While discussing some of the photos on display in the Black and White Invitational at Image City Photography Gallery, one might ask “What makes an effective black and white photo?”
Of course the answer to this is subjective and really depends upon what the viewer finds appealing. One reason that people want to shoot in black and white is because it lends a certain timeless quality to the images. Often this is because many still think of black and white as a throwback to the photographic past. That photo could have been shot currently or 50 years ago. Black and white photos can make the viewer feel many different emotions that a color photo might not be able to do. The magic of black and white photography is that it typically lacks distractions and allows the viewer to see contrast, shadows, lines, patterns and textures that might not have been noticed if the image were in color.
There are several examples of these concepts on the featured walls of Image City’s Black and White Invitational. For example some of our exhibitors found interesting textures and patterns in nature or in architecture. In David Cook’s White Sands Curves, the power comes from the composition, the play of light, the texture and the sensuous shapes that he found within layers of sand.
Don Burkel is another photographer who employs the use of shapes and shadows in his image entitled Taliesin West.
Other photographers discover patterns in objects. For example, when viewing “Dinner is Served,” by Elisa Knataitis, the viewer is immediately drawn to the patterns that exist in several dishes stacked on top of one another, as they sit on shelves.
In “Stripes,” Steve Dent displays a striking portrait of a woman, emphasizing the pattern in her pants, suspenders, and the blinds. Steve also positioned the subject’s arms to enhance the patterns that were being emphasized within the composition.
Don Menges displays interesting black and white patterns and shapes in his 3 images entitled Curves #1, Curves #2,and Curves #3. The viewer is able to see different perspectives of the geometric patterns and swirling shapes found in a restaurant’s old-fashioned stools and booth.
Two photographers whose images bring out the texture of their subjects are Don Delong and Kimberly Benedetto. When viewing Don’s image, On the Rocks, the texture of the rocks and fur are striking.
In Kimberly’s photo, North Country Church, the lines, angles and textures presented are enhanced by using black and white.
In all of these photographers’ images, without the distraction of color, the viewer sees the interplay in the lines and patterns.
Lawrence Steinwachs is displaying images for which he utilized traditional black and white sheet film. Often when photographers decide to shoot in black and white, they are freed up to think about the lighting and composition on which they might not otherwise focus when thinking about making colors work. They are able to concentrate more on the direction, quantity and quality of the light around them. Lawrence shows this in his image entitled Beebee Station.
Many landscape photographers choose to embrace the grey days during the winter time. Grey skies, barren trees, and white snow covering the ground enable the photographer to “see” in black and white. The season provides a colorless quality that often inspires some photographers to create black and white or monochromatic images. For example in my image entitled, Esteemed, the day was gloomy but in post processing, I decided to make the image high key by lightening the grey sky so that the white provides an effective contrast between the trees, sky and snow. By using the high key effect, my intent was to provide a bright, positive feel.
While black and white photography can be applied in any setting, it’s often especially effective with street photography, which involves capturing the human condition in public places. Black and white images often capture the vibe of the streets and the people that occupy them. An example of this is seen in Stairway to Heaven, by Dylan Martin.
There are many black and white photos in the current show that illustrate how the photographer provides an emotional connection to a photo. In Gil Maker’s Swing, the viewer might be brought back in time, thinking about a childhood pleasure. The dark tone of the image contributes to the nostalgic feeling, when one might long for the past.
When visiting Image City Photography Gallery, viewers are treated to the uniqueness, depth, character and style that are seen in the photos currently on display. Even though we have come a long way from the era of film photography, black and white photography still holds a special charm. It is all about telling a story, highlighting a subject, and expressing emotions without the distraction of colors. After a visit to the gallery, many might discover a new passion for black and white images.
What do you like about black and white photography? Who are some black and white photographers that inspire you? Please add your comments.