The Enigma of White in Photography

I recently judged a photo contest on the PhoozL photography site on the deceptively difficult theme “White”. Here is an excerpt from my judges summary:

“Photography, in essence, is light, on forms, in space. An image may have a lot of white or near white in it, and yet not speak about white at all, if it does not speak about white as light, on forms in space. In this contest, lots of snow, but not much to say about white. A white church, but somehow it doesn’t speak about white. This is perhaps the most subjective contest I have every judged, as I was looking for images that spoke about white to me, that channelled white, that offered an iconic white image; while of course meeting other expectations of interest and composition. And yet, despite a career in color management, I am not exactly sure what makes an image “iconically white.” I’m tempted to quote that U.S. Supreme Court Justice who claimed he didn’t have a definition for pornography, but he knew it when he saw it! By the time I sorted through all the submissions to this contest, I had a bit more objective description of my criteria. And the mantra held: light, on forms, in space.”

Here is the link on Phoozl to read more, to see the winners, and to read the critiques of them. Thanks to Harald Johnson for inviting me to participate in this PhoozL event.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website:   Return to Blog’s Main Page

Published by cdtobie

This blog covers a range of issues of interest to photographers and those involved in the digital photographic workflow, digital tools and platforms, and fine art output.

4 thoughts on “The Enigma of White in Photography

  1. As I was pondering who could be a good judge of a photo contest based on ‘White’, I wrote some blurb text about the contest using words like this: The color of everything or nothing… the mother of all color. And then thought: Who better to handle this than a color expert, which led me straight to the door of C. David Tobie. And he quickly drilled down to the essence of light, white, and therefore, photography. And his judging comments show this.

    Thanks, David, for perfectly addressing the Enigma of White.

    Harald Johnson
    creator, PhoozL

  2. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing
    all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say superb blog!

    1. Comments won’t automatically show up; but your long comment is not in the approval queue either, so I assume it did actually get lost in the ether. Sorry; happy to hear any bits of it that you care to repeat…

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