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Robert Jones Photography

PhilosophyPhilosophy

Los Colores de Coahuila

Los Colores de Coahuila is not primarily about Coahuila, or Mexico; It is a social document, but not by design. This series has no agenda, whether social or political; it is intended as a celebration, not a lecture. Those looking for deep meaning may find some, but none certainly intended by the artist. Dr. Freud and his theories notwithstanding, analyse these photographs at your own risk.

What is Los Colores de Coahuila about, then? It is about what the title says it’s about, namely, color.

Then why, one may wonder, go to Coahuila? Because that’s where the color is.

The first thing one notices there are the vibrant hues that jump out and embrace the eye and warm the soul — shocking crimson reds, deep azure blues, gorgeous emerald greens, royal purples. Coahuila’s got them in boxcar loads. There don’t seem to be many homeowners’ associations across the border forcing the people to paint their houses in bored and noncommittal shades of tan, crème, beige, olive and khaki.

There is an agenda for this exhibit, however. An aesthetic agenda, namely, the promotion of beauty. True beauty just is, it doesn’t have to practice at it, or dress itself up. Coahuila’s full of beauty, too. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, beauty for beauty's sake is neither clever nor respectable. It has no place among today's dilettante elite.

Underneath all the ponderous palaver of the oh-so insouciant artiste hipsters, the “gauche” conception of beauty gets buried. In the photographic paradigm, we are exhorted to appreciate a photograph or series of photographs primarily for their social or political “relevance,” the manner in which they impart a particular theme or abstract idea, or their significance in reportage, in the cult of the photographer's personality or in further legitimizing photography within the larger art world. That is to say, the primacy of photography's extrinsic rather than intrinsic attributes is what counts. I don’t begrudge this phenomenon; I do, however, lament its almost exclusive stranglehold on photography as a whole.

Who are my influences in color photography? Many; but not one is or has been a photographer by trade. My main influence in color photography is Natalie Kalmus, the genius behind the Technicolor corporation for many decades. All the great Technicolor movies from the 1930s through the 1950s bear her master touch: The rich saturation, the vivid hues, the sense of translucent light presupposed by Jan Vermeer and Salvador Dali were achieved under her careful supervision.

My other main influences have been the great masters of painting, who have an implicit understanding of an appreciation for the power of color within their pictures: Edward Hopper, Salvador Dali, El Greco, Georgia O’Keefe, Piet Mondrian and Karin Kneffel.

If Coahuila is “about” anything to me, it is about beautiful, stark, saturated color. Saturated color is regarded in artsy circles as "vulgar" and "artificial." Who cast that arbitrary rule in stone? Color photography must be primarily about hue, not tonality (though tonality is of vital, though secondary, importance), else why use color film? The notion that color photography is only "serious" so long as the colors can be found in nature is such an absurdity that it should be rejected on its face. A visit to any aquarium, aviary or botanical gardens ought to dispel the misleading notion that exotic and shocking colors are somehow “unnatural.”

My especial gratitude and respect go out to my “guardian angels” Mrs. Paulina Sanchez of Ciudad Acuña and Mrs. Chita Felan of Del Rio. When photographing, I always strive for my work to find a sympathetic audience among other artists whose work I also admire. I am most grateful to find such an audience in painter Abigail Torrescano. This exhibit is dedicated to them.

View the Los Colores de Coahuila portfolio

 

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