Friday, November 03, 2006

An orange rose - really!

click photo to enlarge
When I was a child in the 1950s I lived in a pretty black and white world. Great Britain was one of the good guys in a white hat and the USSR wasn't red, but as black as the devil. School rules were equally black and white - break them and you got a verbal lashing or a smacked leg. And TV (if you had it), newspaper pictures, in fact most photographs, were black and white. The colour that I remember most appeared on the covers of children's comics - like Dennis the Menace in his red and black striped jumper - and even here on the inside pages, usually a single colour (red) was printed on a black and and white drawing, giving the illusion of a colour process.

I seem to recall that it wasn't until the 1960s that colour became commonplace, and when it did we started to feel short-changed if we were offered monochrome. But, even in that decade, when I bought "The Observer's Book of Birds" I had to put up with colour illustrations alternating with black and white - presumably to keep the cost down. So it was, believe it or not, with many art books, until the publisher, Paul Hamlyn, came along and transformed the market. The arrival of colour photography for the masses meant we didn't want black and white any more, and were remarkably forgiving of the poor quality that postal labs and shops offered - after all, our pictures glowed with colour! So, perhaps it was only in the late twentieth century, when we had lived in "full-colour" for a few decades, that we came to appreciate, again, the virtues of the monochrome image.

My photograph shows an orange rose - yes, really! Flowers, even today, are the subject that we are most likely to depict in colour, and my original of this particular rose is a deep and sensual orange. It was idle speculation that caused me to run the shot, taken with a 35mm macro lens, through a piece of software that happened to be set up with a red filter. The combination of the filter and the flower's colour produced the soft greys of this image. Forty or fifty years ago I might not have appreciated the gentle sublety of this shot - today I do.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen