Saturday, July 10, 2010

Color and Coltrane

There is a story about the great jazz musician, John Coltrane, that I think applied to something I am going through.

Over the last year and a half I have been experimenting with extreme color, a total departure from what I have done in the past. I have done virtually no black and white since this started. I've converted some of my digital work to black and white but have not been fulfilled by any of the results.

Supposedly Coltrane was playing one evening when he took his saxophone out of his mouth and started singing. Never in the past had he done this.

His drummer asked him what was going on and why had he done this. He replied something to the effect that there was nothing left in his saxophone.

I am sure I will return to black and white in the future. However, right now, I feel like there is little or no black and white left in my vision. I still firmly believe that black and white is the most expressive photographic medium. The abstraction rendered by black and white invites the viewer into the image in a way that is much more difficult in color.

That said, I am fascinated by the way we interact with color and the way that colors interact with each other. From my association with painters at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, I think they have a much better understanding of color both from their formal training and their experience as painters. They understand color as a visual communication tool.

A number of years ago I took a couple of workshops with Christopher James, one of the most talented artists and teachers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The workshops were on the extended print, i.e. what else was possible other than just making a darkroom print. (Digital imaging wasn't available in those days.) We explored hand-coloring, cyanotypes, ink transfers, etc.

About half the class came to photography from the classical art media such as painting. The other half came from the photography side of the street. It was amazing to me how much more visually advanced were those coming from the non-photography side. That is one of the reasons I have always encouraged my students to look at, enjoy, and critique paintings. It will broaden their vision.

Right now I am enjoying the departure from black and white. I'm having fun with what I am doing. No one but me may like it but it's scratching my itch. My photographer friends think I drank something strange. My painter friends think I'm starting to be a true artist!

Stay tuned... ;-)

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