Monday, July 8, 2013

B&W vs color - for me it is B&W

I just read an article by B. D. Colen of A Day in Our Life fame. It is about why he does most of his work in black&white including forcing students of his workshops to do black&white. When I first got going in photography, I shot a lot of different films both color and black&white and print and slides. I took my first roll of b&w, Kodak Tri-X, to a local 1-hour lab and waited for the results. Well, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. There was none of the pop of the images I was seeing in the books I was looking at. Then I happened on trio of books by Ansel Adams, the acclaimed landscape photographer. In reading about his Zone System, I learned that my problem was not with the film I was using but the lab's way of printing. So I enrolled in some basic photography courses at the local community college and learned how to do it myself. Back in the day of film, the only way to get a decent b&w image was to do it yourself.
Now I was never a decent darkroom artist. Too little time to really spend in a bathroom-turned-darkroom to learn the intricacies of different papers and chemicals to become proficient as a printer. But I did see the difference that printing your own images made over some machine that could not see the "soul" of the image that I wanted to project.

Fast forward to today and I still develop my own b&w with a changing bag and then use a film scanner to get it into the computer. But, with the majority of my shooting color digital, I have to convert it. Initially, I used layers in Photoshop to get the look that I wanted. Today, I use Silver Efex Pro 2 as it simplifies the workflow and has all the power of the darkroom to dodge and burn, spot any flaws, etc.
 But, even with all that said (or written), it is still about the image. Now I have always been inspired by the documentary work of the early photojournalists. Now I am not talking about the images of the wars, famines, etc., that most people associate with the term "photojournalist". I am talking about ordinary people that are living ordinary lives - getting up, going to work, raising a family, etc. "Slice of life" images are the term I have seen somewhere and it holds true for the image that mean the most to me.
The image I have chosen to take a look at today is, to me, one of those type of images. Taken at a local market in London, I think this shot epitomizes the focus of some of the early PJs like Cartier-Breeson, Roisneau, Ronis and others. While this image was taken with a big pro DSLR and a superzoom lens, it was shot at 35mm and an aperture of f5.0. A wide enough field of view to bring context to the image but close enough to the subjects to see there is some interaction. I have no clue what this gentleman was saying to [what I presume was] his wife. BUT I hope that an image like this gets the viewer to wonder what is being said.....

As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....


  1. I love your shots of everyday people in everyday life of which this is a great example. Just discovered your blog and looking forward to following it - I have been following your pictures on Flickr for some time. I love your black and white pictures and they inspire me to start turning more attention to black and white in my own photography.

  2. Thanks, David, for your kind words. As my latest entry shows, I am trying to develop a new sense of purpose to my photography at this point. Your words here are an inspiration to me to keep trying.