Celebrating 150 Years of Color Photography

We launched into our Maymester class on Tuesday, 15 sessions, three hours each, five days a week (or so). An entire semester in about three weeks. It’s intense.

This time around, I’ve changed it up and we’re calling it Multiplatform Journalism – a little writing, a little photojournalism and a little video journalism. Will they be experts at this when they’re done? Probably not, but they’ll have a solid foundation and a direction to head off in next. They’ll learn to learn and that’s worth more than any momentary, transient technical expertise.

One of the students, Mark Stephenson, sent along a tweet last night pointing out that the start of our class coincided with the advent of color photography 150 years ago – May 17, 1861.

At some point every semester someone asks whether I prefer black and white or color, and I always get a little queasy with my own answer. There is an awful lot of great black and white work out there, and I admit it draws me in and lets me see things differently, reduces life to form and texture and moment. But … my life is in color. I haven’t shot in black and white since 2006.

Do I miss its elegance and simplicity? Its directness and (alleged) pureness? Yep.

But my world is in color and, for me, communicating effectively and accurately means controlling that color, sharing it with my audience. So … my life, my photography, is in color.

Mark E. Johnson

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