Preface

American Color
Constantine Manos

The subject of American Color is photographs, made in the United States but not meant to comprise a general or definitive statement about the country or its people. These images are a collection of specific moments picked from a narrow spectrum of public places and events. Presented without the constraints of captions, these photographs have a life of their own and invite a personal response from the viewer.

My favorite pictures have always been complex ones, which ask questions and pose problems, but leave the answers and solutions to the viewers. These are images with a long and evolving life, in which the photograph may transcend the subject and become the subject. Central to the strength of these images is photography’s most precious and unique quality, believability: that the moment preserved on a piece of paper is true and unaltered, that it really happened and will never happen again.

In the search for photographs I have come to realize that the best pictures are surprises, images I subconsciously seek but do not recognize until they suddenly appear. These are thrilling moments in a kind of photography that can be frustrating and unpredictable, with the pictures often spoiled by something so minor as a wayward cloud over the sun or the momentary glance of a subject at the camera. In approaching people, I prefer to be the observer rather than the observed and value the human presence as the most important element in my pictures.

The flow of people in a setting, their changing relationships to each other and the environment, and their constantly changing expressions and movements – all combine to create dynamic situations that provide the photographer with unlimited choices of when to push the button. By choosing a precise intersection between the subject and the moment, he may transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and the real into the surreal.