Color- Photography

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It never was a conscious thing. I had wanted to see a lot of things in color because the world is in color.

––William Eggleston

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William Eggleston pioneered the use of color for serious fine art photography. Color is often used in his photographs to achieve emotionally unnerving effects. His groundbreaking use of color has had a profound effect on the work of several filmmakers, such as David Lynch, as well as having helped establish color as the default medium for serious photography in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Color is now also the standard medium for documentary photography and photojournalism. The work of the Spanish photojournalist Héctor Mediavilla is a good example. His photo-essay The Congolese Sape makes striking use of color in an otherwise drab setting to celebrate humanity’s life-affirming resilience under the most challenging social conditions.

To prepare:

  • Read Chapter 8 from the course text, The Photographer’s Eye.
  • Review the William Eggleston photograph and the Hector Mediavilla photo-essay listed in this Week’s Learning Resources.
  • Review the websites in this Week’s Learning Resources for more inspiration and examples of photographs.
  • Consider the following questions regarding the use of color in Eggleston’s Memphis, c. 1969–70 and Mediavilla’s The Congolese Sape:
    • What types of color are present in Eggleston’s and Mediavilla’s photographs?
    • How does color contribute to the overall mood of Eggleston’s and Mediavilla’s photographs?
    • How might the meaning of Eggleston’s and Mediavilla’s photographs change if they had been shot in black and white?

With these thoughts in mind:

Post an analysis of the way color is used in Eggleston’s and Mediavilla’s photographs. Describe how color relates to the themes addressed in these photographs. Explain how Eggleston and Mediavilla use color to establish a focal point in their photographs. Analyze to what extent color contributes to the sequencing of Mediavilla’s photo-essay. Analyze to what extent color makes Eggleston’s and Mediavilla’s photographs subjective or objective for the reader. Cite at least one example from your course readings to support your analysis. (Approximately 3-4 paragraphs).


Freeman, M. (2013). The photographer’s eye: Graphic guide: Instantly understand composition & design for better digital photos. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

  • Chapter 8, “Color” (pp. 138–153)

    This chapter describes aspects of color photography, including the uses of rich color, pastel hues, muted color, contrast, and accent, and the relationship between color and theme.

The following websites comprise galleries that allow you to experience the fundamental elements of photographic art.

ASX. (n.d.). Helen Levitt: “Color” (1971–1981). Retrieved from

Perivolaris, J. (n.d.-b). ARTS 2001—Week 5. Retrieved from

Eggleston, W. (n.d.). Memphis, c. 1969–70. Retrieved from

Mediavilla, H. (2007). The Congolese Sape: Hector Mediavilla. Retrieved from

Library of Congress. (2006). Bound for Glory: America in color from 1939-1943. Retrieved from

Optional Resources

Meyerowitz, J. (2012). A question of color—answered. Lens [Blog]. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Erwitt, M. (2013, September 27). Elliott Erwitt, coloring outside the lines. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Textbook Link…

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