Like Cheryl, my photographic vision is in black & white.
Because B&W photography is MAGIC !!!
I touch on several of the previous posters' ideas. B&W is the first thing I experienced photographically (partly due to my age) and I was processing it myself in the late 1950s. Over the years, I got away from it, but now I'm back, full circle as it were. I do shoot plenty of color too, but mostly the technology that cannot be named in a documentary function. What rekindled my interest in B&W was looking at color pictures I shot at Pompeii in 2005. There is so much texture there -- weathered/eroded stone walls and roads and all sorts of structures that I feel would lend themselves to monochrome, working with the light and emphasizing the textures and abstract forms without the distraction of color. (Don't know if I'll ever get back there, but today I'm better prepared, just in case. )
Color is too literal. As gorgeous as some color work can be, if it's a landscape sort of image, it just never, ever stays with me. I now tone nearly all my work in thiocarbamide and selenium, so there's warm "color" aplenty, but it's monochromatic, and that's the issue. There are very, very few color images made in a "fine art" sense, that have the resonance that monochrome photographs have for me. Besides, as David Vestal wrote: "In black and white, the colors are better!"
Because it's way cheaper! I told a few people that I like to shoot film, and suddenly everyone was giving me free film and paper and cameras. I got enough apx100 and multigrade iv to last me a lifetime.
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Color helps give the brain cues to make stuff up, to fill in what it knows before a person really sees. B&W doesn't have so many of these cues, and so people tend to really see what is there, rather than what their brain tells them they should see, so in many cases it has a clearer voice, particularly with someone who hasn't yet learned how to see. (relearned really, we all could see when we were very young.)
Or conversely, without colour filling in much of the picture, B&W allows the viewer to discover the image, make up what there isn't, engaging him more.
I don't know how much B&W I would shoot if I had my own colour lab (film development and colour prints), but I would still shoot some.
As I don't have my own colour lab, I currently shoot lots more B&W than colour.
The opportunity to do my own printing is critical. As my available space is so limited, I would probably have to sacrifice one (B&W) for the other (colour) if I were to print in colour.
I used to work at labs, so I used to print colour, and I miss it.
I see subjects regularly that I think will work best in colour. Same goes for B&W.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I shoot both black & white and color. While I do have color processing equipment, I do not have enough custom color printing to do to make it economically viable. So I do my own black & white darkroom work.
Black & white is harder to get a good final print because one needs to be able to compose in black & white well. The ability to do that improves the color work and allows me to work on the "art" part of photography.
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
It looks good...
...and all of the coolest color films and papers are going away.
I definitely used to shoot a lot more color when there was more variety, and when I could easily print things myself.
Black and white is instantly recognized as abstract by our brain/eyes. Almost nothing we see in reality looks like it. I believe we automatically question things more and think about them more when we see a black and white picture. I believe that we try to "figure it out," naturally.
Thus, I prefer color for straight documentary/journalism because it is more representational of what actually happened. Other documentary photographers, who want to solicit a particular reaction from their viewers, as opposed to simply imparting information to them, tend to prefer black and white for exactly the opposite reason: it is automatically more representational of something physically intangible; a mood, an emotion, etc.
I prefer color for many things, because it is so much more subtle, and it is easier to be subversive when someone takes something more literally and doesn't think about it too much.
In other words, I believe that we unconsciously see a black and white picture as a picture of a thing, while we naturally accept a color picture more as the thing itself.
When in doubt about what I want when shooting, I usually shoot color, unless I am simply after the ease of processing and printing one gets with black and white. I can always - and relatively easily - make a black and white print from color film (using analog or digital methods), but I cannot do the opposite.
...but as I said, printing color may not be an option for much longer.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 05-19-2010 at 10:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)