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Thread: So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

  1. #1

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    This was recently posted on the rec.photo.darkroom newsgroup. It met with very e nthusiastic response there, so with the author's permission, I would like to rep ost it to the forum here.

    From what I've read here recently, it seems that a lot of photographic companies have drastically reduced their commitment to black & white products. Most photo graphy is done in color, and black & white has survived mainly as an art medium. It looks like black & white photography as it exists right now might disappear altogether as companies decide that it is no longer cost-efficient to produce pr oducts for black & white photographers.

    I would like to start a discussion about this topic to find out what other peopl e's take on this issue is. Do you think that black & white photography is going to disappear? If so, why, and if not, why not? If it does disappear, what will b e the alternatives for people who still want to shoot in black & white?

    -- Scott Daniel Ullman

    sdullman@i_hate_spam.stanford.ude

    (Remove "i_hate_spam" and change "ude" to "edu" to send e-mail.)

  2. #2

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    Erik: I shoot color, so I am not emotionally tied to the issue.

    I suspect the answer depends, in large measure, on how much photographers are willing to pay for B&W materials. As demand shrinks, companies look to the bottom line. They can discontinue products, or raise prices.

    I suspect Kodak will be under pressure to reduce their product line. They always seem willing to kill products... remember dye transfer materials?

    Overall, expect less selection and higher prices for the forseeable future. B&W materials are easier to produce than color, so you might see smaller companies expanding into the niche if prices are high enough for them to be profitable.

    Depending on the march of digital technology, traditional color films and papers may not be far behind B&W, however, I would be surprised if there were no B&W materials available a decade from now... two decades is a different story.

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I thought they were already gone.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  4. #4
    aleatorist David R Munson's Avatar
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    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    B&W will never go away, even in its current form, ever. Even if demand drops and manufacturers cut back, or even eliminate their B&W product lines, there will always be other companies to pick up where they left off and fulfill the needs of photographers. There are many photographers who, like myself, love B&W and every step of the process from loading the film to mounting the print. There are also artists, teachers, photojournalists, etc. who would want to keep B&W alive. There ist still a very strong market for B&W products and I don't see that market changing appreciably in the forseeable future. Sure, some people will switch over to digital, but there are plenty others for whom digital isn't even an option, either due to financial reasons or, like me, would just rather work with traditional materials.

    A lot of people see digital photography as being something to replace both B&W and color film photography. Is digital going to bewhere it's at in ten years? Will the world's left over supply of film be used to pave roads and put at the bottom of gerbil cages? Not likely. The way I see it, digital isn't so much a replacement for film-based processes as it is a supplement to them. Early in the twentieth century when color processes were becoming available, people predicted that within x number of years, B&W would be dead. Who in their right minds would continue to shoot B&W when color was just as readily available? Quite a few people, as it turns out. As we know quite well by now, color wasn't a replacement for B&W, just another option. And that's exactly what I see digital as being- just another option.

    So no, B&W photography will not disappear. Certain things, like the availability of certain products, might change, but I really can't see B&W photography as a whole losing much strength for a heck of a long time. Not if I have anything to do with it, anyway. That's my $.02 for the day....

  5. #5

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    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    Agree with Dave. The people that are screaming the end of B&W are the same bunch that were screaming the world was going to end Jan. 1, 2000.

  6. #6

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    Companies like Kentmere (www.kentmere.co.uk) are producing more b/w papers then ever before. So the future is still bright for us silver printers. Regards,

  7. #7

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    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    As long as the medium is used with talent and sensitivity and vision, there will be a demand for it. bw

  8. #8

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I went for a "social" dinner with a number of photographers and dealers, and a dealer was telling me that they had never sold as much fiber based black and white paper as they do now. I have been teaching large format photography and in particular portrait for 7 years and as surprising as it might sound the interest is growing rather than going down. All this happens in Holland, but I know that in England things are similar if not better, so guys and gals what are we talking about?

  9. #9

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    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I wish I was as positive as others here that feel B&W will be around for a long time to come. I think that it will be relegated to only the "fine art" group of people.

    As a member of the Palm Beach Photographic Centre's Board of Directors, I can tell you that out darkroom workshops are barely hanging on. Our digital workshops on the other hand are booming and are booked up pretty quickly. Perhaps people are eager to learn the new technology, perhaps digital has a mystique that interests people. I don't know, but certainly hope that b+W is around for many many more years.

    Mike

  10. #10

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I doubt B&W will die. Color dyes seem essentially unstable, though improving. There's always a market for permanent, and so far in photography, that seems limited to B&W.

    By the way, litho B&W will likely never die as long as things are printed, including circuit boards for electronics. There's just no sense in using 3 layers when 1 will suffice (and actually perform better).

    I sense that Ilford is also committed to B&W.

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