Shooting Color, When Color Wasn’t Cool

I have a circle of craftsmen around me. Not physically, but there, in my mind and, occasionally, at my side. These folks go beyond colleagues, beyond mentors – they are photographic friends, people who feel images as much as see them. People who passionately believe in the power of a single frame, a moment in time. An image that can change one life or many.

In that circle, and occasionally in my classroom, the question of color comes up. Some of my tribe are ardently in the black and white school of thought, that by eliminating color you take away what someone looks like to be able to see who they are.

Some are non-comital, believing that different stories need different tools.

And then there’s me … who, when asked about shooting in black and white, has always had the same response: My world is in color.

And it is. I think I see color as well as the next guy, and when I don’t see it in an image or frame I am, occasionally, left wondering where it is. What it was.

I’ve stumbled across a new blog this week, The Literate Lens, and Sarah Coleman has an interview up with Jeff Jacobson about his recent book project, The Last Roll.

Jacobson is known for his color work, something he started doing 40 years ago, when all the “serious” photographers were working in black and white. I love this quote:

For whatever reason, I could be a lot more playful in color. The images had an immediacy that my black-and-white images never had. I could never understand how you translated a world that was in color into the tones of black and white; that never made any sense to me. With color I could respond to whatever was in front of me and it was direct, not abstracted into grey tones.

Maybe I have a better answer now.

Mark E. Johnson

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