Thursday, July 17, 2008

Learning in Black and White

Berenice Abbott,Photographer
(more on Berenice at the end of this post)

Since working with photography, I have learned to have a greater appreciation for Black and White subjects. Prior to that, I just didn't get it. I wanted the pretty. Show me the color!!!. What I didn't realize was how much beauty I was actually missing out on.

The purpose of this post is to show you what I mean. If you were like me and never really got the whole B&W thing, then take a little time and read this post and maybe it will help. What have you got to lose....Nothing....what have you got to gain....Everything.

The advantage of seeing a subject in black and white is that the lines, shapes, and mood can be completely different. Free of the distraction of color, the eye is left to see the geometric designs of lines and shapes more clearly. Things that we very well may have missed by marveling at the wonderfully cherry red mixed with shiny chrome.

Click on image for full impact

Now, as a further example: I also mentioned how the mood of a photo can change. In this example, using my favorite stand in, you can see that I have removed the obstacle of color from the photograph. This changes not only the mood of the subject but also allowed me to create a timeless photo. I applied a sepia tone to the black and white version to help take the subject out of present day. Creating a timeless effect for a photo can also effect your perception of the subject and the mood it creates for you.

Click on image for full impact

Ok, lets pull some of this together in a final demonstration. You may recognize this photo from my "Black Eyed Peas" post of two days ago. In the photo, I'm hoping you can see the difference removing the color makes. In the black and white version, the interaction and animation of the subjects is so much more heightened. The "lean in" of the fellow on photo left to the fellow on photo right is more predominant; as is all of the body action between the subjects. A fact that would take longer to reach in the color version. This is because the black and white version allows the lines and curves of the body to be more clearly visible. This applies even in the face where the expression is heightened from being able to see the features of the face even more. Not only that, this picture could have been taken yesterday or in 1961, thus enforcing a timelessness to the photograph. This picture was actually just taken the other day at a Latin Festival.

Click on image for full impact

I don't know if this helps you gain a greater appreciation for black and white images or not. If it did, then the post and your time was worth it.

Please comment and/or express your opinions. I love both the positive and the negative. The positive, because I have an ego. The negative, because it helps me learn.

Now back to Berenice Abbott. Did you think I would forget? Berenice is a famous American photographer. Except for a formative and influential decade in Paris in the 1920s, she spent most of her productive life in photography in New York City.

Her photographs reflect her appreciation for the profound documentary capacity of rigorously conceived images to impart information in an aesthetically engaging way.

For very good Black and White examples, click here to go to the NYPL to see her work from 1935-1939, called Changing New York. I particularly like her photograph of the news stand. The detail in it is amazing and technically very hard to achieve.



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