Thinking Colour

SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2013.

The above photographs were taken with the intention of capturing colour. More precisely, I’d been working with the assignment — “colour in unexpected places” — that a friend had given me. It was a particularly novel experience since, in the past half a year of getting more into street photography, I have rarely shot in colour.

Most famously, perhaps, Henri Cartier-Bresson shot exclusively in black-and-white. The tale has it that he shot in colour on a few occasions, but never liked the results enough to show them to the public. During a conversation with a street photographer I met while out on a walk, the subject of the talk came to why I preferred black-and-white photography. We see in colour, experience things in colour, remember in colour. Colour also has the capacity to preserve the subtle details of the scene that would otherwise be lost in monochrome. And its potency in triggering certain emotional and subconscious reactions can be immense. I personally tend to recall more vividly the “snap-moment” of colour photographs. Indeed, I find shooting in black-and-white an entirely different exercise, since then I’m seeing in black-and-white — in terms of light and dark contrasts and in terms of situation.

The answer I gave was that I liked the simplicity of palette. Rethinking the question, I might add that I’m drawn to the gap the absence of colour creates between the photograph and reality. My focus, at least for now, is on the goings-on within the frame; and insofar as black-and-white isolates the situation from what it was in experience, I can embrace that for the sake of the personal message.

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