In-Camera Color Separation (tri-color) Photography

Wall panel text for the exhibit – The Aquarium Series at Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL, 1984 and artist statement in the exhibit catalog, Center of the Eye at the Aspen Center for the Visual Arts, Aspen, CO, curated by Alex J. Sweetman, 1983.

The simultaneous accurate reproduction and alteration of color, motion, and time have become the phenomena that have kept me fascinated with working with in-camera color separation filters (no. 25 red, no. 47 blue, and no. 58 green) in the course of photographing.

The production of in-camera color separation negatives or positives produces images that are often unexpected or give unfamiliar interpretations of the familiar. It is possible to accurately reproduce colors in nature, and in the same photograph, alter the color rendition of things that move between exposures. Things that remain stationary during all three exposures will be recorded in their natural color. When objects, people, or shadows change position and appear in only one of the exposures, the thing will be recorded as a transparent complementary color of the filter that was used. The background and/or other objects crossing the path of the moving subject would also affect the final color rendition. Examples of this were: when photographing a scene with a white background, the green 58-filter produced magenta, the blue 47-filter produced yellow, and the red 25-filter produced cyan. When photographing with a black background, the filter utilized recorded objects in the filter’s same color. Utilizing color in a way that violates our knowledge of the natural color of things creates a visual tension between the heightened color and the naturally colored thing. 

With the series of exposures necessary when utilizing in-camera separation filters, one can also show motion and record sequences of movement in one static location and present these as a record of time. The transparency of the subjects that move between the three exposures tends to make them a transient quality and reaffirms their temporal nature.

Selected photos

» View more photos from this series, Shedd Aquarium Tri-Color 1983-1984