Thursday, November 27, 2008


Who shoots black-and-white these days?

Old photographers, perhaps (M3, Agfa APX ISO 400, Summicron 50)

Adventurous individuals (same)?

Lonely souls?

How about all of the above?

The truth is that B&W ain't easy.  In short, it's not for wimps.  Not for chimps either.  And not for every one.  As a particular thing, the scene matters more, there are less distractions and more things to see in a B&W image.  

How does one do that?

My approach is that the image has to be relatively strong, or anchored in a good element, or else the viewer will not "see" it.  The best way to create something that catches the eye is to place an element that leads to the image, something that indicates perspective and tells us where to look.  When this added element is absent, the image gets watered down.  It simply fails to emerge from the gray. 

Now, this is not a rule, as I can think of many photos in which it is simply impossible to add perspective.  In these moments, the two-thirds rule comes to save the day.  At least to me.   Besides, in B&W, if the composition isn't strong, the photograph has nothing else to "grab" our attention and enter our memory.  

This is perhaps a simplistic trick, but it's worked for me ever since I came up with it.  

In any event, something I keep in mind all the time, when I carry my Leicas loaded with Agfa or Ilford stuff: color allows us to enjoy life, while monochrome film makes us think about it.  What could we say about all the photographs above?  They were shot in Thayer St, in Providence, RI, during a conference in Brown University in which I took my recently refurbished Leica M3 and the faithful Summicron 50 collapsible. 

For the next, we're going back to Denver.  

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