By Scott Sullivan
Red means stop, green go, yellow caution. Primary color blue + yellow = green: go with caution. Blue means go.
Having shot black-and- white Kodak Tri-X 400, I went color 15 years later with trepidation. What would Cartier-Bresson say? I’d developed, printed and cropped my images for layouts long ago.
Going color film to digital I feared also with intrepidness. Computers, cameras, lenses … life was evolving too fast. So green, go with caution.
I wrote “The Blue Light” met as a snippet during Tri-X years. Its hero washes/watches in horror: he’s mixed whites with colors and set the machine too hot. Coins! With coins he’ll reverse this. Damn, change machine’s not working, the counter woman appears invisible, jeans release dye and everything white turns blue.
I lived in a rental hut north of Muskegon near a Lake Michigan I could walk to barefoot on a sand two-track to see time and space come in.
Daytrips rolled down the coast through Saugatuck-Douglas on Blue Star Highway south to the Red Arrow. Their intersection was the point. For noncolor shooting it was perfect.
Some people fear secret cameras. I fear they all aren’t. I have 13 years of Tri-X negatives spooled in film tins stored somewhere in our leaky house. With luck water has destroyed them.
Samurai act a success alas in Muskegon, on to Wayland. Publishers Ron and Nila were pros who encouraged creativity. I had no trouble finding photos there, Gun Lake, Hopkins, Dorr, water, woods and farmlands redolent with eccentrics. Recognize a mind scene? Click. What was in the pictures was incidental. Why so long had I had to imagine color?
The couple retired while they could to prowl Puget Sound, the paper went corporate, nothing fit before I got fired at last but now had a wife and daughter. Parents’ death had changed me.
It was mid-day April. Mary was asleep, Flannery in first grade school up the block. I hadn’t noticed that light before through our windows, how much silence meant. Hiked downhill through woods to the park playground, empty now, sat in my daughter’s swing, heard and saw birds and buds leafing.
Next day I checked out my new Blue Star Highway office in Saugatuck, having known my new column’s name long ago.
Kelvin ranks blue sky daylight the hottest hue our eyes can see. Then white, yellow, orange and red like candlelight. Stars work that way too, blue Rigel down the coast to red Betelgeuse, right foot and left shoulder of Orion, the Night Sky Hunter.
In Michigan, white skin turned with blue with cold, red with sunburn. Why were there no green stars? Looking up I learned green is not a black-body color on Max Planck’s locus.
Saugatuck-Douglas light was Venice with less antiquity. I could run, hike, climb and swim. My eyes couldn’t stop.
In “The Blue Light” light was waves of particles or nothing like that at all. Grain, space between photoelectric image dots, is noise in digital. There’s a sonic element. Look and listen to waves on water.
Body, light, music, move. Get the beat you win. A hot-eyed woman sent stilt puppets down a Duck Lake dune for a sunset circle. After we danced together in a barn.
Tom Foley from LA was directing a dinner theater “Thousand Clowns” in The Galleon on White Lake Channel, where I took pictures. I got free tickets and drinks overlooking White Lake, watched the show, then stayed up all night with Tom and the owner, who fed us shrimp as we laughed and confessed our sins.
Artist friend Ken Wells and I showed up together by accident at Walker Library and started reciting alternative lines of The Doors’ “Horse Latitudes” to patrons’ irritation. Being in libraries excites me to where I can no longer stay in libraries.
Jazz drummer Mack Margrave retired to run The Red Rooster Tavern in the woods, where my Great Books discussion group friend Gary Scanlon and read aloud Sylvia Plath and T.S. Eliot while quaffing red Killian’s Irish beer.
All these were black-and-white years.
The design and geometry of traffic lights long has enticed and eluded me. The above right photo of signals at Blue Star and Center shows that as well as a primitive grasp of digital color processing.
Maggie Conklin’s Page A6 photo of four deviled egg plates on table is more compositionally complete. That’s another reason I love being in a community of Svengalis and outliers. Everyone can teach.