We gave out at a vast and ever changing kaleidoscope—life in color—every day. From the filmy pastels of a dream disappearing to the loud shocks of traffic lights, billboards, and fashion, color saturates our existence. Not only is color everywhere around us, but it is also in our minds and imaginations as well, an internal rainbow of appearances and meaning.
Color moves and motivates. Color calms and quiets. Color sings, color dances, color takes center stage in the theater of our lives. It is so woven into the fabric of our speech and vision, choice and circumstance that we rarely stop to pay attention.
Think about how the hazy blue of early morning street fog compares with the clear blue of a summer sky; how a still lake’s surface, despite all logic, takes on the orange of the setting sun; how green dapples and drenches our world, from the tiny new leaves of wildflowers underfoot to the electric night- time swaths of the northern lights overhead. Realize how red makes a statement— sometimes it whispers, like the spotted carapace of a tiny ladybug; sometimes it flaunts itself, like bright lipstick on a proud woman’s smile.
Photographers do notice. They make a business of noticing. In the litany of principles that make a photograph great, color stands near the top of the list, at the service of both content and design. A photographer may look for color with care and attention, or color may burst on the scene as a serendipitous surprise. Either way, it stands as a primary character in many a great photograph.
Colors speak directly to our hearts, without words and in many cases without meaning. Although scientists can second-guess the evolutionary advantage of certain patterns and colors within the natural world, many examples seem to defy explanation. What is a dandelion flower saying with its yellow? What do the ruby red throat feathers of a humming- bird signify? There is something primeval and sensuous in paying attention to color. It is a celebration of the native senses without the filter of the intellect.
Excerpted from Life in Color by Annie Griffiths, with a Foreword by Jonathan Adler. Copyright © 2012 by Annie Griffiths, with Text by Susan Hitchcock, and Foreword by Jonathan Adler. Excerpted by permission of National Geographic, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.