Retina Ripping Colour

Mexican Glass by Paul Amyes on
Mexican Glass – Fremantle, Western Australia.

Wandering around with some time to kill is always a good excuse to do some photography. Photography gives me the perfect pretext for being nosey and I love roaming down alleys and back streets just in the hope of finding something interesting. I was attracted to this scene because of the big slabs of intense colour. The greens of the wall really made the blue of the rubbish bins vibrate and pulse, and the red accents of the bin lids really set the whole scene off.


We have become so familiar with colour photography that we don’t realise how powerful colour can be so visceral that it’s like being punched in the guts. I first became fully aware of this when I saw some photos of a bull-fight by Ernst Haas and now whenever I think of bull fighting those images are so indelibly etched on brain they come to mind immediately and bring up the raw emotions I felt when I first saw them. At this time I was shooting black and white film because that is what serious photographers did and I really didn’t make the connection between what I was doing photographically and what Haas was doing. Shortly after I started subscribing to the English magazine Creative Camera and that introduced me to the work of American photographer Pete Turner. That had the profound effect of making me buy bucket loads of Kodachrome and Fujichrome 50 RD – the precursor to Fujichrome Velvia.


Nederlandse Fiets – typical Dutch bicycles chained up against a wall in Amsterdam.


My earliest successful purely colour photograph was taken while on honeymoon in Amsterdam in January 1986. I can still remember taking it as if it were yesterday. Shortly after a trip to Santorini in Greece and the discovery of polarizing filters and I was completely hooked. When we moved to Australia I found the intensity of the light could make your eyes hurt while looking at certain colours and that’s when I coined the phrase “retina ripper”.








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