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Thread: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

  1. #21
    Scott Walker's Avatar
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    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    I see in color. For me, color photography would be like working 15 hour days then coming home to talk to my wife about work for a few hours before bed.

  2. #22

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    I shoot both. Which I choose depends on not only whether or not I'm emphasizing color relationships versus tone, but also the mood I'm trying to convey. When I look at two photographs of the same scene, one in black and white and one in color but otherwise the same, the black and white image automatically puts me into a detached mood in comparison. It's like my brain is telling me "ah, this isn't reality, I need to look at this differently". Conversely I find that the same image in color often provides greater emotional impact. From a workflow perspective, I usually make a black and white version of my color images that gets applied as a contrast layer.

    The solo exhibition that is my house has b+w and color separated. A wall will either be b+w or color, but not both.

  3. #23

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    Even when I shoot color, I try to find a way to make it black and white. IN the early days of digital cameras for news work, we were taught how to take an image from the old AP NC2000e and convert it to black and white by eliminating the noisiest channel. I still do that today with the modern cameras. The old school types, which means old photographers, had to think in terms of black and white because we worked in it. Now, we just deal with the decision as best we can: johnflavell.com (no 'www')
    "I meant what I said, not what you heard"--Jflavell

  4. #24
    multi format
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    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    because it is less expensive and easier to process
    and if i have to .. i can add color later ..

  5. #25

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    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    I shoot almost exclusively colour. Even when I did shoot black and white, it was consciously training for colour.

    But. Almost all my favourite photographers work in B+W.

    I think it's something to do with a strong sense of form, and particularly a feeling for the drawn line. Most colour photographers let the colour take over, or compose with patches or with blocks of texture. The sense of gesture and interpretation I get from my favourite colour painters (Kandinsky and Klee, for starters) is missing. B+W makes these things easier because you can create relationships or counterpoint between tones that do not match or contrast with each other in anything like the same way when seen in colour.

    Sometimes though, the sort of deadpan colour work that people here mostly like to deride, does succeed in raising itself to a Siskind or Brett Weston level of composition. Usually though, the formality is less obvious, or less sublime, so a degree of receptiveness and openness is required of the viewer.

  6. #26

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    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses thus far! It's very insightful.

    A few comments/responses:

    Bob Carnie: "I believe Black and White silver print materials have better archival properties." Absolutely, this is a very good point, plus there is something beautifully tactile in expertly crafted B&W fiber print that is lacking in every color (even traditional darkroom) print I have ever made.

    Bruce Watson: "so... is your photograph about the shape of the clouds, or the color of the sky?" Interesting question and I understand where it is coming from. However, personally for my work I don't think of it this way. The subject of my photographs are not colors. I want to represent reality and not get distracted by the materiality of the process. So I guess I shoot color because its there, its how I see, and it seems natural to me. To negate color (use B&W) seems like a conscious departure from reality to me. Which is not what I am attempting with my work.


    Greg Lockrey: "B&W is art. Color is illustration." This seems very generalized and inflammatory. Care to explain in greater length what you intend by this statement?

    Vaughn: "People see color differently -- color blindness, or just differently. B&W thus tends to be a bit more universal,..." This is a very interesting point. Visual communication (in this case photography) can generally be thought of as a more universal form of communication than verbal or written language. There are of course exceptions, as cultures do interpret visual queues differently, but I can see how it may be possible that B&W could be a bit more universal....interesting.....

    "I find that a great majority of people using color material do not actually use color effectively in their composition -- just like the majority of B&W photographers fail to use light (light intensity?) effectively in composition." Agreed, there are a lot of ineffective photographs out there, both color and B&W.

    Leigh: "Black and white is a fantasy. When someone sees a b&w photo, they know they've been transported into another place and time." Interesting point. And it seems true to me, especially your comment about time. Personally, I can't help but see the decision to shoot B&W as a form of nostalgia. It always reminds me of the past, but that's not to say that nostalgia cannot be a very powerful and effective tool.

    Duane Polcou: "One's choice between color or black and white is largely dependent upon what you wish notice when out photographing, or what photographers often refer to as how you wish to "see". I think if colors are of primary impact and enjoyment then one should work in color. If the beauty of tonal relationships is more important, then black and white." Well put! This seems pretty spot on to me.

    Michael E: "If you have to ask, you will never understand :-)" Ha! this is probably very true, I have resigned myself to not understanding a lot of things.

    John Kasaian: "Should Kodak and Fuji discontinue color film, it is likely that color will dissappear much like last weeks pay, next months rent, Studebakers and real rock and roll." Ha! This is what I am worried about.....less the Studebakers, and more the discontinuation of color film.....

    ohn Flacell: "It's a weird thing to explain at times, but black and white as a documentary and art tool tend to tell stories better than shooting in color simply because color exist." So black and white tells a story better because its separate from reality? The black and white photograph becomes something apart from the thing itself? I can see this point of view but have to respectfully disagree. Personally, I find the lack of color in a photograph distracting from the story. Where as a color photograph is what I am used to seeing and that makes it easier for me to focus on the subject matter rather than the materials and process. But, I suppose it has a lot to do with the particular story you are trying to tell...

    Brian C Miller: "Kodak makes 8x10 Portra special order." "Kodak discontinues E-6." "Of course, Kodak has made all 8x10 film special order." I don't think this has happened yet has it? I believe 8x10 Portra is still readily available......but I guess I could have missed something...

    "So for as long as I can, I will use the color film, and then bid it adieu." And then what? ....this is my concern too, will I start shooting B&W? I don't know, I sort of doubt it. But I have a lot invested in my LF system and scanner....so who knows. Either way it will be a long time before a digital back capable of what I want will be readily available to me.

    Scott Walker: "I see in color. For me, color photography would be like working 15 hour days then coming home to talk to my wife about work for a few hours before bed." Nice analogy, so again B&W represents a departure from reality. And that is the incentive for shooting it.

    John Rodriguez: "When I look at two photographs of the same scene, one in black and white and one in color but otherwise the same, the black and white image automatically puts me into a detached mood in comparison. It's like my brain is telling me "ah, this isn't reality, I need to look at this differently". Once again a departure from reality. For my work I try to avoid detachment from reality, so I guess it makes sense that I shoot color. I don't believe it can be argued that any photograph is not a departure from reality, but a B&W seems like a greater departure than color. I guess color is just enough removed to suit my needs, while depending others may desire more.


    Thanks again for all your thoughtful responses! Keep them coming!
    ----------------------
    http://adamsatushek.com

  7. #27

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    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    Color tells us what things look like. B&W tells us what they felt like (I have no idea if that's true but it sounds good to me).

    These days I photograph in color most of the time because I use a digital camera a lot and I find that I can't see in b&w when I have color capability in the camera. And I enjoy color and appreciate a good color photograph. But to me there's nothing in photography as beautiful as a really well-made b&w print.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #28
    Greg Lockrey's Avatar
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    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    ''Greg Lockrey: "B&W is art. Color is illustration." This seems very generalized and inflammatory. Care to explain in greater length what you intend by this statement?''

    Art is about inflaming.... Illustration is about recording....

    What Brian said....
    Greg Lockrey

    Wealth is a state of mind.
    Money is just a tool.
    Happiness is pedaling +25mph on a smooth road.



  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    Black and white is a fantasy....

    It's a unique art form, interpreting reality in a way that's not possible with more 'realistic' techniques.
    You nailed it, Leigh. B&W is uniquely photographic, and distinguishes itself from, say, painting just by being monochrome. Even when people paint in shades of gray, it looks photographic (if they do it well enough). It gives the photographic medium a raison d'Ítre.

    With color, which is most of what I have done for the last couple of decades, the question always has to be asked, "what makes this image photographic, and would painting have been a better medium?" It's not an easy question for me to answer, though better artists are able to.

    Rick "a mediocre artist easing back to black and white to avoid having to answer that question" Denney

  10. #30

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    It amazes me how insecure photographers are about their art work. "Is black and white more artistic then color?" "Am I more of an artist because I develop myself?". Maybe it's feelings of insecurity because you're not painting?

    Most of my artistic background comes from music. I played guitar in metal bands when I was younger, then DJ'd professionally during the rave scene hay days in San Francisco. In the music world you hear the same sort of insecure comments from veteran DJs now - "I'm more of an artist because I use vinyl instead of computers". My response is A) you're still not playing an instrument b) it doesn't effing matter - do you enjoy what you do? Do others? GREAT!. I hear the same thing from guys that play in punk bands - they look down on electronic musicians because they "don't play real instruments". Dude, you're whole musical movement was based on getting completely AWAY from the virtuosity of hard rock, and you can't play a decent solo to save your life. However, it doesn't effing matter. Just enjoy your art, and let others enjoy theirs. Your art is no better.

    By contrast, my friends that are comfortable with their musical abilities tend to be much more open minded about other forms of music creation. A guy that plays metal has no problem jamming with a jazz musician, or an electronic one. They just want to play anything they can get their hands on.

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