Colouring the Books

Colour is one of those things that we are never certain that other people see in the same way.  I know what colours I love; most of them were found in the fashion of my childhood: the pastels of Miami Vice, the jewel tones of the Sears’ catalogue, and the fluorescent green of Ocean Pacific. In 2009, this is a strange emotive palette to work from, but when it came to designing my logo I decided to go with a pastel blue. The studio is filled with what I call the Google colours: prime tones of red, yellow, orange, blue and green because they make me happy. It is important to be happy in your workspace. 

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Don’t get me wrong, I do not dress like a clown in a bright red suit…even if I have in the past . I understand that right now the public palette is more Zen-inspired: charcoal grey slate, soft chocolate browns, bamboo woods and teal green shades. In the late 1980s I used to joke that the reason for Monet’s resurgence was because only his insipid paintings of water gardens could match the dusty roses and forest greens of the design world.  It is important to remember that most people want their “art” to match their decor. 

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Am I insinuating that many people choose an artist’s work to match their sofa? Yes. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, and it is critical for a photographer to understand that how he presents colour will influence people’s reactions and their willingness to purchase something for their home. 

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The big names in photography understand this. Leibovitz has a muted, soft style that is loved by Louis Vutton and Vanity Fair. McCurry’s prime colours make me weak every time I see them. Peter Lik is a brilliant marketer and presents colour in a totally boutique style. Could Leibovitz take her palette towards the Caribbean and have images entitled “Me Bright Pink Shirt”?  Not on your life, Calypso Joe. One of my challenges the past few months has been to learn how to standardize my colours by using white balance, choosing the same films to shoot with (Kodak Porta 160VC), to calibrate my computer systems, scanners and printers and to think more about colour as I press the shutter. I am concerned about what exact papers I print on – Kodak Metallic Endura for bigger pieces, Hahnemuhle Bamboo and Sugar Cane for the smaller pieces.  When you see my photography I want it to register as an Anthony N. Chandler piece, and that requires consistency. Consistency is different than being contrived; one signifies a level of mastery and the other shows an inauthentic manipulation. I am not going to have locals dress in certain clothes for my big photo shoot like I have seen some photographers do, but everytime I come across a bright plastic chair or water jug I will shoot it when the person who owns it uses it.

Yes, Mama Loves Me

Is it contrived? I do not think so, because I am just subconsciously seeking the repetition of things seen before. Like the fire hydrants from the previous blog entry, plastic furniture and its implications to the third world appeals to me deep down somewhere inside.

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The first thing that became shocking was just how important things like calibrating your white balance to you lights was. For my birthday my mom bought me an ExpoDisc and that little piece of white plastic immediately improved every single studio shot I took in digital. Then I realized just how off and inconsistent my AlienBees light in its stunning fluorescent green plastic housing was, so I took the plunge and bought the Profoto lights which gave me an unbelievably white, consistent light. What is key here is not that you always reproduce exact colours, but rather that you understand how to get the exact colours you want to see. 

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When you look at The Portfolio, I want you to see vibrant life in saturated colours matched against some soft muted tones of minerals and whites on a background of black. That is one way I see the world, and I think that it is the only way I want to see the world. 

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