During my class on Color with photographer Michael Austin Kane we discussed a number of aspects of color as it relates to photography. Not having studied photography in any formal capacity since direct instruction in high school I found the conversations about the psychology of color fascinating.
This cycle of classes- having Portraiture with Andarge Asfaw on Mondays and Color with Michael Austin Kane on Wednesdays has been one of the most exciting, engaging and challenging class cycles so far.
Conversations about color resonated with me on many levels. For me this cycle of classes has caused worlds to collide, explode and expand. I believe that a photographer’s life experience informs their perspective on the world and in turn has great influence on one’s vision and art. In specific, the use of the word ‘color’ for me for the past 10+ years has been in the context of conversations around race, ethnicity and identity.
Tired of conversations about race, ethnicity and identity? Me, too.
Tired of the use of the word ‘race’ in public discourse because ‘race’ is a social construct? Me, TOO!
Wish we could all just ‘get along’-? Me, too.
Do I think not having these conversations will ‘make it all better’-? Nope.
I think have these conversations with respect, a firm grasp of history and a willingness to participate in a potentially uncomfortable conversation is what paves the road to understanding, civil dialogue and change in society. It may be uncomfortable and akward but necessary for evolution. Like puberty. We evolve to be able to procreate and the species continues.
In my class about Color photography we were five women led in conversation by one man. We were a woman from Germany, a woman born in Israel, a woman born in South Korea, a woman born in India and myself, an American born brown woman- led in conversation by a ‘white’ male*. This is not a critique, instead an observation about the ethnic, regional and gender diversity in the room all of whom come with differing relationships to color within our experiences. The discussion of the color red set off a 45-minute conversation about red and its context in our varied experience.
These conversations about the use of color in photography and still ongoing in my head as they interact with years of conversations about colorism in the African-American community, colorism as it plays out between what was once called ‘racial minorities’ in this country, colorism as it plays out in intentional populations of self-selecting societies- schools, colleges, the workplace, who is selected to deliver the news on TV in various markets, who is selected in Hollywood and the media to portray certain characters on TV, who is selected as the cover model for various magazines- choices made in unarticulated conversations that ultimately influence how society sees itself, in color at the checkout stand in the grocery store.
For our final in our Color class we had to submit two images that we presented to the class that demonstrated our use of color as both a compositional element and an expressive psychological element. One image leads this post, the second closes the post- what do you think?
Color psychology as it is used in photography. Still food for thought-
*Everyone in the group self-identified their country of origin and/or their ethnic identity.