Wednesday, January 20, 2010

reflections on color

One of the most enduring memories that I have of India is COLOR. Intense, outrageous, exhilarating color.

And that photo is straight out of the camera, folks. No enhancement, no adjustment. It's pure, saturated, living color.

That kind of color is everywhere you look -- fabrics, bangles, spices, fruits, everything! -- in every possible hue and texture. For someone who tends towards neutrals and timid earthy colors, it was thoroughly invigorating!

But here's the thing about cliches like "India is bursting with color." It captures the truth. It does. But it's not the whole truth. What's concealed by the cliche -- what you never see in artsy vacation photos and coffee table books -- is that, at least in the winter, the air pollution is so horrendous that everything is actually rather gray.

For example, take those famous blue-washed houses of Jodhpur. When you're close up, they do indeed looks beautifully and mysteriously blue. But here's what the overall view of the city looks like, through a haze of pollution:

Or the Taj Mahal ... which I remember when I first saw it in summer 1998 as a sparkling white monument against a beautiful blue sky. Here's what it looked like in winter 2009. It was mid-morning, and the sun should have been shining brightly, but it couldn't even break through the haze:

Delhi was even worse. I was very happy to be there and bask in the warm, wonderful glow of family. But outside, the air was cold and gray, dingy and oppressive.

When I finally arrive back to Phoenix, it was a breath of fresh air (literally) to walk outside and gaze up at green leaves and fresh grapefruits set against an azure sky.

This trip has really provoked thoughts for me on the nature of colorfulness. The colors here seem so simplistic compared to the saffrons, magentas, and turquoises of India, but I'm so grateful for getting to see them in this clear light.


hawthorn said...

I lived in Africa for most of my life and I understood exactly where you were coming from with your photo/post on colour and India.

Africa is the same, close up it is vibrant and 'exotic' but like you mention, the wider picture shows a whole lot more that isn't as palatable or as beautiful, but sadly a lot of places are like that.
Lovely post and pictures

lexa said...

Gorgeous pictures! Guess we're lucky to live where we do and not have all that polution. I live in a small town, and there is a paper mill about a five minute drive from my house. Mind you that does throw out a fair bit of polution, but it could be a lot worse.

Diana said...

Thank you for sharing your journey through India with us. You captured some beautiful moments that are also inspiring to me (and sad). A spark of color can brighten up a gray day or a gray mood. I write to you with my beautiful blue mitts on my hands. The rest of me is dressed in black and the storm outside is still going on ( I live in No. California). This little bit of color will keep me smiling the entire day.

Artist said...

As being synesthete I live a life in colors. Synesthesia means that I see colors when I see words and numbers.
I transform this in paintings of names and birthdays. Your photos are absolutely fascinating for me.

cksknitter said...

You inspire me to live a life rich with experiences. What a glorious trip!

Kathy said...

thanks for sharing the trip with us. Love the first image so very much.

gita said...

Lovely lovely pictures of your trip! The Indian Government sure could use some of those in their tourism brochures. Take care and keep smiling

Anonymous said...

you should have seen some other places in India as well. not all have this haze of pollution and you can see beautiful colors there as well