Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/11/28

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Subject: Re: [Leica] More on Color
From: Eric Welch <>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 10:28:37 -0800

At 11:49 AM 11/28/1999 +0000, Mike Johnston wrote:
>Artistically, the situation is a bit rockier. I would say that for me,
>as a critic, the general problem has been that as color photography
>gained hegemony, photographers almost immediately got distracted from
>form and meaning and started simply portraying pretty colors.


I often wonder if it's that - hey I love black and white too - or is it 
that most people are distracted by the color and don't see what the 
photographer is really doing in terms of form. The Pictures of the Year 
contest - which is judged by the best photo editors and photographers in 
the journalism world (and yes, there are Magnum photographers and European 
editors as judges) - gets distracted by color. One year all the portfolio 
entry winners were black and white. I was there, and I saw superior work 
that was color, but the judges seemed to be so intent on form that color 
was a bad thing to them. And so they missed the superior work for the very 
say reason you say people choose color. Ignoring the value of contests for 
a moment, is that not just another example of how people don't get it? It's 
not that color photography can't be done well, but that people get stuck in 
ruts and miss a lot because of a pre-determined bias. Or because they get 
distracted by the minor aspects of a photograph.

In my mind, photojournalism, like nature photography, requires color to be 
complete. We are journalists telling it like it is - color is an 
inseparable part of life. Using it well is very difficult. Black and white 
is easier. But, that's not justification for denigrating color. That's sour 
grapes. It's not an either/or question. Leica lenses do a wonderful job 
with color, it would be a shame to live in a world devoid of color. Black 
and white is a greater departure from reality than color, therefore I think 
color is harder to use in a way that is artistic, thus artists would rather 
put it down than step up to the challenge.

Eric Welch
Carlsbad, CA

      You can find pictures anywhere. It's simply a matter of noticing 
things and organizing them. You just have to care about what's around you 
and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy. -Elliott Erwitt, 
"More Joy of Photography"