Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Black & White Of It

Photo: Vivian Maier

I recently wrote Benjamin Chesterton of Duckrabbit about Vivian Maier, and he had a most interesting response:

Amazing ... they don't take them like they used to ... photography is too knowing, it's lost its sense of wonder and black and white now just feels like such a pale imitation ... sorry to say.

Of course, one could argue that photography was still finding its voice and sense of style well into the the latter part of the last century. And now it's pretty much settled into what it can (and can't) do- and how it can do it. And the innovation of digital technology, while adding speed, ease and flexibility, has done nothing towards creating an original "style" within the medium.

As to black and white, perhaps its current repititious feel can be attributed to something as simple as to how one approaches it. Instead of acknowledging that it is a very limited medium that therefore challenges you to somehow draw some measure of originality from it (and the subject matter), it seems that photographers now choose it for an instant "look," whether it be an instant retro look, an instant photojournalist look, or some slick and "classy" Euro look. Most photographers are now shooting away making digital captures only to convert to B&W after the fact. If the intention is not there from the onset, it's no doubt gonna show in the results, color pictures without the color.

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