joanne lee



In June 2012 I spent some time in Dungeness and Romney Marsh. The experience unexpectedly intensified my attention to colour. Pink seemed to proliferate: there were, for example, the repeated drifts of faded red valerian on the shingle, the almost fluorescent stamens of viper’s bugloss and the surprising candy interior of St Clement’s Church at Old Romney & Midley... The week after I returned from Kent, I was a participant in the Summer Lodge residency at Nottingham Trent University, and I found myself repeatedly photographing instances of the hue as I encountered it within my working environment. I pictured deep raspberry and an almost mauve, a murkily plummy stain and a selection of vivid brights. This hadn’t been my intention at all, but it seemed as if specific colours sought me out. In the course of my exploration of Romney March, I’d been reading Derek Jarman’s last journal, Smiling in Slow Motion, during which he recounts the writing of Chroma, the book on colour published shortly before his death. I remembered his assertion that as a student he had ‘learnt colour but I didn’t understand it’ and I was ready to concur.

There’s a lot to be said about pink, with its shifting gender alliance (only in the 20th century did it come to be associated with girls, though now of course the colour shifts countless units of toys, frocks and accessories) and its curious power upon our emotional state and endocrine system (a precise hue developed at the American Institute for Biosocial Research and now known as Baker-Miller Pink has a marked effect on lowering the heart rate, pulse and respiration such that it is now used in certain correctional or psychiatric facilities.) As writer and musician David Byrne remarks in his contribution to the ‘Colors’ column of Cabinet magazine: ‘Pink was strong medicine!’