asked this friend as I knew her hair had red streaks in it. The colour ratios on her face are 1:1:1, but the red ends up being dominant when you factor in her hair. It was such a beautiful shot with her hair included though that I didn’t want to get any closer. 
Contrasting Beauty Drawing

Contrasting : Flowers
I used a piece of blue card taped to a window for the blue background. Trying to find blue naturally in flowers is really difficult and I didn’t want to use bluebells as it isn’t the shade I wanted. The yellow is the least dominant colour with the red being the most. I think thought that red is always the most dominant colour as it’s just so striking. 

Contrasting Flowers Drawing

Contrasting : Household
The red and yellow cup was just perfect. I put it on a white square plate against a white sofa to make the background neutral. I then sprinkled some different shades of blue stars around it to complete the set of colours. The colours are in nice horizontal blocks. 
Contrasting Household Drawing

Contrasting : Out and About
I couldn’t resist this collection of signs that featured all of the contrasting colours so nicely. I was walking to the train station and looked up and there they were, all nicely presented complete with red lines on the road. There is a little green moss on the wall and in the top right another rainbow sign, but I think the eye goes straight to the main three signs and their strong colours. 

Contrasting Out and About Drawing

Similar : Beauty
A close up shot to exclude the models red hair and I tried experimenting with the angle and how I positioned the subject within the frame. The blue around the eyes slowly merges into the violet at the outside and across the lips. I wanted her to do a fierce expression to go with the superhero/villian style makeup which I think looks great in this shot. 
Similar Beauty Drawing

Similar : Flowers
I didn’t want to just use the blue background in this shot as I did that with a couple of the other flower pictures, so to bring out the blue I found some blue ribbon which I tied around the violet flowers. This also helped cover up the green stems and areas just under the petals. There is still a little green, but the dominant colours are very much blue and violet in mostly equal proportions. 

Similar Flowers Drawing

Similar : Household
The blue stars made a reappearance in this violet coloured bento box. I clustered them together for the most part but put a couple on the opposite side to make the composition a little more interesting. I tried a few shots of the violet box with a blue striped sugar jar, but when going through the pictures afterwards this one had more of an impact colour wise and as that is the project, I decided to go with it. 

Similar Household Drawing

Similar : Out and About
I was walking home and knew that they had just painted this fence near a nursery violet, so I bided my time waiting for someone wearing blue to walk past it. I shot at an angle to try and reduce other distracting colours (there was a large tree overhanging the fence in the top left). The blue didn’t come out as strongly as I had hoped when I looked at the picture on my computer so I converted the white balance to tungsten which brought it out nicely. I had another shot of a violet bin in front of a blue shop which I nearly used, but I think this was a little bit more interesting both composition and subject wise and really conveys that it was a spontaneous shot. 

Similar Out and About Drawing

I’ve actually been keeping a physical journal since I started the course with observations and ideas plus notes from texts I have been reading and my thoughts on them. I also note down photographs I particularly like from the recommended reading. It’s an A4 purple ruled notebook and below are a couple of pictures of my notes as well as some photocopies of pictures I like and introductions from Henri-Cartier-Bresson books which I wanted to keep after returning them to my local library. 

Physical Journal 1

Physical Journal 2

Physical Journal 3

Looking back through my notes from my reading of “The Photograph”(4), I noticed I have written “It just hit me that all of the photos are black and white. Can photos only be art if they are monochrome? Interesting to consider and investigate further.” As I said at the start of the assignment, there has been a lot of resistance to moving to colour photography but thanks to work by the likes of William Eggleston(5) and Martin Parr(6) it’s become an accepted technique outside of the initial commercial and publicity setting. 
Colour still has a long way to go in photography and hasn’t been around anywhere near as long as black and white. “Imagine then, after the photographer had spent a century learning how to use his medium in monochrome, what chaos resulted when he was suddenly presented with cheap and virtually foolproof colour film.” (John Szarkowski(7)). Photographers are still pushing the boundaries of what you can do with colour and there is so much you can do with digital editing software now, it’s still a colour revolution. 
I found I enjoyed going back to working with colour and have been spotting different colour combinations out and about while working through this part of the course. I hope to continue to do so and incorporate it into my work with more thought and consideration of the relationships and why I think certain combinations work well together. 

References :

Photography A Critical Introduction - Liz Wells (1996) Routledge, Oxon
Photography A Critical Introduction - Liz Wells (1996) Routledge, Oxon
The Photographer’s Eye - Michael Freeman (2007) The Ilex Press Limited, East Sussex
The Photograph - Graham Clarke (1997) Oxford University Press, Oxford
William Eggleston’s Guide (2002) The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Martin Parr - Think of England (2000) Phaidon Press Limited, London
William Eggleston’s Guide (2002) The Museum of Modern Art, New York

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