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New Colour Guide

MacLean, John

Code 3184
Signed by the photographer
ISBN: 9780955867361
Publisher: Hunter and James
Soft Cover


Limited to just 500 numbered copies,

our copies have been signed by the photographerThis is the 8th book from John MacLean, and is of the same high standard we have come to expect from him.

The book is on Aaron Schumans Best Photobook list 2012

New Colour Guide

In our day-to-day lives, colour is largely secondary to form by practical necessity: the shape of a tree is more immediately important than its colour. In art history, colour has rarely been considered a worthwhile subject, but has been a discourse continually expanded by visual artists.

New Colour Guide (NCG) is not intended as a means of understanding colour (even if that were possible), but rather a project where colour was chosen to guide and structure my process of image-making. Why? Because, in a contemporary culture where images that cannot be explained by words are mistrusted, colour remains defiantly ineffable, mysterious and uniquely able to highlight the enigmatic nature of human visual perception.

NCG leads the viewer through a photo-world of schools, markets, offices and museums; forests, rivers and skies; artist?s studios, laboratories and crime-scenes. It is populated by parents, children, teachers, pupils, tourists and spectators. Colour here overlaps art and science; it is added and removed by both the people photographed and the photographer. Outside, only the winter season persists; snow provides a background for colour but can erase it too.

We see that colour can rise from abstraction to suggest narrative and meaning; it can infer value through hierarchies, provide form, depth and resonance and be connected with feelings of order and disorder. Crucially these qualities are only palpable to the viewer because they have acquired the necessary experience and conditioning from early childhood to interpret colour. Colour can create context but, paradoxically, cannot endure without a context itself.

NCG is a wholeheartedly digital photo-guide. It acknowledges the parallel natures of the human light-eye-mind image and the photographic light-lens-processor image.

In making these photographs I first welcomed, and then engineered, the file-transfer errors that can disrupt lines of binary image-code and result in colour distortions. Normally corrupted images would be discarded, but here they expose the digital medium?s chromatic building blocks. They ask: if a photograph is ultimately nothing but a white page, variously graded and spotted with colour, where is the tipping point when a million coloured dots becomes a recognisable image? Furthermore, if a digital photograph of a sky is rendered completely abstract by a file corruption, can it acquire qualities of ?skyness? simply by being titled ?Sky??

Colour arrangements in nature are largely the result of natural selection but in NCG all colour is contrived and the result of artificial selection. The photographer?s camera generates electric light (flash) which creates reflected light (colour). When recorded, this provides us with a layer of information which helps us construct a photo-world, but the discrepancy between colour?s physical fact and psychic effect is ultimately imponderable. If any meaning can be gleaned it is cultural, leading me back to one, central question: how do we get ideas into photographs?

John MacLean. New Colour Guide.
First edition 2012. Designed by Wayne Daly.
On Aaron Schuman's Best Photobook list 2012.
Best Photobook list 2012: American Photo.
Featured in One Year of Books and Book du Jour.
16.3 x 24cm, 68 pp, 4-colour, perfect bound, limited edition
ISBN 9780955867361