Recently, I experimented with color film (Kodak Gold Max 400) for my street photography, hoping to add a certain dimension to my work. To be honest, I hate the results. The images look flat, bland, boring. I wonder if it is because the lens I was using (a Leica 50mm Summicron Collapsible from the 50s) is not suited for color photography. Or maybe it is because the film I used was a lousy stock. Most likely, though, I think it is my inability to compose with colors. It is simply too life-like — too much like what we see in front of our eyes. One of my photographic heroes, HCB, said as much in the book The Mind’s Eye, a collection of saying,
“In talking about composition we have been so far thinking only in terms of that symbolic color called black. Black-and-white photography is a deformation, that is to say, an abstraction. In it, all values are transposed; and this leaves the possibility of choice.”
It is, I believe, this loss of abstraction that makes color photography so distracting. The old adage in street photography of “f8 and be there” is of little help, since the loss of control over the depth of field adds to the ensuing visual confusion, and even the best cameras begin to look like snapshots from a point-and-shoot. What then shall I say to those who point out the great color photos of old? I can only concede that perhaps my skills are not quite there yet.