Color in America

THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT RACE. I understand the title can be misleading. It’s just literally about color in America.

I had a photo assignment to shoot color, and immediately thought of bright colored houses, rainbows of cars, flamboyant clothing and jewelry…..

And then I walked around downtown San Jose.

Everything was shades of grey. Houses, cars, streets, clothing, the weather, everything. There were some flashes of color, but for some reason they didn’t pop the way you would expect against grey. Streetsigns seemed threatening, advertisements were nauseating, and the occasional purple scarf or red shoe seemed dull and depressed. I felt like I was living in the world of The Giver. 

We don’t paint our houses bright blue or lime green. The few people who do are societal outliers. We favor neutral clothing, plain colored money, grey cars, grey jewelry, grey everything. We do so much economically, socially, politically; we drive global pop culture; we devote millions to advertising; and yet, we live in shades of grey. The Painted Ladies in San Francisco, Green Lady of Brooklyn, Seven Magic Mountains near Vegas… they stand out because of color. Plop any of these things or people in a city like Marakesh or Mykonos, Burano or Bo-Kaap, Trinidad or Juzcar or St. John’s and they will blend right in.

I fear color too. My clothes, shoes, nails, makeup, accessories, and home decor are soft, understated pieces that fit into the beige-white-pale blue spectrum of soft simplicity. This fear of color is a societal thing. We don’t live in it, but will spend hundreds of dollars to visit the places that do have color. It’s frustrating but fascinating.

I dare you to go outside and find color, not in flowers or carefully painted murals, but in regular man-made objects. Hunt down that hot pink Mercedes your eccentric neighbor drives. Seek the purple storefront that makes the city planner cringe. Find orange, find red, find blue and green and everything you can think of and take pictures of it. Prove it’s here, and don’t forget how dull this world could be if we let ourselves forget to add color.


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