Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore are commonly known as the godfathers, or masters of colour documentary photography – (Houkgallery.com, 2010) ‘Colour was identified with commerce, with manipulative advertising and crowd-pleasing stories about the stars in popular magazines. The colour picture was too close to reality. Where were the personal vision, the transformation, and the art? Serious photographers shot and interpreted the world in black and white. According to the well-worn narrative, all this began to change in the 1970s with the “new colour photography” of American photographers like William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz’ – (Poynor, R., 2012)
Meyerowitz is an award winning street photographer and, ‘was instrumental in changing the attitude toward the use of colour photography from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance.’ – (Meyerowitz, J. (2014).
In the presentation of these two photographs, he makes apparent his deliberation between black and white, and colour, ‘In the middle ‘60s, around 66, I started carrying two Leicas – black and white and colour. Whenever I had the opportunity to make an interesting photograph, if there was enough time in what was happening, I would make a second picture similar to it in black and white or colour so that I could then compare them.’ – (Meyerowitz, J. 2012)
In this scene, a middle aged overweight gentleman is stood hunched in an isolated area enjoying the view and the weather, He seems to have no awareness or regard towards the blimp, as he could possibly be in a meditative state, in deep thought, or is simply accustomed to the sight of it. The fact that Meyerowitz has chosen to frame the blimp and the gentleman in the same image could be taken as a symbolic cue towards the possible accumulation of thoughts, perhaps it has indeed been a ‘good year’ for this man on his holiday.
A more discreet symbolic cue could be the positioning of his contradictory slim shadow which is cast over a parasol pole stand in a comical way, telling us that he could be thinking about when he was in his prime, and the hard work that he has gone through in order to get to this moment in his life, and that he feels young and invigorated. We don’t lose these contextual interpretations in either the colour or the black and white images; however, tone changes.
In colour, the atmosphere seems more suited towards a summer holiday, but in black and white, I feel that the gentleman takes on a more elite role, as though he owns a large business and the space he is standing in. It is components like this that at first seem minor, but could affect a photograph’s meaning entirely.
This photograph doesn’t have a monochromatic counterpart, but it does conjure mixed thoughts regarding how I feel about the use of colour. I like this photograph mainly for its composition: the game of baseball taking place with spectators forgetting about the outside world which we can see peaking over the top of the stadium, carrying on with everyday life.
I like the horizontal structure of the slightly muted blue, red and green, as they give depth and make the layers of foreground, mid-ground and background more apparent, yet from this photograph, I can understand criticisms of less muted colour, ‘Colour film’s exaggeration of subject hue and the concurrent difficulty of formally organizing the visible world’s raucous colour combinations gave the medium an aura of vulgarity.’ – (Eauclaire, S. 1981) If this image were more saturated, I would agree with black and white photographer, Walker Evans, who, ‘deemed colour a “vulgar” medium and stated that many ‘colour photographers confuse colour with noise’ and that they ‘blow you down with screeching hues alone…a bebop of electric blues, furious reds and poison greens.’ – (ibid.)