WHY I LIKE THIS by Holly Willats
There is something magnificent about invention; it can be practical, useless or even witty but it is always central to the human instinct. Taken from a person’s imagination, an idea can be brought to reality in a way that will infiltrate the daily lives of others, becoming so ubiquitous that we can no longer imagine life without it.
This first ever colour photograph, taken in 1861 is of a piece of tartan ribbon - what is in essence ordinary becomes extraordinary as it emerges from darkness, and to this day it retains its wonder.
This image made me think of an exhibition currently showing at Calvert 22 Gallery in London, showing a collection of the earliest colour photographs taken by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky in pre-revolutionary Russia.
What took me so by surprise was the vibrancy of his photographs – the clothes worn are not the dull browns and greys we always assume, but gorgeous textured fabrics in reds, pinks, and deep blues.
Such photographs bring images of the past much closer to us; they translate a moment in time beyond their immediate context. Here is an invention that can make the past seem a little less distant.
Holly Willats is the director of arts organisation Art Licks. Look out for their upcoming London festival, the Art Licks Weekend, 3-5 October 2014.
Image: The first colour photograph, James Clerk Maxwell, 1861 © National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL