Colour and design

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.

{244/365} Picture Colour Day 1: Disegno e colore

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About Jenny Graver

Living in Oslo, Norway, with her partner and their infant son, Jenny struggles for balance between all the things that makes life worth living - her family, her job in university administration, her writing, learning and her photography. View all posts by Jenny Graver

2 responses to “Colour and design

  • Jessica

    Beautifully written — and very wise too. We don’t have very monochrome winters since we usually don’t get too much snow but the landscape is very desaturated.

    I have to agree you with on taking both sides of the debate — I love color but came to really appreciate the line/form aspect of photography when I did a month of b&w.

    Anyway, great and thoughtful post! : )

  • Radish

    Lovely post. I love color. But I think that those who take black and white, they are so much smarter and sophisticated. To that end, I am going to take Picture Black and White.

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