Updated: Sep 3, 2020
What's great about shooting in black and white digitally is being able to see everything monochromatically in real time. In the past, photographs were shot with film and one would have to imagine how a subject seen in color would look in shades of gray. And yet many greats did it and were complete masters of their craft. Robert Capa, Man Ray, Henri Cartier Bresson, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, William Klein, Daido Moriyama come to mind. Of course, their real black and white world would come to life in the dim red light of the darkroom, where they would use filters, graded papers, developers with different characteristics, and waving their hands in front of an enlarger to shape their vision. In spite of these limitations, their work in many cases rivals that of some of the most talented photographers working today with their technological advantages. Imagination, great discipline, loads of passion, enormous amounts of talent, an instinctive sense of feeling The Shot, as if being drawn to it, are what really matters. No amount of high tech will give you that. It may help facilitate the process and open the doors to previously unknown techniques that will work wonders in the right hands, but will never substitute true innate ability.
Black and white photography cuts to the chase. No distracting colors to get in your way and veer you off course. It stays on point, focusing on the more formal aspects of volume, composition, contrast, point of view, depth of field, how one object relates to another in a spatial context. That's all it can do. It cannot fail in this or the image will look terrible. All that matters is the energy and geometry of the moment. This can actually alter one's perception of reality as one begins to understand the relationship between objects seen from a grayscale perspective. In my case it has led me into a world of highly crushed dark zones where the absence of light carries great significance for me. The challenge here is to attempt to convey an even greater pictorial sense with the least amount of information. It is far more enduring to me when I do this successfully. I have never used HDR, don't really understand it, and don't even know if I would be any good at using it.
A good day for me is simple: look at my screen, get excited at what I'm looking at, take the shot. Repeat. Edit. Repeat. Rain or shine, day or night, in the middle of nowhere or on a busy street, none of that matters. An artist carries the art inside. An artist is a medium, streaming life as it happens, constantly processing the information of the moment, both internally and externally. Art happens where and when it happens. It doesn't need anything spectacular or epic to feed on. That's not what it's about. The smallest, most trivial, and seemingly insignificant situations can be huge creative goldmines. All it requires is for you to look and react with your own unique vision. In a broader sense, 'life in monochrome' is a metaphor for finding your inner voice.
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