Black & White

Black and white is powerful… and not just in the form of black words on white paper.

Not long ago on Steller  I saw a story about beaches – shot entirely in black and white. Despite of some evidence to the contrary (the Irish Sea comes immediately to mind), I always considered beaches as places of colour and I would have never believed it if someone told me that black and white photos of beaches can be effective. But they were.

I mention this because day 4 of Everyday Inspiration called for a post inspired by a single image; and – although this is not what the the writers of the prompt had in mind – this put me in mind of black and white photography.


I’m old enough to have all my childhood photos in black & white and I remember how, when colour photography finally arrived (better still, when we could afford it), we all immediately eschewed the boring monochrome. And glorious colour has been ruling ever since, at least among ordinary people and amateur photographers. But go and look at real photographers’ work and you’ll find that black and white is alive and well. And it always was.


Version 2

I’m no photography expert. In fact, I’m only just beginning to wake up to the fact that all of us who so desperately try to capture the exact way the three-dimensional world looks around us when we’re at some gorgeous holiday location are missing the point completely. You can’t enclose the real world in neat little rectangles on a piece of photo paper or on the screen of a computer. At least, not if you try to include everything. Just like a writer will not describe every minuscule detail but concentrates on relevant acts, scenery or characters, so you too, if you want to begin to fancy yourself a photographer will have to start concentrating on the relevant only.


In the end, photography – the art, as opposed to merely taking pictures – is telling stories.

There are writers whose prose is starkly stripped down, and often these writers pack more punch in a short story than others into four verbose volumes.  A photographer will de-clutter his picture in the same manner. He’ll focus his camera on his subject, leaving the background blurry. He’ll strip away the colour. Because at times colour is a distraction, something that clutters your picture, something that interferes with the story you’re trying to tell. To arrive at the essence, you have to strip away the irrelevant.

3 thoughts on “Black & White

  1. belshade

    What you say of B&W is very true. My own feeling is that if we want to interpret a scene in colour we should use the techniques and materials of the artist. The key word is “interpret”. Both photographer and artist are interpreting a 3-dimensional scene in two dimensions. By using colour in photography we are claiming to reproduce an image exactly, which we cannot do. (One dimension is missing and the colour can never be true to life). However we keep trying and are understandably pleased when we get a reasonable colour facsimile – but is that the object of photography? There is however a place for a colour photography abstraction. Here the camera can succeed since it is not reproducing but interpreting. Des.


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