A few dry roses, a bunch of hydrangea and a freshly picked pear combined with bright natural light were an irresistible invitation to a few shots. So camera in hand, feet a on chair (and sometimes the table!) my Saturday afternoon was spent setting the right shutter speed, looking for the right angle, waiting for the light to shine just about right where I wanted it to fall. About an hour later I had a certain idea of which photos would be on the edit list.
This time, I went for Black & White again. I wanted to achieve a poetic and enigmatic atmosphere. Although I could have used artificial light, I felt that the natural available through a large window was falling nicely on the objects to achieve that specific effect.
These are just two comments that I remember seeing on some of my photo albums recently. They’re talking about photos in Black & White. Over 3/4 of the photos I take are mono. When it comes to explaining it, I struggle. B&W is a natural choice. Trying to lay the reasons on paper though, here’s what I would say:
Black & White images project a unique atmosphere. Without the distraction of colours the focus is on the moment or the subject. For example with portraits it seems that the connection to the subject is even stronger. It’s an honest shot of the subject. Combined with astute use of light and shadows and great expressions the images tend to make more of an impact on me as a viewer. I feel that I am already getting to know the person I am looking at. I heard a say about colour vs. B&W photography which goes: “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and White, you photograph their souls!” – (Ted Grant).
B&W evokes times gone by, it’s an invitation to visit another decade, another century. Just open Brassai’s Paris by Night and you will understand immediately. When I look at his photos, I start wandering through the streets, I am no longer sitting at my desk but I am there, in the shadows of alleys, furtively walking past fountains, cats, lovers on the bench, police patrols… The contrast creates the drama which catches the imagination and plunges the viewer into the captured scene.