Colour or Black & White?

January 02, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

I shall admit up front, black and white has always fascinated me. From the old black and white movies I loved (and still do) as a child, to the photographs in the old family album to the beauty, simplicity and complexity of a good old Zebra, the two extreme tones of black and white and all the midtones in between have always just "done it" for me.

Many moons ago when I had a "boss" when working as a photographer, it seemed all my projects were to be shot in colour. To be honest I found this boring in the extreme. Don't get me wrong, I love colour, particularly those found within the magical realm of nature.
 
However from an artist's point of view I found it creatively inhibiting and run of the mill.
 
We all see in colour, we dream in colour, we think in colour, we even know what to expect from colour. If someone says "look at my photo of a tree" it's a good chance that tree will feature greens and browns in it.
 
Presenting a tree in black and white I find far more interesting. What filters will I apply, will I go with a strong smooth midtone style or one of highs and lows and real black and white contrast?
 
Yes, I suppose people could say similar challenges await the color photographer and I wouldn't argue. Black and white however, is far more exciting to me because people still don't know quite what they'll see with a black and white representation.
 
As an example try this experiment. Choose a TV show you like and are very familiar with, watch it but turn down the colour completely so you are watching a B&W TV show.
 
Try watching Dr Who, Seinfeld or Torchwood in B&W and you will probably start to understand what I mean, it's a very different experience and brings a unique "feel" to the show.
 
Moving on from many moons and I now have a thriving business and no longer have need for a "boss" to make me shoot in colour.
 
As such, probably 90% of my work is black and white from choice. At times, such as the floral shots from the Blue Mountains, I find the colours so vibrant and energising I just have to represent them in colour.
 
Just recently (see The Dancer collection) I have experimented with using a very very low saturation level on some of my shots giving them a soft, washed out pastel look. Certainly not a new method, but it's new for me when I use them on shots I would probably more often than not give a strong and bold finish to.
 
My aim has been to get the colour to a level of softness whereby the viewer is not sure for a moment if they are seeing a colour shot or a black and white shot.
 
Whatever your choice, enjoy it. Don't be afraid to play, as an artist, with all those options and effects regardless of your choice. It's why we are artists.
 
Ciao

 


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