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Photography and Color

March 1st - April 30th

Kodak ... there is a name you don’t hear too often anymore ... and, for those of us raised in the film era, who knew that sentence could even be a possibility? There was a time when that yellow box of film was pretty much the only game in town. Actually, there was a time when serious "fine art" photographers only worked in black-and-white. Color, or its English cousin Colour, was for advertising, family snaps, official portraits. It’s hard now to imagine working in the confines of one company (hmmmm…iPhone……hmmmm) but the point is, that prior to digital, the average photographer had very little control over color in terms of the technical aspects. Yes, there were outliers, but the vast majority of us spent our lives in an exacting hunt for color corrected images, usually on transparencies (aka slides), developing our abilities to discern and correct even a few units of magenta or cyan, and buying film in emulsion batches so the correction test would hold for the group.

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© Sarah Moon,  Coincidences, Arena Editions, 2001

As a photo student during that time, I became very interested in those outliers, much of it happening in fashion where photographers like Sarah Moon and Sheila Metzner were ignoring the idea of “correct” and exploring using color in much more expressive ways. It really blew my mind that you could not only completely disregard detailed sharpness, but that color could be what you wanted it to be.  In the art world, it wasn’t until the 60s that the Museum of Modern Art had a solo show of color photography (Ernst Hass) but it was a decade later, when they showed William Eggleston’s work, that it was really fully accepted.

Motion pictures had more options because they were shot on negative film…obviously starting with b&w, but by the 50s the majority of moviemaking was shot in color. Now "colorists" play an important part in working with directors and cinematographers to create a color palette that contributes to the mood and narrative of a film.  Amélie, one of my favorites, uses reds and greens to wrap its characters in a glowing warm world, while Moonlight's lush and saturated colors are in sharp contrast to the harsh realities of the characters' lives.


In terms of color and skin tone, photography has a lot to answer for and any discussion about color and photography would be incomplete without referencing the Kodak Shirley cards and the deeper meaning behind "correct" and "normal" color. The Shirley cards were there to set an industry standard of what skin tones should be...but, as you can see, that only referred to pale ones. Darker skin tones were willfully ignored by Kodak executives. In fact, nothing was done until the chocolate and furniture industries complained that they were unable to render the subtle and beautiful tones in their products that Kodak chose to change and attempt to expand on their tonal range. Even now, there is an assumption that darker skin tones cannot be fully rendered if surrounded by light tones and only recently, with the Pixel 6's "True Tone", have digital cameras been optimized to render all skin tones. Many artists have done interesting work exploring the theme of color/race in photography.  Angélica Dass, in her Humanae project, has photographed over 4,000 people where "The background for each portrait is tinted with a color tone identical to a sample of 11 x 11 pixels taken from the nose of the subject and matched with the industrial pallet Pantone®"


In this showcase, artists have fully embraced color as an important narrative aspect in their work. From lush noir tones to delicate saturations, their color palettes help to set a tone and mood. Some explore color in its political and cultural aspects while also pushing the boundaries of traditional materials. The pandemic and lockdown play a role in several photographers' work and shows the ability of art to help us reimagine our experiences. In the last showcase I included photography books and it was such a success that I'll be continuing it for the rest of this year. Many thanks to Douglas Stockdale, photographer, founder and editor of PhotoBook Journal, for once again, curating a wonderful set of photography books where how the artist works with color is an important element.

Fran Forman

Noir Portals and Portraits of Covid

I create each photo-construction as a ’stand-alone’ rather than part of some preconceived series. However, it’s clear that certain threads connect all my images. Each is a visual narrative that suggests the illusive and liminal state of relationships and settings, as well as a distorted perception of time and space. The figures, often solitary, express the isolation, longing, entrapment, and disconnection endemic in our current lives. Nevertheless, a slash of light through a portal can offer a measure of hope.

I place my subjects in uncertain settings, just out of reach of companionship. In joining conflicting concepts such as realism with illusion and longing with proximity, the images grapple with ambiguities and expand on the noir tradition of exposing fragility and longing.

I pay particular homage to the patterns and abstractions of the mid-century American painter Edward Hopper, whose solitary figures seem absorbed in their interior lives; to the 17th-century Masters of northern Europe, who used light to evoke emotion; the muted interior  paintings of Wilhelm Hammershøi; the narrative stills of Gregory Crewdson; and to the foreboding sparseness, alienated protagonists, and stylization of noir cinematography.

On my website you will find my recent book, The Rest Between Two Notes, which includes many more of my images (110 color plates, in fact).

© Fran Forman, all rights reserved

Irina Lawton

© Irina Lawton, all rights reserved

Red Colors of Disillusion

Echoes of the Red Empire. This project, based on documentary images, explores the phenomena of propaganda through the visual reconstruction of the disappearing icons of Soviet ideology.

Walking along the street of a Russian provincial city several years ago I was suddenly struck by the image of a hammer and sickle under my feet. I turned around and saw the remains of a propaganda decoration on top of a typical Soviet era concrete fence. The shadow, created by the late September sun peacefully existed on the ground as any other ordinary shadow - people were walking by unaware...

Russian society still lives in a period of painful changes and adjustments for people, especially for the older generation. Some of them will never adjust and never change. Their minds were shaped by propaganda; their existence was surrounded by soviet symbols that became the landmarks of their reality. They still see things in red colors - the red colors of disillusion - sometimes bitter, sometimes frightening…

Lori Pond

© Lori Pond, all rights reserved


The Covid-19 pandemic reduced the radius of my world down to the confines of my home, especially during the several lockdown periods. I’m a world traveler, and to be physically limited to just my house at first was untenable, unimaginable, impossible. After that initial shock, I took a look around at my new boundaries and made a discovery. My world is whatever I make it—however I choose to make it. It can be small or vast, limited or free-flowing, very narrow or very wide. It is all in my mind’s eye.

The more time I spent locked down at home, the more I started to notice the things that I had over the 30 years of living in the same place decided to surround myself with. I became re-acquainted with items I had passed by in my hallways thousands of times without pausing. I took a new interest in the objects that had enough meaning for me to display them in my home.

Because I was physically limited, my photographic viewpoint also changed its focus. I started to become very interested in the small details that make up our existence on this planet. I noticed that within the objects sitting in my house were tiny, yet complete, worlds all unto themselves. Consequently, I began to photograph details and pieces of things, letting the whole be an unknown. But then, the whole became the detail and vice versa.

I discovered (by the things I surround myself with) what is important to me. I found out that I need to have color, humor, beauty and an indescribable visual poetry in my life to feel complete. The astonishing thing I found out was I didn’t have to leave my house at all to find all these things.

I am immensely grateful that I am able to take away something positive during this very trying and difficult time.

Raymond Thompson Jr.

© Ray Thompson Jr., all rights reserved

Playing in the Dark

I have harvested the power of the sun for my most recent series of self-portrait lumen prints, Playing in the Dark. This work comments on the nature of photography as a scientific process and the role photography has played in reinforcing America’s racial caste system. More importantly the series asks the viewer to look deeper, by purposely de-emphasizing my body with various levels of dark tones and colors. My body is not easily consumed in this work. I used the lumen printing process, because the way images are rendered on the surface of the prints creates a shroud that forces the viewer to investigate at close range. The series consists of silver gelatin prints that have been split toned with selenium.

I was inspired by African American photographer Roy DeCarava’s printing technique, which focused on underexposure, soft papers and an incredible range of dark and gray tones. DeCarava was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete his book The Sweet Flypaper of Life. In this work he focuses on everyday black life in Harlem. He purposely avoided the imagery that was typically published of blacks that focused on the extremes.

In Teju Cole’s essay, “A True Picture of Black Skin,” published in the book Black Futures, he argues that DeCarava’s darkroom printing palette reverses the power structures associated with the white gaze in photography. “The viewer’s eye might at first protest, seeking more conventional contrasts, wanting more obvious lighting. But, gradually, there comes an acceptance of the photograph and its subtle implications: that there’s more there than we might think at first place, but also that when we are looking at others, we might come to the understanding that they don’t have to give themselves up to us. They are allowed to stay in the shadows if they wish,” Cole writes. Cole connects DeCarava’s work to philosopher Edouard Glissant’s thinking that surrounds the word “opacity.” In his writing, he claimed a space for the rights of minorities not to be defined by others’ definitions and the right to be misunderstood if they wanted. “Glissant sought to defend the opacity, obscurity, and inscrutability of Caribbean Blacks and other marginalized peoples. External pressures insisted on everything being illuminated, simplified, and explained. Glissant’s response: No.”

Ewa Monika Zebrowski

End of Beauty

the images for, END OF BEAUTY,
were all shot in one location, in one room.
a tile factory, now a bed and breakfast,
in the hills high above
the côte d’azur, near cabris.

An oppressive july heat,
We sought shelter within.

Every night, strange, disturbing, dreams …
The night air humid and heavy.

Around us

A verdant garden and swimming pool

nestled in the hills, the Riviera below.

At night the lights twinkling in the inky blackness.


A private retreat, a paradise-like oasis,remote and removed.


A languid, sultry summer heat prevailed.

The occasional breeze,
Rustling the leaves, the agapanthus swaying,
The sound of cicada, chirping loudly,
a kind of whir,
Almost electric at dusk.

At dawn the translucent light filled the room,
the white, gauze curtains moving, ever so slightly,

A time of stillness,
And quiet.
A time to contemplate our vulnerable
time of life.


© Ewa Monika Zebrowski, all rights reserved

PhotoBook Journal

The last showcase inclusion of photography books was such a success that I'll be continuing it for this year. Many thanks to Douglas Stockdale, photographer, founder and editor of PhotoBook Journal for once again, curating a wonderful set of photography books where how the artist works with color is an important element.

The reviews are on a separate page, use this link.


Text Showcase                 Family Showcase

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