I’ll admit it. The inner geek/nerd in me loves color. My fascination began when I went down in one of those tourist submarines. We approached a depth where the red wavelength could no longer reach and my red ball cap became grey. Since then I’ve been hooked on what color is and why we need it in art.
A scientific definition of color is the resulting wavelengths of light reflected from a solid surface and projected into the eye. A flower has as certain color due light either being reflected or absorbed by the pigments in the flower itself. A flower is yellow
because it reflects the light wavelength of yellow while absorbing the other wavelengths of color in the visual spectrum.
We are visual creatures. We respond certain ways to the stimuli provided by color. It warns us of danger, like a traffic sign, or tells us about a certain cultural notion or idea such as the color of a wedding dress or a shroud.
It even influences our moods. The artist will see color as a means to communicate a message. We use it to communicate feelings and ideas and even actions. A photojournalist might use it to emphasize a tragic event. A picture of a displaced family watching their house burn is sad. However, add the splash of color of the fire or the lights of the fire truck reflecting off their concerned faces and you have the makings of an emotional tragically powerful event. The faces don’t change the emotions of the viewer as intensely as the hues of the fire reflecting off of their faces does. It makes the viewer part of the experience.
A fine art photographer might make a photograph of a rosebush being pruned by an old gardener completely black and white except for one single red rose. Bam! The viewer’s eye is instantly transported to that rose. The rest of the picture becomes secondary in nature. The viewer may ask themselves, “Why the rose?” Why that rose? Only then do they notice it is the rose being pruned by the gardener. You have told a powerful story. All from the coloring of a single rose. The rosebush itself had no power of suggestion, just the rose.
Color is a vital element of art, particularly photographic fine art, it is an important step in communicating with your audience in new and dramatic ways.