Colorless: B+W Photography
Shooting black and white images. Only! Black and White has been around forever. In fact, before William Eggleston came along, black and white was actually a false criteria instituted by the “art crowd” as the only true form of art in photography. Color was relegated to a backseat as the redheaded stepchild of photography.
Shooting Black and White – The Real Deal?
But I still view black and white as the real deal. Is it because I’m good at developing and darkroom printing such images? Is it because you can forgo all that objective/subjective color balancing? Maybe because my aesthetic always brings me back to my roots? Or because , while I was bedazzled, like everyone else, by the vibrant, over saturated colors of digital, as in the movie ‘Bedazzled’ there was a price to pay. And the devil will have his due, thank you very much.
Before digital, I was OK if I had to process a roll of either C-41 or E-6 film. But print? I sucked with analog color printing, and still suck to this day. Printer profiles and printing on an Epson or some such technological wonder,….well, even I can do. But there’s something about B&W that just gives me chills. I guess that always gave me a jaundiced eye. So, you could say I’m biased.
Content is King
That said, B&W does remind me of one thing,…constantly. Only content and structure really matter in a photograph. While many will disagree with me, and I can actually see you screaming “Whatever” at your screen right now, it’s what I truly believe.
Hence, I’ve returned to my roots. Back to when I tingled when a photograph actually appeared magically on that blank piece of paper or printed out on Ilford stock from a laser printer or that dedicated B&W inkjet. And I really don’t have to send anything out. Yes, I can do it all myself. I still remember when that art director from Saatchi & Saatchi in New York referred to me as “that Black and White guy”. I should have stuck to my guns. But like most young photographers, I answered the siren call of color. A mistake I will always regret. Whether digital or film, B&W forced me to make content and graphic composition ‘King’.
The Change – It’s Now or Never
In point of fact, I am seriously considering a total dedication of my life to black and white. Has it been done before by photographers? Well, even discounting the “old timers” , (or classics), who had no options, sure. Either all in, or so massively in as to not even consider them in any other light. Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sebastião Salgado and many more. And the imaging is even more striking in landscapes, wildlife, art and architecture. Film or digital,….will a large enough audience be willing to take that plunge? In an Instagram world of selfies,…probably not. Sigh…… Nikon F3HP or Nikon 50mmf/1.2 AI-s or Nikon D3