Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/05/06

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Subject: [Leica] There is more to light than how bright it is...
From: bdcolen at (B. D. Colen)
Date: Thu May 6 17:23:31 2004


-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of
Tim Atherton
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2004 7:52 PM
To: Leica Users Group
Subject: RE: [Leica] There is more to light than how bright it is...

> Yes, it's true that had color film been invented first, we would 
> probably not have monochrome film - or if we had it, it would simply 
> be a novelty. But that's irrelevant, because black and white film was 
> invented first, and black and white iconic images are what we 
> ultimately judge all photography against.
> Certainly there are some subjects that are inherently "color" 
> subjects. But there are many, many that are not. Imagine Salgado's 
> work in color...Imagine Eugene Smith's...

Recently I've been feeling my understanding of b&w and colour in
photography to be somewhat unsatisfactory and superficial - based as it
was one the clothes/soul analogy.

I read a wonderful little book called "Chromophobia" about the fear of
colour in the history/practice of art and it certainly got me thinking

It has caused me to examine much more about how I work (or can work) in

The basic thesis is that in western art there has been a prejudice
towards and fear of colour. He follows a historic thread through on
this. The Soul/Cloths statement is in a direct line that goes back to
Plato's prejudices on this. The primacy of line and form over colour,
colour being "merely" cosmetic or surface. The child who is told in
Kindergarten they must "colour in between the lines" (interestingly my
wife's mother - who was an artist in her own right, banned colour in the
lines colouring books from the home when she was growing up...), the
hierarchies of colours in art text books and colour theory in art
education over the last 150+ years, How the human, earthy colours of
Rembrandt are much more acceptable than the gaudy, sensual, tempting
colours of the East, Corbusiers "banishment" of colour after an
experience at the Parthenon (having been seduced by colour in the
Orient) and more - and how in much art (and certainly in photography)
there is what amounts to a fear of colour - which is best kept under
control of line and form (or better still, black and white) - what the
author describes as a fear of corruption or contamination through colour
- which lurks within much Western cultural thought and art. This is
apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge colour, either by
making it the property of some 'foreign body' - the oriental, the
feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological - or by
relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the
inessential, or the cosmetic (clothes as opposed to soul)"

He then goes on to look at how colour is in fact possibly more
substantial, fundamental and essential, indeed elemental - and in some
ways much harder to understand and work with.

As I say, it's a small book, but certainly set me thinking


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Replies: Reply from philippe.orlent at (Philippe Orlent) ([Leica] There is more to light than how bright it is...)
In reply to: Message from timatherton at (Tim Atherton) ([Leica] There is more to light than how bright it is...)