What happen to black & white photography

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In this day of pixels and printers, a time when a diminishing number of photographers relish the acerbic whiff of acetic acid stop bath, or the pungent smell of fixer, why black and white?

Why black and white, when colors are so brilliant and images so easily seductive?

When digital manipulation has become the norm, and flash has ultimately diminished the appreciation of the exquisite, yet perhaps too subtle, tonal range of ambient light?

Why Black and White?

Forgive my bias, but this seems to me a rhetorical question. The answers are many, and call me old fashioned, but black and white, the original art that inspired Sir John Herschel to coin the term “photography”  drawing with light  will always have a rightful place in the pantheon of legitimate art forms.

Because it’s an easily learned technology  although the best take years to master it  and even a beginner can expose, develop and print his own images. Because few pleasures match that of watching an image slowly emerge on paper, beneath a red or amber safelight.

Because despite the claims for color printing products, as far as we know black and white prints last much longer than color.

Because black and white has an inherent dignity.

Because color, especially in the hands of an amateur  how many photographs of sunsets have we seen, masquerading as “Art” .

Black and White is both the simplest, and the most sophisticated of photographic disciplines.

Shall we start at the beginning?

For most, an introductory photography class includes exposure  although most contemporary cameras are so technically advanced as to preclude the necessity of a very deep understanding of the relationship between f. stop and exposure time  development (learning how sensitive and capable our fingers can be in total darkness is a discovery bordering on epiphany for some); and then, the creation of work on paper: contact prints and enlargements.

To me, this is the equivalent of learning to draw in an art class: After you’ve mastered the basics, you may take this proficiency where you will, but it’s a pre-requisite of making informed art.

Written by Robert Bruce Duncan.

You can view black and white images at Biniam Ghezai photography,http://biniam.photoshelter.com .


3 thoughts on “What happen to black & white photography

  1. Good post! Black and white photography has to stand on its own two feet – no color crutch will help if you don’t watch your composition. I can’t say I miss the darkroom too much though – apparently my fingers aren’t too sensitive in the dark, making winding film pure torture! Interesting shot as well.

    1. Hi there,
      thank you for your comment and congratulation for the new bourn baby.My girldfriend is 11 weeks pregnant,scary.I must say that i miss the darkroom.Not sure if you are working with a gallery but i will send you a german online agency that sell photo art.
      Take care.

      1. Thanks! Congrats on the pregnancy – it’s early enough that I know everything seems unreal and overwhelming – just wait until you see that tiny heartbeat 🙂 9 months seems like a long time, but it sure goes by quickly! Thanks for checking out my blog as well.

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