“I just love black and white . . .”

PrintW_Bool drive_120712_0005 as Smart Object-1

God Is Everywhere  2012

Pre digital I had a strong preference for shooting black and white film. There were a few reasons for this, the main one being that I felt I had a lot of control over the final product. Through careful exposure and development I would ideally produce a good negative from which to print in the darkroom. Here, of course, is where the magic happened. Good choice of paper and chemistry, cropping, dodging, burning in, toning and all the little tricks one could apply to interpret the negative and, hopefully, produce something of substance, and even perhaps, beauty.

With colour, of course, I didn’t have this kind of control. I did shoot a fair amount of colour transparency (slide film) but often felt that all I was doing was producing ‘pretty pictures’. I would many times have an image in my minds eye of what I would like to be able to see, as a colour print, but the limitations of the materials available at the time wouldn’t allow it.

I always found it amusing that when I would tell people that I liked to work with black a white, they would often respond with ” ooh, I just love black and white!”. I have a theory about this and it is simply, that a monotone photograph is a lot easier to ‘read’ and to understand than a colour photograph. During the seventies and eighties, there were a number of photographers working in colour whose images I greatly admired. Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz were two in particular who demonstrated to me how sophisticated colour photography could be and, in the process, convinced me that I was better off sticking with black and white!

I don’t know that my understanding of colour has improved any, but with the coming of the digital age working with it has completely opened up for me. I love it. Being able to pre-visualise an image, in colour, and having the tools to create it, is for me, the marvel of digital photography. Even worth all the pain of having to learn a whole new bunch of tricks (and we are talking about a fairly old dog here!).

Still, black and white still has great appeal for me. There are some photographs that just scream out for it.

7 responses to ““I just love black and white . . .”

  1. You can still do black and white with digital technology. It is not either digital colour or analogue black and white.

  2. You took the words right out of my mouth Eric – it was a while before i realised that digital, along with great quality affordable printers, allowed the sort of control over colour that I used to have over black and white in the darkroom, but it was a revelation.

    Now I have a great quality affordable printer with 3 shades of grey (well one shade of black and two of grey) and the revelation is that I can now produce black and white prints that are better than the best B&W I could ever get out of a darkroom. Nirvana approaches!

    • Interesting to see you say, Peter, that nirvana “approaches”. I totally agree that we now have the capability to produce B&W prints superior to what we used to in the darkroom, however I still feel I have a way to go in understanding how to produce the best possible. I just today, downloaded this from Nik software. (Which I have yet to watch in full. Of course you may have already seen it.) Cheers.

    • Hi Gilbert. Many thanks for the link. An interesting read. Undy’s notion that analogue photos are “photographs” and digital are “digital images” is an interesting one however I always thought photography meant ‘painting with light’ and surely that is what we do wether we shoot digitally or not?

      I think it is great that there is still such discussions going on and I would hope they will continue for a long time. (Just keep the zealots out!)

      As for recorded of music, I still love my vinyl!

  3. Silver Efex Pro 2 is very useful software—-even when using analogue black and white film converted into a digital file by scanning.

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