Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why Hand-color?

Every once in awhile I get asked the question "why do you hand-color your photographs?". This is usually followed with "why not just take a color photograph" or "can't you do that in photoshop?".

Since the earliest days of photography black and white photographs have been hand-colored, but for different reasons. The main intent then was to add a bit of realism to the black and white photograph. The introduction of color film decreased the demand for hand-coloring, but portrait artists continued to offer this option well into the 1950's and early 1960's.

So why do I hand-color? I have mentioned before the meditative quality that hand-coloring offers. In my workshops it's been fun to watch the class become quiet and reflective when they first start coloring. After awhile they start sharing and talking while they work, but the calm usually returns a couple of more times before the class ends.

For many years I prided myself in the fact that I only took and printed straight black and white photographs. However, once I learned how to handcolor I never offered a black and white image again. Every photograph I make gets "the treatment". Once I started hand-coloring I began to shoot differently. I could visualize the possibilities hand-coloring could add to the scene before me. Hand-coloring seemed to add emotion to my photographs, something that I wasn't able to communicate with my black and white images. Master black and white photographers have that skill but it wasn't anything I possessed.

While I have started to dabble with coloring in photoshop I know I will never give up coloring my prints by hand. I love photoshop and what it can do to help me create the best black and white print possible, but hand-coloring that print with pastels seems to be the perfect marriage between technology and tradition and I plan to do whatever I can to carry on that tradition.

1 comment:

  1. I love both the method and the look of hand colouring. I too find it relaxing (until I make a mistake, haha)