Every color holds various meanings and associations, but how do different contexts affect the impact of the same color? The following photo essay explores exactly this question, showcasing how similar hues both relate to and differ from each other across the world. Having selected these shots from my own body of work, I chose to present a variety of subject matter, location, composition, and lighting. When observed through the lens of color, these assorted photos reveal the ways in which the combination of different hues with various contexts work together to convey a range of atmospheres. This collection features photos taken in Venice, Prague, Abu Dhabi, and Kyoto, amongst other destinations.
Monochromatic white and cream hues dominate these architectural shots featuring the Palais Pallavicini in Vienna, the British Museum in London, the Belvedere Palace Museum in Vienna, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. Although each structure consists of different materials and styles, they all have a classic yet modern quality, making for timeless architecture across the world. The classically elegant caryatids from the Palais Pallavicini are reminiscent of The Caryatid porch of the Erechtheion in Athens, Greece. The light portland stone of the Great Court of The British Museum in London seamlessly expands towards the cloudy skies beyond the glass ceiling, achieving a similar effect to the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. As for the Grand Staircase at the Belvedere, the contrast between its white stucco sculpture relief and the ornamented wrought iron details and sculpture add a certain sense of modernity. All the while, the pristine white Indian sandstone of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque gleams, reflecting the intensity and hue of the sunshine in Oman. The harsh angled shadow here adds depth and contrast to the photograph.
Photography by Aimée Auguin
In this set showcasing the color blue, the common focal point is either the sky, water, or a combination of both. The swaying gondolas at the San Marco pier in Venice oscillate between the blues of the sky and the canal, creating a dynamic yet peaceful effect. The serene silhouetted island in Savonlinna, Finland divides the symmetrical reflection of the sky in the lake, making for an almost abstract image. Tangentially, the artificially painted blue tank walls of the Barcelona Aquarium are meant to mimic the natural environment of the orange clown fish, presenting the color in a bolder manner. As for the bottom right photograph, it features a silhouetted crowd and clock face against the cloudless sky. Taken at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, the pronounced contrast between the view and the outlined figures present a certain stillness beyond the activity inside the museum.
The golden yellows of the photographs above are remarkably vibrant, their glow intensified by various dark elements. The upper left photo features the same island in Savonlinna as the previous blue set. This shot, however, was taken during the hours of the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon that occurs during the summer near the Arctic Circle where the sun stays visible past midnight. The reflected golden hues are once again split by the dark island at the horizon line. Next, we see two graffitied Lisbon streetcars, continuing the motif of yellow-hued light, albeit in an urban setting with a completely different atmosphere. The long exposure photograph of the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest showcases the transformative power of light, as the structure is usually cream-colored during the daytime. The simple influence of the golden color gives the building a more opulent feel. The last photograph — featuring an atrium ceiling in Abu Dhabi — is the only interior of this set in which the different intensities of light make for an eye-popping and kaleidoscopic effect.
Two of these green-hued shots depict natural environments, while the other two present the earthy color in a city setting. The grassy field beyond the gate in the Cotswolds sets an idyllically bucolic scene. The lower left photo features a gardener tending to an equally serene park in Kyoto. The absinthe café somewhere in Prague echoes the vibrant green of the drink, making the storefront pop amongst a gray street. Although green is strongly associated with nature and life, the neon hues in this image have an artificial quality to them. And then there’s the raccoon: This three-dimensional street art of a raccoon in Lisbon includes both a painted green wall and elements of natural greenery. The inclusion of plants in this mural bridges the gap between nature and the city — all because of the use of the color green.
Holding a variety of meanings across the world, the color red is typically striking and attention-grabbing. The torii gates in the top left image are from the Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, and are but a small section of the thousands of vermillion gates leading to Mount Inari’s forest. Their color is meant to ward off evil spirits and bad luck, and is also accredited to the fact that this red paint is typically made using mercury, which was used as a wood preservative for centuries. The shot on the upper right depicts the procession of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. The vibrant parasol and skirt stand out against the black, white, and grey shades. The following photo serves as a contrast, featuring a classic vintage red car in Prague, which is part of a recognizable tour service in the city. Subsequently, the red saddle pad and uniform in the last photo are instantly recognizable in Hungary, signifying the Hungarian cavalrymen (also known as the Hussars) who have been a national symbol since the 14th century.
This last set features glowing and colorful illuminations surrounded by darkness. These photographs have an overall moody atmosphere, as with the optician’s shop lights in Amsterdam, and the red script “comédie francaise” at the Palais Royal in Paris. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia’s famous stained glass windows illuminate the interior of the cathedral, creating a unique atmosphere with this glowing contrast. The final shot was taken in complete darkness, which allowed the flames to illuminate the fire-breather in Prague, emphasizing the intense impact of the fire and the performance.
By Aimée Auguin