I wouldn't just look at the deep psychological level. There is probably a strongly ingrained cultural response that comes from our continuous exposure to brightly coloured advertisement, contrasted with many people's attempt at ennobling their subject by shooting in B&W.
What's the most common reaction I hear about B&W ? That it looks more serious, more grave, more intimate, etc. But does it have anything to do with fundamental vision, or is it more because a specific aesthetic has been pushed onto B&W once colour became readily available?
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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Black and White is surreal and color can be representative. This is my interpretation.
I work with both. Love both. Like a painter I can do a line drawing or charcoal sketch or I can switch and do a water color or oil painting.
I can isolate something even from its color and show what I see.
Its all up to me. What I see and feel.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit"
It isn't useful to think of colour in terms of some kind of opposite, as so many photographers seem to do with the B & W vs. colour dichotomy. It isn't a dichotomy. Black is a colour, white is a colour. There are millions of shades of black, millions of shades of white. Each and every shade of grey in between is a colour. A black and white photographic print just works with a different colour palette than a colour print of the same subject. If you choose B & W film for a subject, you choose a colour palette for certain aesthetic reasons. The great renaissance painters would execute preparatory drawings as studies for their large paintings. The preparatory drawings would be done in black chalk, brown ink, red chalk, etc., the better to familiarize themselves with the range of light and shadow on the subject, representing the colour they saw in terms of value within one colour range. Then, once they understood the subject completely and had finalized their picture composition, they would begin the large painting using the full colour range at their disposal. I think of B & W photography as drawing, and colour photography as painting. It's only a metaphor, but it works for me. Which is better, drawing or painting? An absurd question. The one cannot exist without the other. The better one can draw, the better one can paint.
I don't know where this quote came from but...
" If I want to show you something I shoot color. If I want to tell you something I shoot b&w." This holds true for me in the way I respond to images and how I shoot.
I like thatone -- succinct and it aligns with the notions that B&W tells behavior and motion, color tells about materials. Evolution helps those who play along.
Originally Posted by rpsawin
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Painters...professional painters at least... will usually do a 'value' study before applying color. Since any color of the same value will register as an equivalent gray in a black and white photograph, seeing color in terms of value is essential. 'Seeing' in black and white, is the ability to perceive value and understand how it will affect the image. Form, texture and the arrangement of elements are only revealed when there is adequate contrast in value to render their weight in the image as the photographer intends them to be. In a sense, a black and white photograph that works has only this fundamental structure to insure its success. The importance of value is such that Picasso is said to have declared: "If you run out of blue, use red." which is testament to the notion that color is a secondary consideration to value. What's more, the professional painter usually limits his palette to certain colors...not the "millions of colors" that film or digi devices use. Hence, there is deliberate choice on the part of the painter which the photographer is denied unless he chooses to heavily manipulate the image. Since many don't, their work is far more limited despite the apparent paradox of having a complete array of colors rendered on their medium.
Originally Posted by Svend Videbak
So.....in my opinion, the best of black and white photographs are far more expressive than color ones because the photographer exercises, a priori, far more control of the medium. Of course, that's so all encompassing a statement that it's DOA I guess, but it's the way I feel about it.
I think it's obvious that modern day photographers are uniquely gifted.
If one were to go back to the cave drawings of the Neanderthals, one would readily see that they were drawing in color.
This tendency towards "flashiness" continued throughout the ancient era and particularly flourished during the Renaissance and later periods of representational oil paintings. Clearly, these earlier artists were slaves to the idea of color - a very distracting element which diminished whatever art they hoped to achieve.
Indeed, it was not until the invention/evolution of photography that the true pure aesthetic of B&W was discovered.
Yes, while skeptics might argue that B&W photography was simply an interim step because the original chemistry did not yet permit the rendering of light onto the chemical media in color - the true believers knew otherwise.
They had discovered MONOCHROME.
In fact, they had discovered that there really was no color in the world at all!
Nonetheless, luddite elements infested the photographic community and ultimately created film-based emulsions which were capable of rendering color. Of course, this was a shocking turn of events because it meant one could produce photographs that did not actually represent monochrome reality at all - but instead presented a false "colorful" world.
Fortunately, we have now come to our senses and recognized that color is not a reality at all. It is merely a distraction.
This is why you never see color photos in newspapers and magazines anymore. And certainly, the web remains a bastion of monochromism along with television, both broadcast and cable.
Yes, color has been banished as a false god. We can now all dress in black clothes as if we were artistes living in NYC's East Village circa 1983.
Isn't it wonderful? :rolleyes:
Originally Posted by copake_ham
I'm really sorry, but your explanation of the world just flies in the face of how I understand color and black & white to be.....
If I need to choose between you and Calvin.... sorry..
On a more serious note, I agree the posters that feel that good B&W images emphasize the shapes, the tones, and texture. I think that compelling color images are harder to make, since the the color needs to enhance the other aspects of the picture, not detract from it. I do hope to get better at it - I'm taking some color photography classes at a local art college - perhaps I'll get it some day.
Cheers "copake ham" for the blunt-force sarcasm, enjoyed that. I agree with your sentiment. I've heard quite a few photographers say "I just don't like colour" and, after my gag reflex has abated, I just shake my head internally. It doesn't matter. I guess B & W work is habit-forming because it's easy and cheap to develop films yourself ... heck, this is probably true of me. And it's probably a good thing for photography that quite a few good photographers work only in B & W.
I'll take the liberty of changing the original question from, "What are my thoughts on how I feel when viewing B&W vs. color" to "What are my thoughts on how I feel when viewing ANY PHOTOGRAPH."
Initially, I do not "think". I "feel" - accept the emotional stimulus afforded by the work - or try to. The way this works - I can honestly say that I do not know. The study of perception in itself and its effect on the human psyche is a fascinating one, and like most studies in the area called Psyche, or Soul, or Being - are nearly - or in fact, absolutely - deviod of any sort of concrete proof.
So far, I have come to the conclusion that color photographs and black and white photographs are different in their effect. I have seen listings of the effects of color - and have read many theories - but, without proof, the WHY remains a mystery - and a delicious one at that.
I LOVE color - as much as I love black and white ... or monochrome, or sculpture or dance - or drama - or comedy ...
Why do I have to know WHY???
Ed Sukach, FFP.