Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pink and the poppy

click photo to enlarge
Pink is a colour we associate with girls. Look at Barbie, My Little Pony, the clothes made for girls (small, big, young and old!) and you see it in profusion. However, it wasn't always so.

It seems that, from about the 1920s until the 1940s, in western societies, pink was deemed a suitable colour for boys. Yes, I know that it is favoured by some boys and men today, but we're talking in general terms here! During those decades it was seen as a colour close to red which was thought a strong and assertive hue, masculine in character, perhaps by association with blood and military uniforms. Interestingly, at this time blue was considered a more delicate colour (despite the uniforms of that colour!) and felt to be perfectly appropriate for girls. As far as I'm aware no one has come up with a cogent reason for pink's gender shift, and it is still, in the main, considered a "feminine" colour that is light, frothy, frivolous, playful and showy.

A group of pink poppies have recently been blooming in one of the borders of my garden. Collectively they have exuded that showy lightness that we associate with the colour, and have been a useful companion colour for the blue and purple cornflowers, irises, and clematis that are nearby. However, when I took this close-up photograph of the centre of one of the flower heads, giving emphasis to the black centre and black radial markings, the colour seemed to lose its cheery connotations. In fact I was reminded of some Victorian funerary designs I've seen that combine black with dark purple and dusky pink. You'd think that black alongside pink might bring to mind Liquorice Allsorts, humbugs, or 1950s women's polka dot fashion, but no. Perhaps it's the association of the poppy with opium, and that Victorian cure-all, laudanum. Whatever this colour combination and flower triggers in my mind it's certainly nothing to do with frivolity.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On