My favourite colour is monochrome.
During the last year in primary school, I wanted to learn photography.
My father’s colleague used to work for the municipal photography association, and he was very glad to help since his son was only keen on playing guitar at the time. One Saturday with this precious rendezvous in place, I went to father’s colleague’s place, and I remembered the floor in his home was fully covered with tiled squares in black and white, just like a dance floor.
The man showed me his cameras, manual and automatic. He then picked up a manual model and said to me, “Now, let’s start from the basics.”
He gave me a brief instruction of the fundamental start-up techniques on camera operation, such as how to look through the optic viewer, to control the speed and to set in and wind up the film roll. That one hour private lesson was the only formal lesson about photography I can recall in my life until now. Ever since that night, I had been carrying a manual analog camera found in my parents’ unarranged storage box and had started using that.
To define the term souvenir is not usually about memories that tend to be sweet or sad, but simply unique. My best memory and experience in the airport, for example, is about playing “hide and seek”: There was this small Swiss Knife that was found in my carry-on bag during check-in. It was impossible to find an appropriate place to keep it, or to send due to the urgency on departure timing. The only feasible solution was to leave it somewhere in the public and so I did. By holding a quick hand-drawn “treasure map”, fortunately this little harmless one was hidden safely hidden and made his way back to where he belonged, one week later on my return.
That lesson about photography is one of my best souvenirs. Interestingly during the whole hour, he did not say a single word on what makes a good photograph and also, how to take a good photograph. I guess that he did not want to let too much on.
A few years later, I brought some of my pictures to another friend of my family, an inventor who I admire. The man looked at them carefully and told me that my pictures were 256 grayscale bitmap. This time, I guess that was a scientific approach.
One thing this inventor was right about though, is that people often say a black and white picture, which in a sense seems to be a simplified version to describe an image without typical colours. There is indeed a grayscale that exists between the pure white and black. A monochrome photograph may not contain vivid coloured elements, but it holds the light, which is the only thing matters to the concrete message transported between the author and the viewer.
Colour provides the impression of ages. You can feel or even distinguish colour photographs and motion pictures from different periods, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s… as systems and aesthetics are forever changing. Colour also offers the identity of information. A contemporary art exhibition probably does not share the same palette with a real-estate agency, in regards to the methods on finalising their promotion posters. Much the same as the Pantone brand, which has been largely specialised and interpreted into different graphical usages.
As a matter of fact, colour is great. Meanwhile, in one hidden part of my mind, I just do not enjoy the expectation of holding a box of colourful crayons to draw and portray life, much like a child is taught to in a regular drawing class to some extent.
I want to keep a clear distance between my work and reality and it is a personal approach by which I feel is due to the sensible distance, I can closely recreate, to re-vivre into the scene in which I try to recall and live. This is what seems to be a very uncommon kind of immersive virtual reality brought to me by the concept of monochrome.
The experience does not defect the choice of materials and tools. In fact, to capture just one moment of life, it does not make a difference whether you carry a camera, a pen, or a smartphone.
You only need a ray of light.