Do color photographs do something more than black-and-white pictures? Below is a gallery of 13 images originally recorded on black-and-white film and now colorized. Some undoubtedly benefit from the process. The photo of the 18-year-old prisoner in the Dachau death camp is made modern by color. You see more of her. She sees you. The colors evoke feelings.
And what of the colors themselves, their harmonies and slights of style? Few painters paint in black and white. They recognise the power of color.
In 1810, German artist and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published his Theory of Colors. The woman in the camp’s clothes are blue. Goethe wrote:
As the upper sky and distant mountains appear blue, so a blue surface seems to retire from us. But as we readily follow an agreeable object that flies from us, so we love to contemplate blue — not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it. Blue gives us an impression of cold, and thus, again, reminds us of shade. We have before spoken of its affinity with black.
Rooms which are hung with pure blue, appear in some degree larger, but at the same time empty and cold. The appearance of objects seen through a blue glass is gloomy and melancholy.
Artist Josef Albers had more on how colors interact:
[Interaction of Color] reverses this order and places practice before theory, which after all, is the conclusion of practice. … Just as the knowledge of acoustics does not make one musical — neither on the productive nor on the appreciative side — so no color system by itself can develop one’s sensitivity for color. This is parallel to the recognition that no theory of composition by itself leads to the production of music, or of art.
Practical exercises demonstrate through color deception (illusion) the relativity and instability of color. And experience teaches that in visual perception there is a discrepancy between physical fact and psychic effect. What counts here — first and last — is not so-called knowledge of so-called facts, but vision — seeing. Seeing here implies Schauen (as in Weltanschauung) and is coupled with fantasy, with imagination.
Do you see what I see?