Does color change Beauty?

P1020987  by cheri sabraw

Let’s get back to the topic of Beauty.

Unless you are a member of ISIS, you all might agree that this scene is beautiful. This Gila woodpecker might easily fit onto a page of Allure Magazine with his natty herringbone coat tucked over his proud breast. Accenting his smart expressive dark eyes and matching beak is his spot of orange atop his head. Surely, he must be the Moses of Woodpeckers–a wise patriarch with a head covering.

The unity of body and proportion harmonizes as he speculates about his next move while perched on a festive feeder. The fresh green background emphasizes the beauty of this bird.

P1020987 2

Is the picture just as beautiful in black and white?

I would argue no, it is not.

While the subject is the same, our perception changes without color. Of course, perception (as a philosophy) can be internal, external, or a combination of the two. Perhaps we only engage internal perception in black and white whereas external perception (where sensory experience kicks in) is manifest in color and emotion.

No longer is the scene striking. Now, a Gila woodpecker stops momentarily on a cold empty feeder. His disappointment is apparent. Where to go in 32 degree weather? His confusion is palpable. He tucks his tail feathers and inflates his plumage to stay warm.

P1030008And what is your appraisal of this little guy? Beauty?

Is he wondering why he (who has a short beak ) has landed on a hummingbird feeder?





About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in My photography, Writing and Teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Does color change Beauty?

  1. Tiffany Leathers says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder 🙂

    My contract at Nike ends in two weeks and they have everyone biting their nails with no word on who will be extended. Instead of biting mine, I decided to paint them in bright colors and enjoy the moment. Sure, it can be stressful, as I love being here and the job hunt is never a fun process, but I’m ok with that. The tension that is being blown through the office vents is thick and my smile and chipperness can seem naive to a majority, but I’m not..I just have powerful nail polish. Now back to work…

    Happy New Year!

    • Cheri says:

      What a Beautiful attitude to take, Tiffany. I’m so glad you painted your nails in colors instead of black and white. I have all positive thoughts for you and feel very confident about your job status. Thanks for posting a comment on my blog, Tiff. XXXXOOOO

  2. shoreacres says:

    It takes a really special black and white image to get my attention. I like strong contrasts, like bare trees in snow, and they can lend themselves to beautiful black and white images. But, I generally prefer color.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t call your woodpecker photo “beautiful.” I wouldn’t call it “cute,” or “pretty,” either. It’s attractive, well-composed, and interesting, but somehow the photo of Mr. Woodpecker doesn’t strike me as beautiful.

    I can’t really explain why. I just know that some photos seem beautiful to me, and some don’t, and the ones that do don’t come around every day.

    But what do I know? I’ve never heard of “Allure Magazine,” either. 🙂

  3. Cheri says:

    Ha! I love your honesty. The woodpecker I find stunning. The photo…well? Pleasant…and surely the idea of a woodpecker on a hummingbird feeder catches attention.

    I agree with you about a fine black and white photo. The fact that we love the contrast between black and white may be attributable to Mr. Adams.

  4. Richard says:

    If you are a tetrachromat (which you probably are, given the high quality of your photography) and I am a trichromat (which I probably am) who would better appreciate a film noir ?

  5. Cheri says:

    Neither of us, right? Is this a trick question? If I have 4 active cones in my retina and you have three, that fact does not change whether we see well in black and white, right?

  6. Richard says:

    Let us assume, Cheri, that loss of colour is a diminution in beauty. If you are a Monet, then, whose eyesight was notoriously bad, you see less beauty in water lilies than if your eyesight is good. If you are deaf, you are less able to compose music of surpassing beauty. If your camera is of poorer quality it will not uncover the beauty of the humming bird.

    Rather, I submit, had your camera been a Brownie 127, dressed with monochrome film, you might have expressed the one beauty in your first picture in a different way.

    The question you really ask, seeing you simply drained the colour from the first picture to make your comparison, is: if you tamper with a work of art, does it lose beauty? Similar questions might be: does a print of the Mona Lisa express less beauty than the original? Or: may a piano concerto be played on the flute without loss?

    Do you say that one who is blind from birth can know less beauty than one who has unimpaired vision? Or one whose sense of taste is impaired cannot be equally nourished?

    It is important to distinguish a work of art from the beauty within, the mockingbird from your photographs and beauty from pleasure or utility.

    Colour does not change beauty.

  7. Richard says:

    Woodpecker, rather. My case is mocked and diminished.

    • Cheri says:

      Your case is brilliantly constructed. Were I a jury member and you the foreman, I would have changed my opinion.

      What I am investigating is the possibility that there are some standards for Beauty. Let’s use poetry as an example. ( I realize I have used this example before.)

      There is such a thing as bad poetry. Not all poetry is equal.
      There is bad writing. I know. I’ve spent a career reading it and correcting it.
      There is bad art.
      There is bad music.
      Shakespeare, Willa Cather, Michelangelo, and Beethoven may agree.

    • Cheri says:

      Now, that is a funny comment.

  8. ShimonZ says:

    Black and white photography is another media from color. It is very difficult to compare them. And in comparing the two pictures in your post, I think that the color shots were far better done than the black and white. It could be that you have more talented in one discipline, or that you have trained to a higher degree. In any case, I have seen black and white studies of nature that are superb. With best wishes.

    • Cheri says:

      Shimon, you are correct that comparing color photography with black and white photography seems counter-intuitive. In turning the color shot into black and white, I did not enhance any aspect of it. No darks or lights–just a b/w version of the color print.
      My point was also to ask the reader if he/she saw a different narrative emerging.
      Thank you for your comment.
      I hope your week in Jerusalem is peaceful.

  9. Brighid says:

    It is a rainy Saturday,Two pots of french press down, coloring books are put away for the week…
    Bloom County totally gets the use of color, but then I have fallen hard for Steve Dallas… sigh

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