A Photo Teacher |

A State of Mind

Posted in PHOT 165 by Paul Turounet on September 17, 2008

© William Eggleston, from the series Los Alamos (left) and Henry Wessel, from the series Las Vegas (right)


Only those who love color are admitted to its beauty and immanent presence.  It affords utility to all, but unveils its deeper mysteries only to its devotees.

– Johannes Itten, from The Art of Color


One critical consideration and desire of the photographer working in color is to create a sense of color harmony – to develop a visual relationship and structure between content, form and colors that are capable of serving as a basis for composition and revealing content.

While the role and function of color and colored light in photography serves to describe the colors of objects and details of content, it also functions to suggest a psychological, emotional and symbolic context.


Popular opinion to the contrary, explicit description does not preclude richness, mystery, metaphor, or pathos.  Those qualities may well reside within explicit factuality and seem the more cogent for their tie with truth.  Expressionism is a demanding and venerable goal in any art medium.  But what is being expressed should somehow speak to the depth and complexity of life itself.

Concentrating on the world without violating it, photographers can induce significant emotional sensations or suggest transcendent spirituality without resorting to contrivance.  Those who succeed at this understand the subjective possibilities of objective things.

– Sally Eauclaire, from The New Color Photography | Chapter 6 – Moral Visions



Shoot color photographic images (analog | color negative or transparency and if desired digital | RAW and/or on the highest quality resolution setting on a variety of white balance settings) to reveal your interpretation of how color and colored light in photography can be used to not only describe the colors of objects and details of content, but also suggest the possibilities of a psychological, emotional and/or symbolic context.

© Danny Lyon, from Calendar (four images on left) | William Eggleston (top and bottom left), Philip-Lorca diCorcia (top right) and Christian Patterson (bottom right)

In contemplating and experiencing color as a visual strategy to reveal the possibilities of psychological, emotional and/or symbolic meaning, such conceptual possibilities could include the emotional sensations of the landscape and the change of the seasons, and/or within the metaphorical context of a personal and/or societal state of mind.

Give particular attention to utilizing the camera and use of the following:

  • Color as Description
  • Color of Light
  • Role of Color within a Psychological, Emotional and/or Symbolic context, including the possible meanings and associations of individual colors
  • Color Contrasts described in The Art of Color, including:
  1. Contrast of Hue
  2. Light – Dark Contrast
  3. Cold – Warm Contrast
  4. Complementary Contrast
  5. Contrast of Saturation
  6. Contrast of Extension



For the critique (see Calendar for Due Date) and evaluation, please complete the following:

Minimum of 3 – edited contact sheets (no more than 4 images per sheet) or 12 Digital Kiosk Machine Prints (minimum size of 6×8 inches in scale) reflecting your interpretation of color impression and color expression.  Images should be optimized in Adobe Photoshop.

Identify the color contrast for each image on each of the edited contact sheets or machine prints.

Minimum of 4 – optimized digital and/or analog color photographic prints made in the Grossmont College Digital Photography Lab.

Turn-in all critique materials in a manila envelope for evaluation and feedback.



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