Not the afternoon but not the evening, not the beginning of the week nor the end, not yet autumn but finally past the heat of summer: this moment (5 o’clock PM, September 18th) is the perfect moment to introduce this photo challenge. The penultimate installment in our rainbow series invites you to grab your camera and consider the most philosophical of colors, indigo.
Arriving in England at the end of a long trip on the Silk Road, dye from the plant now known as “indigo” was so named in English after the Portuguese interpretation of Latin “indicum,” from Greek “indicon pharmakon,” or “Indian dye” (though the first recorded use of the plant as dye was in what is now Peru). Indigo dye gradually replaced woad as the preferred source of blue in medieval Europe, right around the time a certain Isaac Newton was experimenting with prisms.
Mr. Newton is, of course, the reason that our modern rainbow includes this unusual color as a primary element, giving birth to Mr. Roy G. Biv with this crucial sentence:
The originall or primary colours are Red, yellow, Green, Blew, & a violet purple; together with Orang, Indico, & an indefinite varietie of intemediate gradations.Isaac Newton, A Theory Concerning Light and Colors
Given that the majority of people probably couldn’t pick indigo out of a line-up with absolute certainty, I pondered whether it was worth a photo challenge of its own.
In the end, aside from not wanting to disrupt the nationally-recognized standard list of seven colors, I was convinced by Newton’s unexpectedly spiritual reasoning. Evidently, he included indigo as a discrete category of the visible spectrum (though we mostly consider it a shade of blue today) specifically in order to make seven visible colors. With seven notes on the scale, seven days in the week, and innumerable references to seven as a number of perfection in the Judeo-Christian tradition, it seemed important that our attempt to categorize the base elements of our sense of sight in line with the same numerological framework. Why not?
I also really like the liminality (or “in-between-ness”) of a color that is usually defined today by what it isn’t: “somewhere between blue and violet.” As with the others in this series of challenges, the primary (hah) idea is that you should attempt to find indigo environments and/or subjects and utilize the color to create the mood and meaning of a great image or two; however, in this case, creating a photo that is indigo in spirit rather than in body will also be accepted. Someone no longer a girl but not yet a woman, someone leaving home but still there at heart, a shop with no future but struggling to hang on: the possibilities are endless and endlessly poignant.
I’ll end the article here but I won’t say goodbye. I’ll be expecting you to share the outcome of this esoteric experiment on our Facebook page or on Instagram tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework. See you there!