The iconic remote red phone box

Is the remote red public phone box a new iconic image of a whole period of history. They are mostly redundant yet still hold a function in providing a service we never use but would hate to lose. Perhaps the biggest function is in keeping alive a technology that everyone over forty remembers relying on at some point in their lives. The treatment by Mhairi in processing this image from our Ardnamurchan gallery makes the phone box the star of the show.

A remote telephone box is shown in red in an otherwise black and white landscape

A remote telephone box in Kentra Bay , Ardnamurchan, raises questions about who uses it now or before and what was it like to speak here in the dark winter nights. ©Mhairi Morrison

The colour red is going to jump of the page regardless – it always does. Put a spot of red in any picture and the eye is automatically drawn to it. It contrasts brightly in a black and white setting. A remote phone box in any scene is always going to be a subject even if incidental. Does any communication technology always ask an onlooker questions of who would be using it and what would they be saying? It’s a draw to a photographer as it is to anyone. It is red for a reason. The alternative is the remote post box but a phone box is much bigger.

This technique requires converting to black and white in post production software (ours is Aperture by Apple) then using the eraser tool to selectively remove the black and white effect over the phone box. Selective boosting of colour filters enforces the tonal contrast. For example boosting the red filter darkens the green in the picture or reducing it lightens it. Aperture allows endless instances of the colour filter tools and different values can be painted in by brushes on different parts of the image.

Knowledge of the colour wheel is needed. Red and green are opposites and therefore are complimentary colours.   Inside the phone box Mhairi has carefully saturated the yellow and boosted its luminance to heighten the effect of the sunlight coming through the glass at the back: this is making it appear like an internal light because the original light source of the sun has been removed by the black and white conversion.

Here is another version of the image of the road at Kilmory with the same technique applied.

A remote phone box is in red in an otherwise black and white image of a road and sheep and the sea with the islands of Rum and Eigg in the distance.

A remote phone box and the sea with the islands of Rum and Eigg in the distance. What a story can be made based on calls made from here. ©Paul Carroll

A full colour version of this scene is available in the Ardnamurchan gallery.

While both focus on the phone box the colour one draws the eye to the islands in the background and makes more of the location. This one simply focusses on the remoteness of the phone box. The other aspects of the scene only make the location of the phone box even more  dramatic. Watch this space for a whole load of remote phone boxes.

It is clearly a subject of special interest to many remote communities. Campaigns to keep them and creative uses are being made of them including the NHS installing defibrillators and other community groups turning them into small libraries. British Telecom actively encourage communities to adopt a call box. This you tube video shows whats is going on.

Are BT giving out any commissions? If you think they might let us know – we would happily devote a year to hunting down the remotest red boxes and creating a gallery of the best iconic images.

About photographicviewscotland

Photographers of Scotland's landscape and remote places and arts and craft makers. Mhairi is also making needle felted animals under the name of the Woof in the Wool. We live in Abernethy in Perthshire, Scotland.
This entry was posted in Ardnamurchan, Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The iconic remote red phone box

  1. LensScaper says:

    Excellent subject for this processing technique. That telephone looks almost spookily remote. And the light that streams out of the glass is a wonderful touch. Well done

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