In praise of the color gray 🌫

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If you turn your mobile screen gray, you'll use it less. The candy-colored apps will lose their addictive poking flavor.

Most people disdain gray skies, pleading for blue and sunny instead.

Gray appears boring and aging. A mere 1% name it as their favorite color. It neutralizes excitement and offers no hope.

But author Meghan Flaherty makes a good case for loving the color gray. In her piece Ode to Gray, she writes:

I sometimes drive an hour to the ocean, hoping I will find it thoroughly obscured by fog. I am not a melancholic, or a bore, but I want a break from all the rainbow violence in the world. To scratch beneath the surface to the quiet central core of Forsius’s color sphere.

Derek Jarman wrote: Grey is the sad world into which the colors fall. But he also wrote that gray is where color “sings.” It is the perfect neutral, balanced, dignified—and yet it is so effortlessly swayed; it is the pool that takes in other colors as they bleed. It compliments; it brightens light, and lightens dark. It isn’t flat. It’s deep, endlessly deep.

Of course, gray is also the essence of black and white photography. It hides nothing, revealing all texture.

It is also, at least since the first printed photograph in 1826, the color of experience—or what we mean when we say black-and-white. Photography has long been our record of the world, the medium that tells the whole unrepentant truth in perfect detail. And yet for decades, no one seemed to mention what was missing. We were all content with the desaturated version: the texture of reality rendered not in black-and-white but in (five hundred) shades of gray.

As the black-and-white photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said to the color photographer William Eggleston: “You know, William, color is bullshit.” In the realism of the black-and-white, gray is every color—without the tartness. The understudies take the stage, and not one seems to miss the headliners. We see the world without distraction. Andre Gide called gray the color of the truth.

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the color gray and it's five hundred different shades. It is a palette ripe for perpetual reinvention.

Gray is like the space between the notes, a subtle and powerful presence that begs the curious to notice it with eyes wide open.

Cheers to gray!


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