Black & White Photography In A World of Rainbows

By  |  0 Comments

Over 100 years have passed since color film was first patented in 1903.  And yet to this very day, black and white photography remains wildly popular.  It’s impact is both immediate and lasting.  It’s simplicity binds the past, present and future of photography together with only two elements.  And in a society that is overwhelmed by information overload, simplicity of vision and a clear message may be needed more than ever.  To date, about the only thing I’ve ever photographed that just doesn’t play out in black-and-white is… a rainbow.  Go figure!

The “problem” with black and white photography is that it makes EVERYTHING look cool;  a solitary tree on a hill, in color, is just some tree on a hill.  But reduced to monochrome it suddenly becomes… art.  I know that as a photographer, I’m not the only person who salvages marginal images (or mediocre models) by converting them to black and white.  Tada!  Instant wow-factor.  Usually my clients don’t even realize why I’m doing this (thank God!)  But this raises the question: if everything in black and white is art then how do we define what really is art in the medium, or what is just a bad image?  The definition of art is as difficult to nail down as… well… a bent nail.  But since this is my editorial column, I get to be egotistical and supply my own definition:

True “art” is an attempt to say the same old thing in a new and different way.

I believe black and white remains popular because it breaks down complex messages into bite-size portions that are easier to digest.  That tree on the hill, with all it’s colors and shapes and complexity, is just too much information to process if taken in all at once.   With color, we tend to focus on specific details rather than the subject as a whole.  Remove some of the distracting colors and we now see the world defined by contrast and and shape alone.  And therein lies the magic of black and white: forcing us to see the same old things in new and different ways… even that boring old tree on a hill.

Onward and upward,

Jim Jurica, BeautyLook Editor