Monday, March 29, 2010
Transform the Ordinary ~ the Beauty of Black and White Photography
I am often asked why I persist with black and white photography when there is colour, in all its saturated glory. However, for me there is still something so classic and appealing about a good black and white print that seems to elevate it above a colour version.
I love working with colour, but sometimes removing colour leaves the eye free to concentrate on the form, structure and the more graphic qualities of an image, though not all subjects work well in black and white. In fact, the true art of black and white photography is in being able to identify the right subjects to photograph. Lighting is the most crucial part of successful black and white photography. Keith Cooper, a well known Black & White Photography specialist said, "When I'm thinking of black and white images, the absence of light can be as important as the highlights. Good deep shadow can give a depth and solidity to an image."
Black and white photography is all about tonality, light and contrast. Photographic portraits in black and white are astutely revealing. In stripping away the colour, they seem to reveal the real, raw characteristics of the subject, while managing to achieve a sense of vulnerability and sensitivity.
In Macro photography, shape, form, pattern and textural details are extremely important. In this genre colour can sometimes be a distraction, whereas the medium of black and white can lead the eye right into the crevasses and tiny details of a textured surface, bringing an edge to macro images.
I have found that simplicity is the key with macro photography in black and white. I look for strong lines, deep shadows and distinct patterns. The more texture, the better the image!
It is often said that a photographer who works with colour needs to learn to 'see' in black and white before he/she will be successful with this medium. We need to be able to see beyond the interaction of light and colour and look at the shadows, the tones, the contrast, the patterns and the textures that are so bountiful in the world around us.
For me personally, exploring the seductive world of black and white photography is enormously satisfying and I learn so much each time I work in the genre. It seems to detach my work from the real world and gives it a wonderful sense of timelessness and drama.
As Ansel Adams, one of the greatest American landscape photographers says: "In wisdom gathered over time, I have found that every experience is a form of exploration."