What is color? Color is something personal.
Color is light. There are objective color principles ("colorimetry" is the science of color), but color is based on light’s individual perception, which is then subject to one’s own interpretation. Perception and interpretation are based on many factors (all of which vary, even if only slightly, from person to person): surrounding environment and external influences, body features of the eyes and brain, and social and cultural formation, to name a few.
On a bigger scale, the significance of a color can vastly change across different cultures, history, and geographical locations — the interpretation of that color ultimately depends on the single person. All the factors, along with the specific reception of light, have to be combined with a person’s preferences, wishes, emotions, activities, and mood.
The result is a unique combination that will never repeat. It changes from moment to moment. It can be very similar, but never the same again.
Since perception and interpretation are subjective and unique, everyone will experience color in a personal way.
The color white, for example, is generally identified in Native Americans’ symbolism with winter and death, while it represents purity or weddings in Western countries. To me, it might convey lack of focus, but also tranquility.
The color yellow also has completely different meanings based on geography or history. The yellow Star of David was used to identify Jews since the Middle Ages. It’s the color of caution in the west and of royalty in China. It is both the color of autumn and spring — two opposite seasons.
To me, yellow might convey mystery, and it attracts my attention.
It’s fair to say that most people, however different they are, will have very similar — if not the same — responses to a specific set of factors and therefore the same or similar rational and emotional responses to a color.
I have a pleasant response to this flower from my mother’s vegetable garden, and I am attached to it because it represents a specific pleasant moment in my life. I am ready to bet that, although somebody else might not be interested in gardening, that person wouldn’t have a negative response to this sight; they wouldn’t think the flower is ugly.
Orange is a secondary color. It is the color of religion for both Protestantism and Buddhism, and it is linked to the earth in Latin America.
A deep orange gives me the sense of power and solidity, but what about to another person? What if I see it on a flower while walking around, or on a dress?
Since color is personal and everybody experiences color in his or her own way, I wonder what would people say after seeing this batch of peppers.
I find this composition simple yet interesting, an irregular natural pattern. But it doesn’t make me hungry. Maybe it has that effect on somebody else? Or maybe it would if they were hungry the very moment they saw this photo.
The varieties of colors are countless, so what about the response to colors that normally don’t come to mind? What about the color of rust? Or charcoal black?
What does the brown from a handmade door handle in a highly historical building convey?
I am particularly intrigued by such a detailed and somewhat intense color.
Blue can be the color of depression in the Western world, of immortality in China, and of defeat for the Cherokees.
Science, however, shows how blue (and green) are generally the most calming colors for the human brain. No wonder the natural world is flooded (literally) with those two.
Blue is a happy color for me because I love water and swimming, and I have many good memories linked to this color and its different hues.
Black is associated with darkness and danger. But what about a starry summer night? What about the black suit of a handsome date?
The color black brings joy to my face because two of my pets were black: Kyro, one of my father’s dogs, and my beloved cat, Melissa.
As long as humanity and society has existed, we have paid attention to color.
Long ago in Ancient Egypt, the color palette revolved around six main color groups and was often used as a methodology for curing disease.
Phoenicians traded mostly with Greeks at first and among the valuable goods traded was the purple Tyrian (porpora) dye, which came from a mollusk. The word "Phoenicians" comes from the ancient Greek word for purple.
Colors are an important element in Feng Shui.
Color in art and the art of coloring can define some of the highest artistic expressions.
The artist is the choreographer in his dance of colors.
I think Nature is the greatest artist, but humans can reach some astounding results with their sensitivity and skills.
Color connects to my inner self, spurs my emotions, makes me start a conversation.
Color brings memories back to me, creates new ones, and pins the scenes from my travels in my mind.
Color invokes the memory of a past kiss, helps me grow love for my partner, and creates feelings from the expectation of a future hug.
Color is a smile.
All photos by the author.
Richard was born in the US, grew up in Italy, recently moved to the UK after few years in Oregon. Architect by day, but also athlete and photographer, he alternates sports to reading and writing. Find his work in The Dreams' Chest.