COLOR

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.

 

My first apartment had a very small but pretty backyard. I had a small tree and few plants, one of which was a rose plant. Small roses kept blooming one after the other all year long.

My first apartment had a very small but pretty backyard. I had a small tree and few plants, one of which was a rose plant. Small roses kept blooming one after the other all year long.

 

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.

 

During the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, the world’s biggest arts festival, the Royal Mile buzzes with the activities and the sounds of both visitors and street performers. A morning rain shower still hung on the petals of this flower adorning the sidewalk.

During the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, the world’s biggest arts festival, the Royal Mile buzzes with the activities and the sounds of both visitors and street performers. A morning rain shower still hung on the petals of this flower adorning the sidewalk.

 

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.

 

In her 1,000 square feet of vegetable garden in her hometown of Parma, Italy, my mother, Maria Grazia, grows plants and flowers, vegetables, and a vine. She keeps changing crops, layouts, and colors following the needs of the earth and the spurs of her creativity.

In her 1,000 square feet of vegetable garden in her hometown of Parma, Italy, my mother, Maria Grazia, grows plants and flowers, vegetables, and a vine. She keeps changing crops, layouts, and colors following the needs of the earth and the spurs of her creativity.

 

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?

 

I really like flowers and I photograph those that strike me or that look more uncommon. This flower’s genus is called Strelitzia, but it is commonly called the “Bird of Paradise” flower. The name instantly brings magical images to my mind.

I really like flowers and I photograph those that strike me or that look more uncommon. This flower’s genus is called Strelitzia, but it is commonly called the “Bird of Paradise” flower. The name instantly brings magical images to my mind.

 

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.

 

“Nature creates the most beautiful things,” my mother says. These peppers, again from her vegetable garden, were laid to dry after she brought them home and rinsed the dirt off them. She uses no chemicals whatsoever, only water, sunlight, and her hard work.

“Nature creates the most beautiful things,” my mother says.
These peppers, again from her vegetable garden, were laid to dry after she brought them home and rinsed the dirt off them. She uses no chemicals whatsoever, only water, sunlight, and her hard work.

 

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.

 

This door handle is in Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, UK. A former priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under king Henry VIII, it eventually became the residence of Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron), who was, among other things, a leading figure in the Romantic Movement.

This door handle is in Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, UK. A former priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under king Henry VIII, it eventually became the residence of Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron), who was, among other things, a leading figure in the Romantic Movement.

 

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.

 

Lake Crescent in the Olympic Peninsula, WA (USA), is an extremely large yet clear lake. Given its nature, the lake gets very deep very quickly, making the color of water intense and electric even in the shallow depths.

Lake Crescent in the Olympic Peninsula, WA (USA), is an extremely large yet clear lake. Given its nature, the lake gets very deep very quickly, making the color of water intense and electric even in the shallow depths.

 

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.

 

Melissa loved the sun. She would play, wander, and roll in sunlight for hours at a time, only to retreat into the shade, cool down, and start over again.

Melissa loved the sun. She would play, wander, and roll in sunlight for hours at a time, only to retreat into the shade, cool down, and start over again.

 

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.

 

This photo of exquisite stained glass masterpiece is from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, France. Color, different tonalities, and light create a surreal and magical show.

This photo of exquisite stained glass masterpiece is from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, France. Color, different tonalities, and light create a surreal and magical show.

 

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.

 

This winter morning sunrise from my apartment’s window left me awe-inspired, reflective, and happy.

This winter morning sunrise from my apartment’s window left me awe-inspired, reflective, and happy.


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.