Zlatko Vickovic: On the Specific Use of Color in a Photo

All images by Zlatko Vickovic. Used with permission.

Color is an element of photography that can be distracting or used effective: just ask Zlatko Vickovic. “And I think that all serious photography must carry some meaning or it is just colorful tapestry.” he states. “If you shot color, it must not be for the sake of it only.” Zlatko’s creative vision stems from Bresson and his studies of various photographers have greatly influenced the scenes he captures that many folks otherwise just wouldn’t care for.

you are always on my mind

Phoblographer: When I ask the question “What are your thoughts on the issue of color or black and white photography?” what immediately comes to your mind? Why do you think this immediately?”

Zlatko: I think that black and white photography is the essence or the core of photography, so, for beginners, it`s good for start to stick for a while with B&W. When you stripped down color from photo you see much clearly basic underlying structure of photo, contrast of shapes and light/shadow, foreground/background, and different layers of reality. Color is so powerful that can fool the eye, so sometimes you made wonderful colorful photos that are just that. Colors without meaning. And I think that all serious photography must carry some meaning or it is just colorful tapestry. If you shot color, it must not be for the sake of it only.

ride to home

Phoblographer: Your use of colors in a photo are very specific. You keep them down to a minimal number and really make specifics stand out a lot. Where did you learn to do this?

Zlatko: That comes from long years of training in traditional painting and art. If you want to learn photography go to the museums. Bresson learn much of his craft in museums which he visited regularly. And if you look closely to the art of the old masters you will see that they all first establish color key in which painting will be done. This color key is what carry the overall mood of the painting and work closely to the message of artwork. Then, from the key color that often cover largest portion of the artwork, painters further arrange, almost mathematically, other colors in smaller areas. In photography, that was much harder, because, you can`t arrange reality in terms of colors, as you can in traditional painting. So I often think when I look to my photos… if only this car was red… or this doors was green. But, only occasionally it is.

red post

Phoblographer: Which photographers do you feel use color very well and which do you believe use black and white well? Why? Has their work influenced you?

Zlatko: Well… there are many great photographers that use color very well. Alex Webb, Martin Parr, Saul Leiter, Jay Maisel… I learned something from all of them. To explain why they use color very well will be a very long text. I will take Martin Parr for example. His work is, primarily, showing and criticizing life and surrounding of modern humanity. So he deliberately use strong, exaggerated colors, that are often clashing each other and this works very well for the message he delivers. People, places and things are colorful as in some kind of circus or kids playground, colors are bright and bold and he throws us in the face in what kind of colorful garbage we are transforming our earth. And for black and white photography, there are also numerous amazing photographers.

rainy thoughts

Bresson is the father of all of them, of course, but I will mention here Trente Parke which I think influence me the most in terms of B&W photography. His work and how he use black and white is completely unique. And for the color, I think it`s Jay Maisel. He works exclusively in color for decades and he treats every photo as a painting, which is similar mindset to mine. I remembered when someone asked him why he shoot only in color, and he says “Why? Because reality is in color.”

one love

Phoblographer: When you go about shooting, what’s your process like? Do you sit there and wait for something cool to happen in terms of the colors, contrast, scene overall, etc?

Zlatko: Back in the days, when I was starting in photography, I was always going out with some particular goal in mind. So, if it was raining for example, I told to myself, let`s go out there on the streets and catch some people with umbrellas or reflections in the puddles. But those days are long gone. Now I just almost always have camera with me and live my life. You`ll be amazed how many good photos you can make in just walking to your dentist or grocery store. In other words, I don`t have particular process of shooting. I`m just trying to be open to my surroundings, and to see what is going on, as much as I can. Learning to really see reality around you is the key.

old green

We all look at reality all the time, but it doesn’t mean that we see. So, I`m not sitting and waiting for something to happen, because, everywhere, something is happening right now, only you have to be able to see it. Sometimes combination of colors, or particular color draw my attention. Sometimes it’s just perfect geometry of the place, beautiful light, sometimes it’s interesting character, or dog, for example. That is beauty in photography, you never know what great photo can be around the corner.

Phoblographer: What areas are your favorite to photograph?

musician, woman and a silhouette

Zlatko: My favorite areas are usually streets that are crowded with people, buildings, signs, and myriads of man made objects. And, of course, edges of the city, where you can see many interesting things and people that shiny city center is hiding from usual tourists and regular citizens.

Phoblographer: How does geometry play a part of your images? From the looks, it seems to go hand in hand with color.

Zlatko: Geometry are bones, colors are flesh. If you don`t have structured bone, flash will fall apart. So, geometry and colors are inseparable. They must work together or they don`t work at all.

morning news

Phoblographer: A lot of your work is “Photography” with a big P rather than “photography” with a small p in the meaning that your images are done with artistic intent. How important do you feel it is for us to get this forward to many other aspiring creatives out there?

Zlatko: I look at photography as art form equally as traditional art is. Camera is not just the tool to record what is happening. You have surveillance cameras for that, for example. World is not interesting to see another snapshot of what is going on. There are already to much of this everyday. For me, camera is the tool for creating photos that transcend reality as it is. To carry some meaning, express attitude, tells a story. That is the true power of photography.

I miss you on rainy days

So, finding your own voice in photography is crucial. All new shiny cameras, and technical knowledge doesn`t mean a thing if you don`t have something to say, or you don`t know how to say it.. It is important to treat photography as art form in all that it carries. So take your cameras, go out there on the streets, and make some great art. It`s not that hard.

I feel you on my back

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ghost town

elastic sword

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don't go away

circles and squares

balloon down

already late


Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.