Researchers say, life on earth began with just one colour. Pink.

Pink was the colour of the vast oceans, teeming with cyanobacteria, that was the dominant life form a billion years ago. Eventually, the cyanobateria made room for blue-green algae, who brought along their own shade to the colour scheme. As nature evolved, complex life emerged, along with a riot of colour that we see today.

And we, though latecomers, are best equipped to perceive and enjoy this kaleidoscope. Through the sophisticated sensors in our eyes we pick up light waves in a cocktail of RGB, that is, red, green and blue, the primary colours.

Ever since, we have been seeking out ways to reproduce colour in our own creations, often going to great lengths to source them.

In cave paintings from 40,000 years ago we see red ochre patiently drawn from soil, blacks from soot, yellows from limonite rock. Phoenicia’s royalty draped themselves in purple borrowed from sea snails. While in Mexico, the cochineal insect was the only option to achieve a bright red. Egyptian glassware reveals a green hue that had to be culled out of copper. And lapis lazuli, a distinctive blue sought around the world, could only be found on one mountain range, in Afghanistan.

So naturally, when we added photography to our creations, we have strived to bring colour into it. Among early efforts, was a method to expose the subject to different light sensitive plates, one after another, sometimes for hours at a stretch. The process was cumbersome, and smiling was out of the question.

Then the Lumiere Brothers made a visit to the vegetable vendor, and used potato starch grains coloured red, green and blue on a glass plate together with emulsion, to develop the autochrome transparency. Replaced later by Kodachrome film which, thankfully, could be carried in a 35 mm camera.

Today, we have progressed to colour film in different speeds, and the entire unexplored dimension of digital photography, where millions of pixels pick up red, green and blue light in much the same way as our eyes do. With options for enhancing hues, saturations and shades in ways that our eyes can’t do. And, that use sea snails, cochineal insects, animals, plants and mountains only as beautiful subjects.

The very finest of these endeavours are reproduced here in the One Eyeland Best of the Best Year Book. Featuring the work of over 89 of the world’s foremost photographers. Who in the most the fitting way possible, pay tribute to the colours of our creation.

G Sharad Haksar
One Eyeland

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