Preservations began early in the semester as a way to reflect on the simpler aspects of life from what I remember from my youth. Growing up in a small home with 6 brothers and sisters, my mother in order to help make ends meet preserved many of the vegetables that we grew by canning them. It was this that inspired me to explore how color and food plays such a large role in our lives and connects us to those around us. Along the way I found that presentation was key in this series as this informed how I wished to approach my subject and bring their essence to the forefront. Early on I knew that I would be working with color, though I had wavered at the time with the decision that I might evolve the piece. I soon found early in the genesis of this project that through the use of contrast of color and contrast of saturation I was able to make the images take on new meaning and create just the right amount of visual tension to hold the viewers’ attention.
A few of my classmates have alluded to color choices as an informative aspect to describe a motive or a dialogue. In my series I use color and saturation along with lighting that isn’t weighted. By being “weighted” I suggest that the light itself is balanced with side lighting equally lighting both sides of my subject so that the transition from the shadow side of the subject and the specular highlights might be minimized. Another aspect of weighting my light source is that the white balance is set and the lighting itself is not gelled. What this left me with are colors as our eyes see them rather than images with color cast. Finally, I consciously reflected on color palettes so that the right balance was used in both saturation and in compositional compliments so that balance could be maintained from image to image.
This is not to say that I did not experiment. Early on I considered formatting options as well as composition changes to the lighting. Examples of this can be seen in the following two images. In the first image I use a third light to create a spotlight effect behind my subject. In many ways I am drawn to this image for it helps frame the subject more fully and helps resolve any conflicts that the formative elements in the image create. Where this image fails is that it is too overt, too “in your face”. Rather than forcing the viewer to resolve the image I prefer the image resolve the conflict created by the contrast by forcing the viewer to come to terms with the formal elements. I felt that adding the lighting cheapens the imagery and in turn says to the viewer, “To hold you here I am going to tell you where to look and what to think.” What I prefer is that the images inform but not in a way that is like being told what to see. Rather I prefer that it is something that the viewer come to grasp more fully the longer they view the image.
The next aspect that I looked to explore was contrast of analogous colors. As I explored this concept I came to find that the colors themselves, while still using contrast of saturation, created too much visual harmony. While there was still enough visual tension to create adequate contrast, the image itself was left with too much cohesion between the color relationships to really hold the viewer by the bootstraps and keep them engaged. Visually the image is far too calm created by the color pallet and their relationship to each other. This coupled with how the image formally is centered creates for a leveled image that fails to slap the viewer in the face.
I came to the conclusion that how I used color and how that color contrasted with its complement created the necessary visual tension that increased the plasticity of the overall image and engaged the viewer’s senses. Along the way I found the imagery taking on a transformative quality and that the sum of the parts were greater qualitatively than the individual parts. Cohesively, the images as a collection, in its simplest of forms really described more than what a sweet potato is. Rather, they help inform and answer the question about what is form or what is life. To express this visually I found that color played a major role in creating the necessary tension that simply was lacking from their black and white counterpart and in the end an image became a transformative process than simply a means to record.
How I use color, and how I see color affects my final vision of this series. As you look through the images look past the obvious and see the images not simply as vegetables – but as how color helps to inform the shape, the contour, the lines, the essence of what it is that we view and transforms this object as something more than the sum of its parts. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I had helping it take shape.
Photographer and Artist