Colour of the Moor, 2007

Our eye generalises constantly. We take notice of that which we find significant. Much of the time, colour is barely noticeable. It impinges only marginally upon our consciousness – except where it is made to speak boldly and loudly, to capture our attention, for example in advertising.

When colours are subtle or muted, we overlook variations in hue and tone – generalising to greens and browns. In fact, even in winter, the moor is steeped in colour, if only one can look at the right scale and in the right way.
The physical detail of what we see – heather, rock, water – dominates our vision. We carry vestiges of attunement to our physical natural environment – an attunement which was once critical to survival. Sometimes, however, to see what is there, it is necessary even to shed these habitual ways of looking.

As an ecologist, I am very familiar with the appearance and characteristics of the semi-natural habitats of Britain and the British landscape in its many forms. This very familiarity, however, encourages particular ways of seeing which are reliant upon an awareness of objective details – of particular types of vegetation, physical conditions and landforms. These distract from any conscious awareness of colour and colour form per se, yet the presence of colour in these environments has an important influence upon our emotional response to the ‘place’ and the landscape in general. In this final project I wanted to explore the effect of colour in the environment of a moorland landscape, where colour is often subtle and where, in winter at least, its presence barely enters conscious awareness.

In exploring colour and light from this perspective, it was necessary to take the image away from this ‘objective’ perception. I wanted to dissolve edges, to remove the sharp boundaries by which we distinguish detailed objective form. The camera’s lens can help remove the distracting physical detail to reveal an underlying structure of colour and colour form. Usually used to sharpen the focus of the gaze, here a deliberate optical de-focusing allows a clearer sight of those colours and forms.

A striking feature of some of the images is the level of colour saturation and brightness.  In one or two cases, I have slightly enhanced the saturation of some colours, to emphasise their impact. In general, however, the saturation and intensity of the colours present is little changed from the original image capture – and is a result of careful selection of light and weather conditions – with the brightest and most saturated tones resulting from strong, directional winter sunlight. I think this underlines the extent to which we are capable of ‘missing’ colour in our environment.


All images and content © Damian Hughes 2009