My love for black and white photography began as a child. Growing up, I remember my grandpa developing his photos, taken on film, in his own darkroom. I found it amazing. The process, as well as the black and white images were mysterious. The way the room was dark, the red light hue that shown about, photos hanging to dry over pans of fixing chemicals. The images were minimalistic yet had complex attributes about it. Picking up every detail that can sometimes get lost in the busyness of color. The way that they evoke emotion. They tell stories in their own in a way that can’t be captured by colored photography.
I remember taking my first black and white photograph. It was done as a grade school project. We did the whole pin hole camera thing out of a cardboard oatmeal canister and light sensitive paper. You only had one chance at lifting up the flap for a few seconds to get the perfect exposure. Letting in too much light made for a blown out, featureless photo. Not enough light and your photo was too dark to see much detail of anything. The picture I took was a scene of a bright blue, cloudless sky and dark green ponderosa pine trees. Only you didn’t see any color. And in the absence of it, you saw tall trees with dark branches that contrasted against an almost white background in a juxtapose-type fashion. A puzzle-like pattern of tree bark, similar to the way mud dries and cracks under the hot sun. It was beautiful.
Nowadays I have an even deeper appreciation for black and white photography. Especially because taking these types of photos also challenge me to develop better photography skills. One thing I struggle with the most is proper exposure. So I like to seek out high-contrast scenes that help me figure out the proper balance. I especially like taking photos of old trees and antiques.
I don’t have my first photo to show you, but here are three photos that I took. I like them because they each tell a story within a story, memorable moments really.
The first is an old, drying tree that stood out to me while taking a several hour road trip through New Mexico, USA. Twisted branches at haphazard extension, growing and now dying in the middle of nowhere. The tree has seen a lot in its lifetime. With each season, the burden of heavy snow in Winter, restless wind in Spring, the sun drying it out even more in Summer, no marvelous leaves in Autumn. How it remains upright, with its roots exposed I’ll never know. And how has it never been struck by lightening?
The second photo, my late great grandpa’s antique telephone. I appreciate the characteristics of the wood grain, oak I believe. Craftsmanship, how crazy its design and functionality compares to my iPhone X.
And the third, a photo of Faneuil Hall, located in Boston Massachusetts, USA. With arched window frames and several layers of brick, it’s a neat building to look at. It was built in 1742 and housed a marketplace below and a public meeting hall above.
I enjoy Peter Lindberg’s style of black and white photography. Often times the subjects are close to the outer frame and makes for an intriguing composition. He shoots mostly portraits, mainly those of celebrities. I love the ones of Kate Winslet.
Jamie Windsor is a photographer and he’s known for teaching the art of photography on his YouTube channel. He made a video that has a lot of great information on how to improve your black and white photograph skills.
I think the translation and perception of color in makeup is one of the best ways to depict the power of black and white photography. Sam, a makeup artist, known as one of the Pixiwoo sisters, made a video about it years ago which I always thought was quite fascinating.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know about your experiences with black and white photography in the comments below, I’d love to hear! Have a lovely day!