A genre of my art which is very close to my heart is Black & White photography. A monotone photograph seems, in my opinion, to stand the test of time so much better than colour. Where colour is a fashion, whether it’s an HDR hyper realistic colour or a faded retro colour tone, it eventually will fall out of favour.
Ansel Adams’ Black & White landscapes are as relevant today as they were when he first created them but, more importantly, portraits in monotone of people more than 50 years ago are as ‘in fashion’ now as they were then. The absolute miracle of a black and white image is that it sets aside distractions like colour clashing, or colour distraction and pares the image down to the absolute essentials. The shapes, the textures, the tones – the essence.
There are different variations on the Black & White photograph, namely High Key images where the tones lean towards the highlights and the shadows are less significant except to define structure. It is very important in these images not to blow out the highlights. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Low Key image which concentrates on the darks and uses the highlights to define the structure – typically a more dramatic image.
Oftentimes, photographers simply convert a photograph into grayscale and mistake this for true black and white. Ansel Adams (again!!) and Fred Archer formulated the Zone system in 1939/40 which has become the ‘ten commandments’ of Black & White photography. As relevant as it was to film exposure and development in 1939, it is still today in digital photography. Essentially, a good Black and White image should capture all 11 of the zones, ranging from pure white to pure black. When seen through this system, the difference between a desaturated image and a good black and white becomes very obvious.