I had a rather interesting email conversation with a friend yesterday. We are both lovers of B&W photography. After looking at my recent shots she asked me a rather obvious question but one that I had never thought about before. Basically she asked if you take content out of a photo, in this case the color, why does a rather basic snapshot suddenly become more serious, more a work of art and not just a snapshot.
I never took more than basic photography courses in school so I had to give it some thought before I answered and came up with one thought in particular. In taking the color out of the photo maybe the photographer makes the viewer subconsciously try and put it back in and in so doing makes the viewer dwell on it longer. As my friend put it so well, “with color your brain automatically looks at it and says 'yeah, I know what that is, next.'”
I work almost exclusively in mono because I think it is the most expressive form of photography. The only times I use color are when I am just taking snapshots, highlighting with mellow shades, or the color is just so brilliant it screams out to be used. Still one of the simplest ways to grab an art viewer’s eye is with color. Obviously this is something you can't do with B&W and so you are forced to use textures and the tones themselves. Your mind looks at a composition in a totally different way. Textures, tones, and patterns can be so exciting without color taking away from them as the subtle changes become profound and jump from the shot.
Contrast is something else you can use more and to better effect in B&W shots. You don't have to worry about the many different colors in a composition and how they each blend with the other or reflect the light. Contrast becomes so distinct that, with the use of dark shadows and bright lights, you are able to see or show things you normally wouldn’t be able to. Try this in a color shot and, as I told my friend, the photo just becomes an abstract. Funny thing is I love abstract painting but I never was a big fan of abstract in photography.
Something else I personally am not a fan of is the current trend towards 'partial color' photos. Partial color is the style of honing in and enhancing with bright color one particular part of an otherwise B&W photo. As I said sometimes I will use mellow shades to highlight a shot but what I was talking about when I said that was a bleeding away of color in the whole shot until it becomes barely visible.
I could go on about this all day but I didn’t set out to write a book here. I just wanted to expand on an interesting conversation between two ‘color photo snobs.’
Life goes on
Audioslave - Doesn't Remind Me