Color People

Or simply, people. As much as I was trying, during these sessions, to shoot not just IN color but FOR color, the pull of the subject was often stronger than that of the colors. One does not put aside an ingrained approach to subjects and composition that has for years deliberately ignored color as part of the visual language.

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Arguably, some if not many of the images in this series, starting perhaps with the woman in the opening frame above, are not good enough from a color perspective, if by "color perspective" one means the predominance of color as a composition element if not as the central subject of the image per se. 

I'm not saying here that color HAS to be the central subject. It can also be used a way to focus the attention on the central subject of an image, when the definition of "subject" is dictated by other factors. And it's definitely great when color becomes a (sometimes subtle) way to define the mood of an image or a series, almost cinematically (for this, see this blogpost by Patrick LaRoque in Montreal, Canada: his blog is a valuable learning tool for me). 

On the other hand, a purely factual and/or documentary but non-assumed and random presence of color is, at least in my mind, less interesting — at best neutral and at worst a potential distraction from other elements of the image.

So, look at this gallery and ask yourself (and let me know, if you have a moment): which images "work" (alone or within the series) and why? One thing is sure on my end here: learning to shoot and edit for color after so much time spent on BW will be a long process...

Color Windows

Summertime has come to Paris well ahead of time, albeit I suppose just temporarily. The light has suddenly changed, almost Mediterranean in its harshness. It's difficult to adapt so fast to the new deep shadows and to the suddenly bright color palette that the city has dressed herself with.

The visual shock brings a renewed jolt of creative juices, calling me again to the tempting world of color photography.

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It's a Copernican revolution, and it will take some time to decide whether this different language is one I can express my trues self in. 

On the one hand, straying from BW makes me think I'm polluting my visual signature, and makes be abandon the sound principles of never-ending quest for improvement of a core technique that is behind much of the work philosophy I admire in countless Japanese craftsmen.

On the other, great masters of the history of photography at some point in their careers have moved from BW to color (rarely the opposite I guess) as a way to reawaken their vision, to find new creative avenues. Learn this from them, too...

The debate could never end, but what's the point of debating with myself. Just follow the gut, and the gut lately has been asking for this challenge. 

So here's a fresh series, on a theme I've endlessly loved: a window pane, and what lies behind it, sometimes forgotten. Take a peek...

Bologna, and the M10

Bologna la Rossa. I had last set foot there 30-odd years ago, a lifetime. I went back to spend a weekend at a workshop on photobook making organized by SpazioLabò and led by Eva-Maria Kuntz of Ceiba Editions and Mayumi Suzuki who came on purpose from Japan (her "Restoration Will" exibition will run at SL for two months, go check it out; poignantly, it opened on the very 7th anniversary of the Tohoku quake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011). But the workshop deserves a separate post. Back to Bologna...

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What a pleasant re-discovery. Laid back, young (with the oldest operating University in Europe, founded in 1088), epicurean, with a magnificent downtown area with arcades-lined streets and, yes, plenty of red mortar and bricks to give it its nickname (well, red also stands or rather stood for communist; but those days are waning).

It's difficult to start photographing an unfamiliar city straight away, before its character and rhythms start making a deeper impression on you and you can start projecting yourself in your surroundings, make them a little bit yours. On day one, it's mostly about superficial impressions, not quite postcards maybe but certainly not deep. It's a kind of frustrating regression to reptilian-brain reactions, going back to the way one may have photographed at the very beginning; it takes a few hours to shake the eyes back into seeing the way they do now, and even then of course it all remains a bit of an academic exercise, very distant, formal and composition- rather than emotion-driven; impossible to capture the soul of a place so soon.

All of that red was demanding attention, so here it is, a brief experiment in color photography again. Perhaps I've been watching too many Joel Meyerowitz images, recently, he's made me thirsty for color. Maybe this is an experiment, maybe this is the start of something. I've been shooting BW exclusively for the past six-years-plus. Maybe I need a challenge to raise my game...

Oh, for those who care about gear: I had brought my Leica M9 with me, with the good old, pre-Asph, Summicron 35mm to stay light and flexible. Some of these images, however, have been shot with a Leica M10 borrowed for a couple of hours from the Bologna Leica Store (courtesy of my friend Luca Bottazzi  — grazie, Luca). No way to make comparisons as I did not use the two cameras on the same subjects at the same time of day. I did not push the M10 sensor beyond 800 ISO, where they say it leaves the M9's CCD in the dust; it sure feels crisper, and a tad colder, but not in a way that a reasonable amount of post-processing cannot cure. Operationally, a total pleasure of a tool. Thinner, a 'real M' as it is promised to be. Not as quiet as I thought, but a totally different, less metallic shutter & rewind noise. Beautiful viewfinder indeed. And a more immediate useability of exposure compensation, a big weakness in the M9 in my opinion. Great camera...