Exploring the colours of my mind

Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Agapanthus bloom. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Colour is a very powerful metaphor of emotion in everyday language. It’s not just that we use individual colours (“in the pink”, “got the blues”) to describe our feelings, but even the notion of colour itself (“that’ll put some colour in your cheeks”, “she’s a colourful character”) is often central to how we talk about ourselves, our lives, and our emotional states.

Post-natal (or post-partum) depression has often called “the baby blues”; a phrase that can simultaneously make it more understandable to others,Β  and at the same time diminish the seriousness of a condition that affects around 16 percent of new mothers (and some fathers too) (1). More generally, the term “black mood” is used to describe depression or feelings of great unhappiness.

Photo: Su Leslie, colour-edited with Aviary Photo Editor.

Agapanthus bloom. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Image colour-edited with Aviary Photo Editor.

Psychologists tell us that colours can our moods as well as acting as a short-hand for ideas and emotions.Β  Reds are associated with heat, passion (and ‘Stop’); white is traditionally used to denote purity, and purple can suggest wealth, royalty and wisdom (2).

It is not only the hue of a colour that affects us, but its intensity. I quite like the softness the photo below, but also find it sad.

Agapanthus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Agapanthus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Of the three images below of canna lilies; I’m drawn to the second. Although the colours are brighter, it doesn’t make me feel happier; it just makes me feel — well, more.

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Canna lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Canna lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Canna lilies. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Canna lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

I’m interested in how others’ respond to these image. Please let me know what — if anything — they make you feel.

This post was written for Sally’s phoneography and non-SLR digital devices photo challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally. You can see Sally’s beautiful tulip shots here; and explore the contributions of other bloggers in the challenge.

But now I’m going to leave you with an aural colour experience. At the end of last year, I went to the funeral of a friend who had lost his battle with cancer. As his coffin was carried into the crowded chapel, followed by his three daughters and other family members, this was the song that played. It was unexpected — maybe whacky — but set the tone for a funeral that truly did celebrate a good life, well lived. Here’s Donovan’s Mellow Yellow.

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(1) American Psychological Association – Postpartum depression

(2) About.com Colour Psychology

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33 thoughts on “Exploring the colours of my mind

  1. The third photo makes me feel sad, all colour gone. I love the deep pink agapanthus though, I think I am drawn to strong colours, even in clothing choices. Great choice of song. Takes me back.

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      • I guess though that with all art; what the viewer/audience see is only a tiny, beautiful fragment of the work and energy that goes into the production. So maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s 80% or 95% or even 99% thrown away, as long as we create one piece that connects with others.

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  2. Pingback: Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Macro (and Queen of the Night Tulip) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  3. Very thought provoking Sue. I go through phases where I love vibrant colours and then other times I love the pale pastels. I guess it does depend a lot on my moods too. Each of your colours say something different for me.

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  4. When I took career change advice (in my forties), the main suggestion was Environmental Pysychology – as in the effect of wall colours on patients, or open-plan offices on workers – I ended up in a different branch of brain science, but I’m still fascinated by these questions.

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    • It is fascinating. My mother and I respond to totally different colour palettes. She surrounds herself with pinky-grey sort of colours, and has done so for a long time. I am always drawn to high-contrast, dramatic schemes and a varying palette of bright colour schemes. But even more interesting to me are people who seem quite indifferent to colour, texture and pattern. I guess at a subconscious level they are influenced by these things, but not overtly. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Cheers, Su.

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    • Hi Joanne; it’s not something I think about normally, but I’ve realised that colour is used a lot in the way we talk about depression, and I’ve been trying to figure out my own emotional colour scheme. Oddly, although black and grey are colours people with depression often talk about in relation to their moods; for me depression is beige, or sometimes endless white. Still figuring that one out! πŸ™‚

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  5. I’ve always called depression grey rather than black, as grey is a bit of a nothing colour, whereas black can make other colours pop. Colour is so important with our moods. Whilst I’m always drawn to pinks and greens, I love most colours (but not much blue). I prefer the first pink photo to the muted purple one but with the canna lily, I like the first and third the best. I agree though that the more muted in both photos appear a lot sadder than the brighter colours. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Livonne. I think you’re right about grey being a more “appropriate” depression colour. I’m also not a fan of blue; my mother used to dress me in lots of blue when I was a kid, but now if I wear it, people actually notice because it’s so unlike me. Cheers, Su.

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