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Color Photography (abstract experimentations)

par Sylvie Lacerte

While he is writing on color photography, Moholy-Nagy observes that as far as the color pigmentation is concerned, painting is still far more superior to photography whose technology is not far advanced enough to allow for a range including a broad variety of shades.

" The emulsion, which is the carrier of all photographic colors, yields only artificial primary color layers, only approximations of the true spectrum primaries. Because of their synthetic nature they produce a boringly unifying 'complexion' of the color photographs. In other words, one color photo - for the time being - looks rather like the other. " (Moholy-Nagy 1947 : 170)

The author of Vision in Motion considers that the main problem the photographer encounters resides in his inability to devise a new frame of thought for the uses of color photography which " requires the reeducation of the mind as well as the eye ." (Moholy-Nagy 1947 : 170) According to him, the photographer must learn to think in terms of light as opposed to the traditional scheme of thought where one thought only in terms of color. Moreover, he believes that the camera's greatest faculty consists in its ability (mechanical of course) to capture moments of evanescent light. These moments or effects are the result of movement and colored light, not the outcome of color pigmentation. This realization leads to the exploration of uncharted territories.

Far from confining himself solely to the color and light theory, as well as taking into account Goethe's experiments on the shadow effects of the complementary colors, Moholy-Nagy also keeps himself informed on the latest experimentations and discoveries in photography, among which we find those from the Eastman-Kodak laboratories dealing with the Kodachrome film that picks up ultra-violet rays.

Thus it is with great alacrity that he accomplishes his own experiments with abstract color photography, in addition to which he likes to comment some of his colleagues's investigations, such as Gyorgy Kepes, Dorothy Forsberg and J.B. Foley. But Moholy-Nagy's. and his colleagues's observations go beyond light and color. Indeed, their studies delve into movement which proves to be one of the fundamental aspects of this new medium.

" The true kinetic representation of color-light values will bring the first great sensation of direct light display. Continuity and composition will be established through the direct impact of purely optical laws and visual fundamentals - not by sentimental content. " (Moholy-Nagy 1947 : 173)

For Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, color photography's success will be ensured only when the photographer will become " visually well educated " and will have conceived photography as a medium of its own, acting in complete autonomy from painting. It is only then, concludes Moholy-Nagy, that the photographer will be ready to undertake " fundamental experiments " in photography. (Moholy-Nagy 1947 : 172)


© Sylvie Lacerte & OLATS, 2000


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