We’ve had heavy snowfalls during the last few winters, rendering the world in shades of black and white. A few years ago I commented to a friend during winter that I was tired of shooting naturally monochrome images and was longing for spring to produce some colours to fill my lens with.
She, being a true art historian, referred to what she called colore e disegno – ‘colour or design’ – the great debate in Italian Renaissance art. As I understand it, there was one school of thought that used shape and composition to determine what is a good picture, while the opposing side considered colour as the most important property by which to judge an image.
This distinction makes so much sense to me as a photographer, and I’m realising that I will take both sides of this debate at one time or another, depending on my mood, state of inspiration and the season.
An image with the main focus on lines and shapes and forms will often be very well suited to black and white. Such studies are perfect for the winter season; when the point is to highlight the shape of a thing, colour is often more a distraction than anything else.
On the other hand, deliberately including colour in a composition can make for spectacular, emotional images. At this point, summer is in full force, and the more I look around me, the more I become aware of and learn to appreciate how the world is drenched in colour. Outside my office window the red, white and blue Norwegian flag is waving in the wind against a backdrop of lush, green leaves. Walking home from work I pass by sunny-yellow flowers and house facades that glow fiery red in the sun. At this point I can do nothing but soak up the bright colours surrounding me, with my lens and with my mind, in order to be ready, with fully recharged batteries, for the inevitable return of the monochrome season.