Color

One of the artists who's had the most impact on my photography is Harry Gruyaert. I discovered him early in my journey, at a time when I thought that street photography was all about impact. 

In my mind (and thanks to social media and its focus on viral engagement), successful street photographs had to pack a maximum people in countless layers or had to have these crazy juxtapositions and connections. Calmer shots didn't have a place in this world. At least, until I saw Harry's work.

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Here were pictures that didn't have a decisive moment, didn't have layers, didn't have juxtapositions or any surprise that we're accustomed to see in "winner" shots.

These images would probably never win in any contemporary street photography competitions, but they spoke to me like none other did at that time, opened up my world. 

  • Harry Gruyart - Irish Summers
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Here are some of my takeaways:

- Color can be as much a subject of your pictures as any human protagonists. Sometimes, a patch of color can tell you more about the human condition than any jumping kid.

- If you are a color photographer, you ought to think about its interaction with light. A red on an overcast sky is not the same as a red at the sunset. Not only will it differ visually, its meaning and the emotions it will trigger will not be the same.

-  Think like a painter. Consider the placement of the color within an image, how it reacts with the other colors, what feelings come out of it.

- Be playful and experiment. Color has so many dimensions. If you embrace and explore it, the possibilities are limitless.

  • Harry Gruyart - Irish Summers
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All pictures above by Harry Gruyaert (Irish Summers & Rivages)

I have been trying to use color in my pictures for some time now. At first as a passive element (the color was there and I used it).

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As I gained more experience, color took on a more active role. It became part of the composition.

At first, I used to focus on a single color, on the mood it created.

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But as time went by, the interaction between colors became much more important in my shots. I started creating "layers" with colors so to speak.

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Understanding who you are as a photographer and what attracts you matters a lot. Identifying your triggers and acting upon them is primordial to improve your art.

For instance, I have always loved shooting layers and trying to organize chaos (and mostly failing at that). However, this is not always possible. A pandemic, for example, may not be the best environment to seek crowds. Sometimes, you may be in areas where there just aren't many people.

But layers come in many shapes and forms. It's not just a technique to fit 45 people in a frame with little overlap. There are layers of meaning, of mood and for me these days, of color. 

I may not be able to shoot the chaotic street shots that I love so much but that doesn't prevent me from packing my pictures just short of sensory overload with colors. 

That only became possible when I started treating color as a subject matter and the only one I can thank this for is Harry Gruyaert.

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