Some Thoughts and Extrapolations on Black and White Photography



I am beginning to see why people got so excited about color photography when it became available.  While I love the drama and the graphics that black and white possess, its minimalism and aesthetics, I am suddenly feeling the lack of color in my edited photography.  Because we live in a world of color (most of us, anyway), the lack of color is a form of sensory deprivation, I think.  Our senses enrich our lives on many levels and when one sense is changed or different, our lives change and become different, and more limited.  Editing out color is getting a bit depressing!

Think about clothing and material.  200 years ago, only the rich or moderately comfortable could afford more than one or two outfits to wear.  Colors were expensive and time-consuming to produce; even naturally colored fabrics were labor intensive, but color added to that labor.  The wealthy, the aristocrats, wore amazing clothes – ones we wouldn’t even consider today as far as color and fabrics:  gold, purples, lace.  Today, our clothing is black and white and monochrome because our world today is overwhelmed by the stimulus of color – and the media – and music – and noise – and smells – and politics – and people.  Meanwhile, the natural world becomes ever more remote as land is used up and lost to disasters.  Without the natural world, we become lost.

So, black and white photography, as beautiful as it is, is a restrictive diet.  It’s like eating one thing every day for every meal.  My silent black and white project is making me a bit crazy – I like words, I love color.  On the other hand, it is forcing me to think differently – very differently – than I usually do.  Add to it the fact I now am retired and my entire day – the entire rest of my life – lies ahead of me without commitments – and it becomes overwhelming on one side, and so exciting on the other.

The word is potential.  Black and white photography is filled with it.  Suddenly, mood is becoming more important than subject matter.  How I manipulate subject matter is the focal point of the image.  Mood is, as I think of it, what I am trying to say.

This lack of color is remaking my conceptions of art and life – for the better?  for the worse?  New doors are opening as the restrictive quality of silent black and white continues.

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