The Red as a Monochromatic Approach4 min read by
My amateur analogue photography venture is a continuous process of experimentation. More recently, I’ve been playing around with full and graduated red filters, as well as redscale films. In this essay, I’d like to discuss my fascination with the colour and the techniques I used to achieve the results you see here.
The red ochre pigment goes back to prehistoric and ancient times.
The cave walls of Altamira, Spain, wear some of the earliest ancient art that features red colour. In Central and North America, Aztecs and Mayans made carmine — also known as cochineal. In the 16th century, the Spaniards began exporting carmine to Europe.
The red colour is often associated with authority and power. Medieval artists reserved their red pigments — along with cinnabar, carmine, and ochre — to portray high social standing, the blood of Christ, and Christian martyrs.
In photography, red is a tool for depicting contrast, emotions, vitality, and status. And, of course, the colour is awash in sunsets, flowers, and autumn foliage.
William Eggleston and Harry Gruyaert are famous for the renderings of red colour in their photography. My inspiration for the work in this essay comes from Saul Leiter and, more recently, from contemporary photographers such as Polina Washington (@polina.washington on Instagram) and Marguerite Bornhauser (@margueritebornhauser on Instagram).
The strong contrast that red carries in colour photography can be a potent driver of the initial viewer’s focus. This is a significant departure from the traditional monochromatic photography approach, aimed at limiting distraction and generally skewing towards “clean” renditions.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the images I made for this essay and the thoughts that came along with them. You can find more of my work on Instagram: @jmrlourenco.
I used the following sources as references when I did the research for this essay and the photography that furnishes it:
How to Use the Color Red in Photography.