Posts Tagged ‘color’

In my previous post, I referred to my final project as a colorization project. On the one side of the pages, I will have black and white images of the Russian October Revolution. On the other side of the pages, I will display the same images in color. My argument is that in this way, visitors to my website will be able to see not only the gray scale of the events, but also their color representation. In this sense, their understanding of those events will be more complex, but, at the same time, the past will be less of a foreign black and white country.

So far, it seems that everything is going smooth and all I need to to is just to follow the instructions of Photoshop and to get a deeper knowledge of the portraits and the dress code of that period. Nevertheless, there seems to be one more aspect of my colorized project. This aspect concerns the web surfers with different degrees of colorblindness.How to convey a sense of color to persons who cannot see any color?

I started to think about these issues, after reading Leslie Jensen-Inman’s thoughts on Contrast is King. The main idea is that if for normal vision, contrast is king, then for viewers with colorblindness, contrast is King. In other words, if for a person with normal vision, contrast is an additional device to improve the readability and the overall feeling of the website, then to a colorblind person contrast is crucial, because this category of users are able to feel the color only when a strong contrast is conveyed.

From theory to practice! In the article Jensen-Inman provides a series of tools, which can help us to design a contrast and color safe website. From these series, I especially recommend two websites: checkmycolors.com and graybit.com. Both of them are good tools for checking a website in terms of color contrast. The former website is a devise to check the arrangement of colors on a website while the later reads your website in a gray scale.

I have to say that I tried it for my own portfolio site, and it proved slightly painful: out of 27 elements on my page, I got on average 15 failures. Nevertheless, it is better to improve your site in the design phase, then to wait for a couple of years. In addition, it helps to put your website in a context with other websites. As Jensen-Inman acknowledges: “The only site I tested that did not have any “failures” was checkmycolours.com.”

Since my final project is focused on colors, I have to think about the ways in which to provide a sense of colors not only for the audience with normal vision, but also for the part of the audience, which has different degrees of colorblindness. Since a web page is a combination of color and text, I will provide an in depth description of the each element of the colorized images.

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All my previous attempts to play with colors could be traced from the drawing classes in the school or from the desperate attempts of my grandmother to stop my cubist or expressionist art on the canvas of her house. So, with this rich cultural heritage, I decided to approach my image assignment. At the beginning, I remembered the masterpieces from the walls of my grandmother’s house, and decided to repeat the pattern in my colorized image. After this experiment, I made a step farther and decided to find a personal answer to the question: what is the use of color in a historical image?

The fascination with black and white images is not common only to historians. Just try to make an experiment: turn a colored photo into a black and white image, and ask somebody, which is the image with a most historical feeling. Additionally, black and white movies are still regarded as more serious than their colored equivalents. Some film directors are still using the effects of black and white images to make their message more clear. To a certain extent, it is possible to assert that black and white images are regarded as more authentic. By authentic, I mean a specific feeling of reality as the essence of being.

To confess, before taking this color assignment, I tended to belong to the category of researchers, who took an image and perceived it as nothing else than an annex of a “serious prose.” An image was supposed to be a simple representation of the text. Now, I think that an image could sometimes be more explanatory than all the words in the world.

When I refer to the explanatory power of the image, I mean not only the beauty of a Power Point image, presented at a professional conference. It is rather, the power of the image to target the general audience, that I keep in mind. My point is that the events from the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century were massively captured and distributed in a black and white format.

Certainly, I do not mean that there are no colored representations of this period. There have been a wide variety of colored posters and paintings. In this sense, I don’t want to contest the fact that, at that time, as at any other time,  people managed to live rich and colorful lives. My concern is rather with our perception of the period. In this sense, my argument is that, despite numerous colored posters from that period, we are still left with much more black and white photographs and movie captions. My guess is that people still prefer to collect photographs than political posters.

All the above meditations were triggered by a series of discussions with my friends. I showed them my image assignment and the majority expressed their surprise with the fact that Lenin’s beard was red. Beyond the importance of the color of Lenin’s beard, I think that this surprise reveals much more about the possibilities of colored images to go beyond the black and white understanding of certain events.

I do not mean that we as historians should color all the black and white images and show colored images as “real representations” of historical figures. My point is that colored images should be placed along with black and white photographs, in order to provide a better understanding of a certain historical event and its characters.

In this sense, I decided to change the character of my final project. Since at the moment, I don’t have enough materials about my small town, I will leave this plan until the fall of this year. Instead, I will focus on the comparative representations of early Soviet history by black and white images and by colored images. In this sense, a tentative title of my final project will be “Beyond the Red in the Red Revolution.”

P.S. Until last summer, I had a couple of black and white images of my grandparents’ wedding. Then, I decided to have them colored. Since, I did not know how to color them, I took them to a photo studio. Now, I have both a couple of black and white photographs and another of colored images. Guess what? I still enjoy more the black and white photographs. Nevertheless, I rediscovered the beauty of my grandmother’s blue eyes.

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