Half-week homework: Violet

Fun fact: there are no truly violet images in this article! Modern imaging sensors capture colors using a mixture of red-, green-, and blue-sensitive pixels, so what appears to be violet is actually a mixture of red and blue. Even if you somehow captured pure violet light, all but the most extremely-specialized monitors produce light the same way. This combination of two colors is correctly called purple, as opposed to spectral violet light in the 380–450 nanometer range of wavelengths. (Yup, that’s the difference! The more you know…)

From a practical standpoint, of course, our eyes themselves perceive color using red-, green-, and blue-sensitive cones, so the difference is essentially imperceptible. An animal or alien might see a glaring difference between purple and violet, but since we’re all humans here, both colors will be accepted in this week’s photo challenge! I will also be using purple and violet mostly interchangeably, so please temper pedantic commentary with the knowledge that I understand the difference.

As you might have guessed, it’s time to spend some time with the final major color of the rainbow. Wrap up the rainbow series of challenges by crafting an image featuring and/or overwhelmed by violet (and related).

You can even take a photo with purple and violet! Photo by Macey Sigaty.

Adopted into our language from names for the unmistakably-hued flower, violet is perhaps the spunkiest color of them all. While indigo is imbued with a mysterious, obfuscating liminality (as we discussed last week), the in-betweenness of purple is bold and uncompromising.

Inheriting qualities from two primary colors—the two most likely to have a “versus” between them, no less, at least in Western and especially American culture—purple is emblematic of both compromise and of rugged individualism. Given two sides to an issue, it’s the third path: either the “middle path” of moderation and cooperation, or a brave rejection of the known in favor of a trek down the road less traveled. Your job as the photographer, of course, is to guide your viewer to the associations of your choice.

Another connection likely to tingle in the brains of your viewers, found in cultures across time and space, is that of purple with royalty and luxury. In most cases the explanation is as simple as the fact that quality violet dyes and pigments were more expensive and difficult to produce than others—though, oddly, purple paints were used in some of the oldest, most primitive cave paintings known to man—but some elites have actively worked to cordon off the color for themselves. Garments dyed with Tyrian purple were actually illegal for most Romans to wear! It was a palpable proof of power and prestige.

Fortunately, we live in a time of unprecedented freedom. No one will punish you for crafting lavishly violet images, and (even more so!) nobody will berate you for sharing your favorite images. Please, join the visual conversation with your fellow photographers and post your violet and/or purple pics to our Facebook page or on Instagram tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework.

Enjoyed this colorful challenge? Click on the links below for the rest of the rainbow!
Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo • Violet

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