Color me curious, I guess. This little tidbit of language theory has been on (or slightly under) my radar since my grad school days, but its reappearance in an article in The Business Insider last week kicked in my front door. Until somewhat recently in human history, says the author Kevin Loria, we couldn't see the color blue. We couldn't see it because we had no name for it, or perhaps we had no name for it because we couldn't see it; either way it's a pretty confounding premise.
I've spent a good many years as a pretty decent color printer, I'm proud to say, though my successes were questioned by my wife who liked to point out my blue-green color vision deficiency. I should point out that a slight blue-green deficiency is somewhat common among us guys, so I take this in stride. I also conduct a popular shade-matching workshop to cosmetic and restorative dentists, where we study in some detail the problems involved in measuring and communicating color information, so the very notion of color -- regardless of the words we have to describe any particular hue -- looms large in the foreground of my career as a photographer.
What, then, are we to make of this whole color-blue argument? I don't know, either, but something inside me thinks it's important. We should all be perceiving the nuance of color according to our experiences and culture, and for the life of me I can't lay claim to an expansive vocabulary describing a blue sky, either. I live in Oregon. I should have a bunch of words to describe a gray sky, but I don't.
In the final analysis, though, I'm probably not the one to turn to for advice on the matter. I've long been devoted to black & white prints, and I love color, too, but it's a strained relationship at best. I'll push, pull, bend, twist, and exaggerate it at every opportunity. The best landscape photographers pull their hair out striving for an unholy degree of accuracy, but not me. I like to improvise; the music of photography is jazz.
Or maybe it's the blues?