Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2005/02/02

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Subject: [Leica] My attitude about Colo(u)r
From: SonC at (
Date: Wed Feb 2 17:37:40 2005

I'll have the same thing he's drinking.
In a message dated 2/2/2005 7:13:17 P.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

Parts of  this discussion regarding color puzzle me.  First off, would
any of us  willingly part big money for lenses that we knew in some
fundamental way  failed to transmit the spectrum faithfully from the
subject to the film or  sensor?  We talk on the LUG constantly about lens
signatures and the  various attributes of different emulsions, but it
seems to me that these  conversations invariably assume that there is
such a thing as "normal"  color and that we can reach a broad consensus
as to what it is.   Otherwise it's patently nonsensical to speak of
rendering "flesh tone" as  "naturally" as possible; yet there've been
numerous conversations on the  LUG about this very subject.

Second, it's not clear to me wherein  resides the logic that color
representation is necessarily in thrall to  "artistic" license; to argue,
in effect, that "because color is subjective,  I [the artist] am free to
represent the visible world however it suits me,  or to reduce it to
absurdity: because you see red and I see red and never  the twain
perceptions shall meet, I'll represent it as green.  I'm  reminded of a
line from the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty in  which he
imagines "a sky so blue that only blood could be more red."   I think we
all are comfortable, however, with an astonishing range of  saturations
(hence the frequent discussion about different emulsions).  Eggleston and
Parr seem to inhabit a world of hyper-saturated color,  presumably
because they both 'see' the world that way and, most important,  they
expertly deploy film technologies to convey that vision to us, but  I
never question that they know what they are about.

When I view an  image in which there's no discernable aesthetic point (I
am aware this will  strike some as inflammatory) that invites me to
linger on the effect of  mismatching film to light, where the
contemplation of yet another nacreous  complexion (of the sort one
associates more with the autopsy table than  with any organism that still
takes nourishment) yields no sudden frisson  (such as took place, I must
say, the first time I spent any time with  Parr's work) the first thing I
ask myself is: "is this photographer even  aware that this effect will
strike the reasonably informed viewer as a  technical deficiency?"  I
examine the composition perhaps more  carefully than it otherwise
deserves, and, should it, too, fail to yield,  then I conclude that this
is the work of someone who is either not  technically proficient in the
craft (whether film or digital) or  indifferent to its subtleties.

In the former case, I feel that I'm  obliged (energy permitting) to
return what I've learned here and elsewhere  and to talk about what I
see. In the latter case, I follow Henry Adams'  dictum that next to good
humor, silence is best.

I don't wish to  rope Doug Herr into a discussion that he has not
voluntarily joined, but I  would be curious to know how he feels about
the accurate reproduction of  color.  



Natchitoches, Louisiana
Oldest continuous  settlement in La Louisiane
?galit?, libert?,  crawfish

Replies: Reply from sethrosner at (Seth Rosner) ([Leica] My attitude about Colo(u)r)