Opinion: Melanin Color Theory

Photos are the way we capture moments in time or communicate to others. They make us laugh, cry and change the perspectives of others. The power of photography is unquestionable. However, a photography choice such as what filter to use or lighting can have the same negative effect.


My photo was taken during Orientation and I was told that I made the Meredith Instagram. I was so excited to share that photo with my family and friends since this would be the first and last time I could participate in Orientation Crew (O-Crew), but when I saw the filter choice, my heart sank. The balloon arch looked wonderful behind me, and the bright colors shined brighter against the blue sky. But when I looked at myself I didn’t see myself: I saw a cooled down and whitened version of the melanin that I love so dearly, instead of its usual warm undertones.


This is not something new with filters or photography with Black people. You can tell the difference if you look at the Vogue cover of Simone Biles and Viola Davis in Vanity Fair. The origins of photography, especially in color, were never really meant for Black people. The standard of developing film to face recognition comes from analyzing white skin, which can encourage colorism or the fact that not having white or light skin is inherently bad. The same thing can be said about darkening photos to make Black people disappear from the background of photos or appear threatening, like what the media did in OJ Simpson's case. Black people have undertones no matter how light or dark they are. When lighting effects and filters are not used, bright colors with high contrast or complementary colors can drastically make a difference as to how melanin can shine.


I appreciate and enjoy the photo that was taken because I’ll never forget my experience with O-Crew. However, it’s just a reminder as to how much progress society needs to make in photography to accommodate everyone’s beauty, no matter the skin tone.


By Jeanine Carryl, Staff Writer

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