Last weeks blog post was a bit unintentionally monochromatic. Although I like working in black and white I am I feel more of a colour photographer. In a previous post I mentioned it was Fujichrome RD50 and its successor that really turned me onto colour. To be honest though I’m not sure that I like many of us use colour effectively when we make our photographs. Colours are very powerful communicators and they have spawned their own fields of academia colour psychology and colour symbolism. Colour symbolism refers to the use of colour throughout a culture and is studied by anthropologists. Colour Psychology refers to investigating the effect of colour on human behaviour. The results are mainly anecdotal and the study generally falls under the heading of a pseudo-science and is regarded as a New Age phenomenon. Both terms are used to express the use of colour in a historical and cultural context. Cross cultural diversity may make interpretation difficult i.e.
- In Western Cultures white has signified purity, virginity and wisdom. It is the colour worn at weddings. In Asia white is associated with death and is the colour worn traditionally at funerals.
- In Western Culture pink is seen as feminine and wholesome, but in Japan pink is the colour associated with pornography.
Here is a brief run down of what various colours mean giving both the positive and negative connotations.
- positive attributes are security, reliability, elegance, humility, respect, reverence, subtlety, wisdom and old age
- negative attributes are anachronism, depression, boredom, decay, decrepitude, dullness, pollution
- positive : intelligence, modernity, power, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, style
- negative: evil, death, fear, rebellion, anarchy, sorrow, mourning
- positive: passion, strength, energy, fire, love, sex, excitement, speed, heat, ambition, leadership, masculinity, power
- negative: arrogance, danger, blood, war, anger, rebellion, revolution, aggression, the devil. Red can have the physiological response of increasing blood pressure and respiration and it stimulates hunger which is why many fast food chains use the colour in their logos and decor.
- positive: male, productive, peace, unity, tranquility, calmness, trust, coolness, confidence, loyalty, dependability, cleanliness
- negative: winter, depression, emotional coldness, obscenity, tackiness, sadness, aloofness
- positive: great intelligence, nature, spring, fertility, youth, environmental, wealth, money, good luck, vigour, generosity
- negative: jealousy, disgrace, illness, corruption
- positive: sunlight, joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, summer, hope, liberalism, femininity, gladness
- negative: cowardice, illness, fear, hazardous, dishonesty, avarice, weakness, fear, greed
- positive: nobility, sensuality, spirituality, creativity, royalty, ceremonial, mystery, enlightenment
- negative: arrogance, flamboyance, gaudiness, profanity, exaggeration, confusion, pride
- positive: happiness, balance, heat, fire, enthusiasm, playfulness, autumn
- positive: over emotional, warning, danger, arrogance, aggression
- positive: calm, depth, natural, nature, rusticism, stability, traditional, earth
- negative: anachronistic, fascism, boorishness, dirt, feces, dullness, filth, heaviness, poverty, roughness
This is only the tip of the iceberg, but it gives enough clues as to why some of my photos may appeal more to viewers than others. People love sunsets because of the reds, yellows and orange hues, although a bit of a photographic cliché they make people feel warm, happy, positive, and hopeful. Seascapes are popular too with the various shades of blue denoting calmness, peace, tranquility, refreshment and confidence.
The photos accompanying this entry are of the 2008 Perth Inter Hash. The Inter Hash is an event organised by the Hash House Harriers, a club for drinkers who have a running problem. I went into Perth not knowing that this event was happening but as I crossed the concourse from the rail station into Forest Chase I could see all these people dressed in red and so I decided to follow them on their opening parade as they walked through the Perth CBD. The intensity of the light mixed with the brilliant reds made for a very compelling sight. The faintly ridiculous nature of the costumes over powered any of the negative symbolism of the colour and just highlighted the positive ones.
Certainly when looking at making a photo in the future I’m going to try to pay more attention to the colour element and use that in the composition.