From monochrome to Kodachrome


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With spring finally emerging from the long and dragged out winter, Chicagoans have been taking advantage of the warming weather.  No more evident was this than this weekend as people bathed themselves with beautiful blue sunny skies and temperatures ranging from upper sixties to nearly eighty degrees (Fahrenheit).  After suffering from cabin fever long enough, I myself had no intentions of staying indoors unless necessary.  As early as last week, I took any excuse I could to head outside.  And so in the last several days, despite my previous declarations of needing to be one with nature (see my previous post, “Emergence”), I have returned to being a street fox, wandering about downtown Chicago with a lens to see which new actors would appear on the stage so familiar to me.

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Despite starting out as a fencing photographer and branching out into landscape and portraiture, I constantly find myself drawn towards street photography.  It was through being out in the streets photographing complete strangers that I tore down my own innate shyness.  It was through capturing the uncertainty and spontaneity so inherent to humanity itself under daily and candid conditions that taught me to appreciate and embrace change in my own life for my own good.  It is appropriate, then, as how intertwined my personal growth is with street photography that my own eyes and creative vision would be as dynamic as a street scene itself.

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There once was a time when I preferred a monochromatic touch to my images.  After all, many of the street photography legends shot almost exclusively in black and white, from Kertesz to Cartier-Bresson to Gilden.  A traditional notion in artistic photography is that color is too “commercial.”  This is a rather conservative stance, though, and one not often followed much anymore.  I myself believe that one should not limit oneself to only one style or medium, and hence why I work with both monochrome and color.

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Lately, however, and in particular with my street images, I find it hard to ignore the depth that color can add to a scene.  While black and white forces one to concentrate on form, composition, light, and shadow to convey a photograph’s story dramatically, color has the power to elevate emotional impact even further.  Alex Webb, who famously transitioned from monochrome to color during his work in Haiti, once said, “Color is very much about atmosphere and emotion and the feel of a place.”  Incidentally, Mr. Webb’s eventual favorite color medium was the doomed and now defunct Kodak Kodachrome 35mm film, which I myself lament never have had (and never will have) the opportunity to shoot with—it pains me as much as the women in my life who got away.

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Perhaps, then, after a dreary and bleak winter and the constant regret of missing out on shooting with Kodachrome, that as spring finally arrived and Chicagoans emerge out smiling as they bask in the warm sun, I could not help but to notice vibrant colors everywhere while I was out shooting the past few days.  While I still edited a few frame monochromatically, I did so sparingly and with reservation.  It just seems a bloody damn shame to strip away an element that gives so much depth and life to a scene.  There is something about my recent perspectives of seeing vivid colors around me that gives me a sense of hope and revival.  After all, is that not what spring is about, renewal and rejuvenation?

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All images © K. Dao Photography 2014, all rights reserved.