Black and White, Monochrome, News, Philosophy of Photography

Monochrome (or Why I am Compelled to Shoot Black and White)

August 12, 2019

Monochrome becomes a way of looking at life. Allow me to explain. As a person who lives, as most of us do, in world filled with color – why would losing all that color be of interest? Granted, many of the photographs on this blog are in color, and they are photographs I treasure.  Let’s be honest, a butterfly just does not look as beautiful in black and white as it does in color!

As beautiful as colors may be, however, they can often be busy and/or distracting. Sometimes color gets in the way of seeing — really seeing the essence of an object or person or scene.

I started off my serious photography as a photojournalist/newspaper photographer back in the days when color in papers was still a novelty. (And yes, the Earth was cooling and dinosaurs roamed the planet!) Now newspapers themselves are becoming a novelty, but that is a subject for another day! Shooting almost totally in back and white film taught me to “see” in monochrome – it’s not hard really, it just takes a bit of time for one’s brain to convert the color image from the eyes to the mind’s monochrome-trained eye.

As a fan of Ansel Adams and the exposure system he perfected, The Zone System, I learned to “see” elements of various scenes as they should be placed within the Zone System. This allows for maximum photographic creativity and interpretation. The same system can also be applied to color images, but my use was primarily black and white.


 Take the two examples from above: to me, at least, the monochrome image cuts away the distraction of the ubiquitous green, allowing one’s eye to focus on the barn in all of its dilapidated splendor [click on each image to see it larger].

As another example, think of Hollywood glamor shots of the 40s and 50s – in their heyday black and white was used almost exclusively, and the images were magnificent! Humphrey Bogart was mysterious and dangerous as Rick, while Ingrid Bergman was absolutely stunningly beautiful in those stills from Casablanca.

 (Image in Public Domain)

Black and White images cause our minds to fill in information, much the way radio theater used to do. They  often ask questions of us, challenge us, or tell a story in a way that grabs our attention, whereas the same photograph in color might not.

I have uploaded my first series of monochrome images, the first of many such galleries, I suspect. One of the many wonderful things about photography is the wide-ranging way one can convey beauty, and for me, black and white photography is a joy all its own! – Cheers, Robert

(click here to view The Monochrome Series 1 Gallery)


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