Saturday, December 27, 2008

B&W v Color (cont)

Since I've had the opportunity to shoot both B&W and color in my lifetime, I'll offer a few observations which may or may not be relevant (to the previous post).

There's good reason why a prevalent approach to shooting B&W has emerged since say, the late sixties/early seventies that has been successfully refined and honed (mostly by photojournalists working in 35mm with an eye towards "art") to minimize that particular medium's "weak points." B&W by its very nature, offers less visual information, one way to balance that equation is by using various wide angle lenses which not only give the viewer more information about everything surrounding the immediate subject (while keeping it all in focus), but also help draw the viewer in by creating the illusion of depth through minor lens distortion. Color's ability to more accurately mimic the world around us can sometimes preclude the need for such wide angled "visual aids."

Another way to work around this B&W "dilemma" is to switch to square format, where the compositional restrictions and balance of a one by one and a half rectangle is negated. Square format (eg- Arbus) offers a more immediate, more democratic and less formalized (snapshot) manner of presenting information and drawing you into the image. Going "soft" with either toy (eg- David Niles) or large format cameras (eg- Sally Mann) is yet another proven alternative that goes the other way and plays to the medium's "weakness." Come to think of it- that's quite a few options right there that I've seen converted into a myriad of personal shooting styles. Perhaps the person who originally initiated my response, and has in the past stated that he just doesn't care for B&W except in "extreme cases," would be a tad more accurate just reminding everyone of that. Sometimes, sometimes, there are reasons why certain things persist as long as they do. No, that doesn't mean one shouldn't strive to change, modify, and reinvent them- just that sometimes if you really feel that strongly about it, it helps to show the way.

And while I'm at it, have you ever noticed how a thin black border can do wonders to unite the tonal values in a B&W composition into one unified, handsome, working whole- and yet looks absolutely tacky on a color image, which is why you thankfully never see it. More to come...

No comments: