Archive for the ‘color’ Category
It’s that time of year when college and graduate students begin their new semesters, and we can almost feel the electricity as brain cells come out of hibernation and begin their collision course of learning.
Some of us in the work-a-day world (OK, the entire GLIMPSE journal staff) get a little jealous every fall and spring when students begin sharpening their pencils (or whatever gadgetry the youth of today use to commit ideas to mind).
Imagine our delight when MIT professor, Dr. Caroline A. Jones approached us about using the entire issue of GLIMPSE #4, Color for her Advanced Study in the History of Art: Color seminar students’ first week’s reading. We were both honored, and intrigued by the course description:
…explore [Color's] robust histories as a set of chemical products, a conventional naming system, a racial category, a branch of psychophysics, an anxiety-provoking discourse in art and architecture, and a huge industry attempting to both stabilize chroma and capitalize on its emotional connotations.
We wish all of Dr. Jones’ students a semester of light-bending and mind-bending learning!
Lying dormant in the archive of Britain’s National Media Museum for decades, what everyone thought were black and white films, turned out to be the first color motion pictures ever made. British photographer Edward Turner made the films using his 1899 patented color film process in about 1903, shortly before his untimely death:
A complicated process, it involved photographing successive frames of black-and-white film through blue, green and red filters. Using a special projector…these were combined on a screen to produce full-colour images.
Highlights of these never-before-shared test films can now be seen on YouTube via our 21st-century RGB screens, and of course, at the museum itself, where the specially-formatted projector can be viewed as well.
Thanks to GLIMPSE subscriber, Francis H., for sharing this with GLIMPSE readers! A very well-timed discovery with our Cinema issue.
The history of color photography features many key players and pioneers. In anticipation of the Cinema Issue, GLIMPSE is taking a brief look at some of them, and their contributions to the world of photography.
Paris, France 1864
Louis Ducos du Hauron, a French physicist, developed a motin picture device in 1864. In 1869, he patented a series of practical methods of color printing based on the tri-color theory and the heliochrome system. Using a series of filters, he was able to print color photographs by printing the negatives on sheets of bichromated gelatin that were complementary colors of the negatives themselves. When the positive images were superimposed over the negatives, the resulting image was in color.
Meanwhile, Charles Crocs, another French physicist, developed the similar process in his physics lab. Unfortunately he published his findings 48 hours after de Hauron patented his.
London, England 1861
James Clerk Maxwell, prominent physicist and mathematician, projected a color photograph through a series of filters to show a photograph of the original image in its original color.
West Kill, New York 1851
Levi Hill, an American minister, claimed to be the father if color photography. He presented what he claimed was the first color photograph while experimenting in an early photographic process known as the ”daguerreotype.” Hill failed to patent his eponymous “Hillotype” process but did not give up on what he discovered, making a series of Hillotype photographs in color. Over 160 years later, the Smithsonian Institution now boasts a collection of 62 Hillotypes that have been under severe scrutiny. Using spectroscopy the Smithsonian Institution has finally given substance to the myth. It was found that though Levi Hill enriched his photographs with a series of chemical pigments, the photographs the he produced were in fact faint color photographs.
How about it, all you photographers/photo-appreciators? Who are your favorite historical heros of color photography?
We at GLIMPSE are endlessly fascinated by the cultural factors that influence perception, and it’s this fascination that draws us back to Debi Roberson and Richard Hanley’s 2009 article called “Relatively Speaking” for GLIMPSE’s “Color” issue. In it, they discuss the relationship between color and language: “what we see” and “what we call that which we see” in terms of color categorization. Beyond the linguistic distinction between “blue” and “green” that is absent from many languages, the article suggested that the linguistic labeling of more subtle color nuances is largely based on the varying “cultural needs of different societies.”
More recently, Roberson’s research of color categorization among the Himba people of northern Namibia has been highlighted in the BBC Horizon series, in an episode called “Do You See What I See?” As the episode suggests, the color perceptions of the Himba people and their ability to distinguish colors might actually be different from those living in the West, and vice versa. For example, the Himba tribe might be better at distinguishing the subtle differences of green that would be generally unnoticed by the average Westerner. Conversely, the Himba people might have difficulty isolating one blue square out of group of green ones, if all of the colors in the group belong to the same color label.
The original article, “Relatively Speaking” by Roberson and Hanley was published in GLIMPSE’s “Color” issue #4 and can be accessed here.
What do you think, readers? Have you ever wondered how your own culture and language influences how you see the world?
Researchers have made an interesting discovery about ancient rock art in Western Australia: it’s alive. While most rock art fades over time, the colors on these caves have remained bright and vibrant after an astonishing 40,000 years. How did this happen? ‘Living pigments,’ the term dubbed by the researchers to explain this phenomenon. The pigments of the original painting were eventually replaced by pigmented microorganisms. These microorganisms have replenished themselves countless times over the years, resulting in the artwork’s brightness. Whether or not the artists knew their pigments would survive is unclear, but in a world where the passage of time generally decays, breaks down, and rusts relics of the past, it’s fascinating (and refreshing) to see that every so often, time is on our side.
Professor Edward H. Adelson of MIT offers a case in point. The image shown in Adelson’s Checker-Shadow Illusion, to your eye and mine, doesn’t seem to present anything terribly illusory–a green cylindrical object casting a shadow across a gray and white checkerboard. Done.
Or it would seem…
When the brain interprets the visual information in this setup–specifically, the color information–it does so while considering context. We know the square marked A is definitely gray, and the square marked B is clearly white. And we know this because A and B are defined by their surrounding local colors–white and gray, respectively. But you’ve already been made the fool, yet again, by your visual system! Take a pair of scissors to the checkerboard, cut out B, place it on A. They’re the same.
But before you get too paranoid that your brain and eyes are in cahoots against you, we leave you with this bit of reassurance, courtesy of Dr. Adelson:
As with many so-called illusions, this effect really demonstrates the success rather than the failure of the visual system. The visual system is not very good at being a physical light meter, but that is not its purpose. The important task is to break the image information down into meaningful components, and thereby perceive the nature of the objects in view.
Stay tuned for Glimpse‘s Visions issue, where we’ll take you beyond tricks of the eye into the realm of the visually inexplicable…
Much like the American singer/songwriter Paul Simon who crooned nostalgic over visual technology in his 1970s hit “Kodachrome,” Austrian entrepreneur Florian Kaps is making his own case for keeping the Polaroid camera alive in today’s visual market.
Wall Street Journal writer Eric Felten in “It’s Baaaaack! But Polaroid Film Was Just Lucky” describes Kaps’ tenacious journey to save the Polaroid from utter oblivion—from begging the junk men not to destroy the last functioning Polaroid factory machines outside of Amsterdam while he vigorously raised money to save them, to putting together a team of scientists to come up with a new sepia-toned black-and-white film that could be used in standard Polaroid cameras (the arcane chemicals originally used to run in the machines could no longer be produced).
What’s resulted from Kaps’ valiant efforts to preserve a medium that we often associate with the psychedelic, saturated ’60s (although it was invented in 1929) is The Impossible Project. It’s a website that allows individuals around the world to peruse and purchase classic Polaroid cameras with modern twists, and also a wide variety of analog instant film.
The Glimpse team gives kudos to Kaps for preserving a nearly extinct perspective, and for keeping the dialogue between new and old visual technology alive and well.
Above image titled “Enschede5.” ©The Impossible Project
Reporter Margaret Talbot takes us along to visit the Maimonides Sleep Arts & Sciences center in Albuquerque to learn about nightmares. Her story begins with a series of case studies detailing patients’ ailments—receptionist Toni, graduate student Yael, flight attendant Joan, widower Ed—are four among many patients who are gripped by quiet terrors once the lights go out. These individuals have all chosen to seek treatment through a fairly new method of clinical dream psychiatry published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Barry Krakow, the head doctor at Maimonides. Following this treatment method, patients are asked to focus on their nightmares as the source of their problems, contradicting traditional popular Freudian lines of thinking, which names an often traumatic, past, external cause as the nightmare source. Throughout therapy, patients are encouraged to discuss and “rewrite” their nightscapes with a positive twist. The hope is that this positive thinking will trickle into the patient’s dream state and eventually turn nightmares into pleasant dreams.
Relating to color, the article makes note of a study conducted in China by University of California Riverside professor Eric Schwitzgebel and two chinese colleagues Changbing Huang and Yifeng Zhou who confront the question of whether people dream in color, “Most Americans now claim that they dream in color. So did most people who asked themselves that question before the early twentieth century, including Aristotle, Descartes and Freud. But in the middle of the twentieth century most people began reporting that they dreamed in black-and-white.” In Schwitzgebel, Huang and Zhou’s findings individuals who watched color images on television or in film were more apt to dream in colors, “‘dreams may be neither colored nor black and white, leaving the colors of most of their objects unspecified, as novels do. Perhaps it takes time and energy to fill in all the colors in a richly detailed scene, with the result that most of our dream imagery is fairly sketchy.’” Regardless. Dream on.
Image by Flickr member Delphine
Written by Angie Mah
Chemists at Oregon State University (OSU) unexpectedly discovered a new, highly-durable, blue pigment this month — what may, in fact, be the “perfect blue.” OSU issued a statement: “Through much of recorded human history, people around the world have sought inorganic compounds that could be used to paint things blue, often with limited success…Cobalt blue, developed in France in the early 1800s, can be carcinogenic. Prussian blue can release cyanide. Other blue pigments are not stable when exposed to heat or acidic conditions.”
The OSU chemists combined manganese oxide (which appears black), with novel electronic compounds at the temperature of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, solid crystals formed which contained manganese ions that absorbed only red and green wavelengths, leaving a blue light reflection.
After the manganese containing oxide cooled, the new blue color remained. White yttrium oxide and pale yellow idium oxide were added to stabilize the crystal structure after cooling—if the yttrium oxide and pale yellow idium oxide were not added to stabilize the crystal structure after cooling, the blue color would disappear or fade. Collaborating on the work were researchers in the Materials Department at the University of California/Santa Barbara. To read more about the discovery that would have made artist Yves Klein jealous, see the OSU press announcement.
And, in tribute of this new blue tone, please enjoy this song, “Good Morning Blues” by the American Folk singer Huddle William Ledbetter, aka Lead Belly.
The image to the left was taken by Oregon State University Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science, Mas Subramanian.
Written by Angie Mah