The Wonderful World of Color

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. In the recent "Less is only more when more is no good" thread, color was brought up toward the very end.
    I hope Wes Stone doesn't mind my quoting a statement he made followed by my own thoughts which seemed better placed as a start to a new thread.
    Here's part of what Wes contributed:
    "For my own tastes I want to eliminate. I want to excise all of the elements that do not contribute to 'the story', many times including such 'distractions' as color." --Wes
    I'm aware that Wes put "distractions" in quotes which leaves a lot of room for interpreting his meaning. What I quote below (with a couple of minor changes for this new thread) is more about what Wes's statement stimulated in me than about being a directed response to Wes:
    "I have a particular sensitivity and am rarely pleased with the way color is talked about and would like to talk about it a lot more, because it would help me in my own approach to continue to fine tune my thoughts and feelings about it.
    I prefer not to begin from a place of seeing it as an addition or a distraction. It's as if color, for some reason, has to prove itself in order to be acceptable in a photograph. What's different about color and shades of gray? Do we start out seeing all gray-tones as perhaps unnecessary, assuming that a graphic black and graphic white are the really pure elements, the non-distractions? And, in what way does color actually differ from focus, light, and composition. Why is it not a basic, the removal of which is actually the radical act?
    Of course, my initial thought is that it's got nothing to do with color itself and a lot to do with the technology of photography. We started out, historically, not being able to process in color. It seems to me that goes a long way in defining our relationship to it. We got used to black and white being the starting point. I think that's dictated a lot.
    Perhaps because I got into photography late in its short history and did not work in a darkroom where black and white was more accessible to most people who processed their own film, I am less prone to see color as an add-on or distraction. I tend to see in color and to consider color as a fundamental, a baseline, which I may strip out if I feel the need or desire, not something I hesitate to include with the assumption that it is prone to be "more" or even "too much." Even when I know a photo I'm taking will be converted to black and white, color plays a significant role in my seeing because the absorption and reflection of light and the black and white conversion are so dependent on the color that is there.
    I am no more prone to saying that black and white is less distracting than color (or "less" than color) than I am to saying that a sharp focus is inherently less distracting than a soft or blurry one or that a dark and shadowy content is inherently less distracting than one with sunlight." --Fred Goldsmith
    Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference? What's your perspective on color in terms of how you see it in photographs and also in terms of how and when you use it in your photographs? What else could be said about color in the context of photography?
     
  2. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 10, 2010; 12:51 p.m.
    Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference?
    Yes Fred, it does, and yes I can. I was brought up in the 1950's with B/W TV and movies. Color came is as "Disney's Wonderful World of Color", and Doris Day movies in Mike Todd's "Cinemascope". So I see Black and White photos as Richard Widmark stuff and color as a much happier presentation. So that's the basis for my feelings. I try not to let those biases get in the way, but you know how it is..... Johnny Staccato remembers........
    Bill P.
     
  3. William, you and I are of the same generation and apparently the same mindset on color. My parents' photo album is mostly black and white only because color film and processing was so much more expensive in the 1940s through 1960s. Family snapshooters of the day had to choose black and white or color based on family economics. Even in my early days of photography, there are many black and white images that would have been color if only I had some more money to spend on them. Sometime in the 1970s, prices shifted completely in the other direction because so many more people were buying consumer 35mm cameras. Consumer demand drove color film and processing prices lower than black and white. And I was happy to see the shift.
    During that time when consumer demand and pricing was doing the flip-flop I realized it was a new era. We don't have to shoot black and white anymore, and why should we? (Wait -- that was a rhetorical question, not an invitation for attacks from all of those black and white fans out there.) From a strictly consumer (family photo album) standpoint, good riddance to black and white. In my professional (publishing and academic) life I still had to occasionally shoot black and white or occasionally convert a color image to gray scale, but only when forced to. Any time I had the choice, it was color all the way. We live in a color world. You're not likely to see me converting my color images to black and white.
    Will
     
  4. Here's my perspective…
    The vast majority of us see in colour and so it is integral to our everyday lives (humdrum or otherwise). With current technology, very few "snapshots" are taken in black and white, so monochrome (tinted or otherwise) is nowadays perceived as the more "artistic" medium (especially by those who were not restricted to B&W at the start of their photography!) This view is reinforced by some fashion and advertising photography, often by referring back to Hollywood screen icons or by imitating stylistic conventions of earlier times.
    Emotionally, I find that colour can affect me positively or negatively, in addition to sometimes not really being important. It may be subtle, or not, but only rarely is it a distraction. The best [contemporary] black and white work somehow "speaks" to me differently because I am seeing an image with visual information stripped out, so the remaining elements have to be able to draw me in. Historical photographs are usually fascinating for other reasons, even when technically indifferent, and so must be considered separately.
    Many "classic" photos from master photographers, as with other art forms, may be rooted in their own period but somehow transcend time and space to make that special connection with the viewer. The problem is, I can't be specific about the nature of the "special connection", even in my own case. Maybe, like love, you just "know it" when it happens and do the rationalising afterwards.
    One of the photos I especially like is actually in colour, but at first glance appears to be monochrome. (It is an old DG record sleeve, but I don't have the details to hand.) This is a "naturalistic" photo and so doesn't "feel" like a monochrome one, but its memory has stayed with me clearly for over 30 years, which is quite an achievement. Because the information hasn't been stripped out artificially (but instead by clever composition and shooting) the effect is somehow very different to that of a true monochrome image.
     
  5. Yes, there is a difference for me.
    I'm a bit younger than the first posters, so black and white TV only existed in a tiny bit of my life, and colour photography was already wide-spread too, I think. It's not a nostalgic link for me.
    For a long time, I associated black and white with photos that did express something nostalgic, something "old" or to label it as such, though. But lately, I find I convert a lot of photos to black and white because it just seems better that way. It's usually a less-than-a-second realisation that such is the case too. And with that I found that a Ford Focus works in B&W just as well as a Model T. Some photos just do not need colour.
    In short, I agree with the quote of Wes you start out with. Colour can be distracting, or not adding. The reverse is also sometimes the case, sometimes colour makes the picture. I don't think sunsets in B&W have the same effect as they have in colour.
    In addition, while working on photos, I notice that B&W photos (at least, for my own attempts!) are more composition focussed, somehow more story-telling. They require to, because otherwise they only exist of subtleties of gray. So, to me, B&W seems to me more demanding on the "content" of the photo than many colour photos. That does not make colour photos less, though, just different. Clever use of colour can be equally interesting (who would want a B&W Mondriaan?).
    So, horses for courses, for me.
     
  6. Will Daniel [​IMG], Jan 10, 2010; 03:24 p.m.
    We live in a color world. You're not likely to see me converting my color images to black and white.
    That's interesting, Will. I started converting back to B/W for the funk effect I associate with it. Kinda like a personal "retro" thing. Also, shooting color to get the B/W grittiness is an art in itself. That's for another thread, though.
    Bill P.
     
  7. An interesting topic as always Fred, though I suspect my mind is already becoming a bit deranged, split between Why - More Less and colour.
    I too have lived through the transition from B&W to colour and have a slightly different take on it, I am very mindful that there could be some sensitivies lurking in this issue and what I am about to say is not intended as any form of criticism of the people who favour B&W.
    I think we have to look at what happens in the average person's mind when they see a newly created B&W picture these days - I suspect the first reaction is that a "this is art" warning bell goes off. Sub categories of this is, "Woah heavy" or "serious" because it automatically references the great early photographers and worst of all "just as I couldn't watch a B&W TV show I can't get excited about black and white photos, too nostalgic"
    Of course there are other equally valid reactions, but I suspect these would all come from more "educated" people.
    So I think that it could be argued that B&W has changed from being the norm to something that carries some elitist connotations, in a way this is not a bad thing because it quickly establishes that you are the kind of photographer who will not go anywhere near the over the top cheap and nasty HDR landscapes on steriods.
    Clive
     
  8. For me, color isn't so much distracting as yet another element of an image to be considered. In other words, black and white images have less to analyze. However, the monochrome photographer opens him/herself up to increased scrutiny on the remaining elements of his/her composition.
    Yes, color can be downright distracting if it's done incorrectly. And, of course, there are those images which are at their core, an expression of color. But an image which happens to be representative of the subject and which is done well just is and doesn't distract at all. It simply adds extra dimensions which dilute, at least to some degree the other aspects of the image.
    For me personally, I struggle to strike that balance between an accurate/realistic and aesthetically pleasing representation of a scene's color. Based on others' critiques of my images, accuracy doesn't seem to pay off. Some images are panned as too drab while others (adjusted while actually looking at the very scene that I just photographed) come across as too saturated.
    So perhaps there's just no way to avoid making color a distraction or, at a minimum, having to mess with color for a given image, which makes for more opportunity to make it a distraction.
    That said, I have the utmost respect for those who can successfully work in the monochrome medium. I hope someday to venture into that domain.
     
  9. Normal, everyday colors are less not more. You don't strip them out, you strip in black and white.
    Normal everyday colors are invisible. The needle on your attention dial sits right on zero and that's a problem if you want people to look at your pictures. Black and white gets the atttention needle moving -- as does an unusual color combination or colors that are a unnatural (manipulated), unexpected or otherwise not normal. The best color photographers know this -- and they know just how to make your attention dial go bananas.
     
    If you have a picture with great form, and/or line and/or everything else but it's immersed in completely normal unexciting colors, to the viewing public who are in a hurry (that's most people) it might as well be invisible.
    ==============================
     
    I have an odd idea unrelated to the above that I've been thinking about since this thread was started. It occurs to me that because we don't see or at least notice (same thing) everyday colors, one of the things going on with black and white pictures may be about color; about the precise colors that are missing, not about the simple concept of not having any color. A B&W landscape may be (partially) about making your mind notice and therefore be aware of the very ordinary but now very absent greens, browns and blues that it paradoxically wasn't aware of when the colors were there. A B&W portrait may be about the sensation of missed fleshtones and hair tones and lip tones and eye tones. Your mind missing, wanting, making its own colors. Filling in. More colorful that a color picture. (I just made that up, but I think it's interesting ... )
     
  10. I feel closer to the light in black and white. perhaps i do think of color as a distraction from the light. but a key consideration for conversion.
    and more intimate with my emotions when I express in b&w. I find I can tap into my deeper emotions, sense of self and humanity when I convert the color from a scene and relate to light as black to white gradations. For me as audience, b+w imbues more presence to my explorations and visual expressions. I often hear a contrasting opinion from in person viewers tho. The contrast often comes in the nature of difficulty relating to work in b&w. I think a large number of viewers have that same reaction to b&w photographs.
    I have seen too many exceptions to consider it a given that '... the soul is in black and white', (Scorsese paraphrase? life in color and the soul in black and white..? I don't remember.) But I do often subscribe to that notion. I have come across masters and beginners who easily prove to me that color photographs can reach me as viewer as deeply as b&w, just not as consistently and as often. I never measure good by color or b&w but I do wonder what I might find in the deepest recesses of my taste buds that makes me most often choose to use b+w.
    I think digital has been a great equalizer and now I am as likely to find a good color photograph-er as a good b&w or an equal opportunity shooter.
     
  11. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Julie, Marshal McLuhan talked about hot and cool media, the need in some media, the cool ones, to imaginatively fill in the blanks. Sounds rather kin to what you're saying.
    Colors always add a layer of compositional complexity, not always a good one. It's something else to think about.
     
  12. jtk

    jtk

    I don't consider my photographs real unless I personally print them: A lovely, fully post-processed file is virtually nothing (for me). Therefore, since good color is easy and good B&W is hard (in my experience), there's a question: Was a print made in color simply because it was easier, taking less skill?
    What's wrong with "easy?" What's wrong with lack of skill? I think the answer will be the viewer's, more than the photographer's. We either ignore that question, accepting the luck of the draw...or we deal with it.
     
  13. Rebecca - Marshall McLuhan now there's deja vu, the Medium is the Massage that's takes us back - still, a lot of it is still on the money.
    John - In art it's never really mattered what the artist does to achieve their ends, its the end that counts. But printing photographs adds in another dimension to the thread, I remember seeing those b+w prints on real paper, with suede-like blacks that almost gave you goosebumps and you couldn't work out why it was getting you the way it was.
    This guy http://www.pavementmagazine.com/billhenson.html does it big time the surfaces on the prints challenge Caravaggio, the images hold up under any circumstance but see one in the flesh and it is a whole new ball game.
    Clive
     
  14. Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference?​
    Hard to describe, but for me the rough difference between color and black&white is that of reception <> perception. Of course both reception and perception are in play when it comes to seeing and being conscious, and so we are aware, as much by the things that we ( can't escape to ) take in as by how we project ourselves onto them ; it's a two way street.
    But photographically I can differentiate color to be more about looking with the eye first, and the recognition for things that have a certain vibrancy. Black&white for me is perhaps seeing with the I first, for things that resonate.
    This being said, in the end I view photography as the process, not black&white-photography or color-photography, just like a painter can view painting as the process, and not black&white painting or color painting, or is to be a black&white painter vs a color painter.
     
  15. To answer the same question that Phylo quoted above, for me, color is "meaty," carnal; color has odors. It's sweaty; it wants to put its hands on you (with notable exceptions such as Eliot Porter's color work).
    Color is promiscuous -- it leaks, bounces, reflects into/onto everything everywhere. Anywhere that the primary light is not strong enough to drown out this cacaphony, you get an orgy of color mixing going on.
    Color is uncooperative. That ugly pink thing in your otherwise perfect scene is not going away. You can use all the tools of photography -- move yourself, change the light or wait for the light to change, change lens -- that thing is still going to be pink. Black and white, on the other hand, is wonderfully cooperative. It is luminence. Luminence can be worked with. This makes black and white wonderfully, deliciously malleable where color is ... not.
    Imagine a sculptor who had parts of his stone that could not be worked. He'd have to conform what he was making to that unworkable area -- instead of making the David, Michelangelo might have had to make a buffalo ...
    You have to work to/for/with color. It will not work to/for/with you (unless, of course, you get out your paint or dye or bazooka).
     
  16. Juat a bit ago someone posted a link to color images taken in Russia the early 1900s
    Link
    Looking at the photos it would be hard to say that they would have been better as black and white photos. It took a lot of work to capture and shot color image in the early 1900s but it sure is nice to have a few samples now to view. It reminds us that even though most of the photos from that time are devoid of color people at that time loved to have color in their lives.
    I started out in photography shooting BW because that was all we could develop at our high school darkroom. BW was also very much like digital is now, very cheap to shoot the negatives and then only print out a couple of photos per roll. The SOP was to do a contact print of the whole roll and decide from that what to print larger.
    Now some people view BW photograph as more artistic, and in some cases it may be but for me I like to have the color.
     
  17. Colour is every day, black and white is a holiday.
    I have to work hard at balancing colour in a colour image and few are successful for me (other than my nature and pictorial photographs, which speak more from the subject than from the photographer).
    Black and white is abstract. We don't see that way in life. That for one keeps me from switching completely from photography to painting. Having said that, a photograph that explores the concept of details in photography (the power of more) resolves for me some of the problems of the oft-viewed kaleidoscope of colour in much photography.
     
  18. We live in a color world.​
    Speak for yourself. I live in a colour world!
     
  19. Bill, thanks for talking about how some of our preconceptions get formed. I have some of the same black&white/color experiences as you from those early films, though there's always Capra's It's A Wonderful Life and Fischer's The Curse of Frankenstein to offer counterexamples of black and white as the happier presentation.
    Will, economics as well as history likely do have an effect on the usage and, therefore, our perceptions of black and white and color. Very keen observations. Like you, I think there's something to be said for the world being in color yet, in my own approach to photography that world is often only a starting point.
    Peter, I have also noticed a predisposition for people to think of black and white photos as "art." That can work both ways, of course. If there's a perception by the viewer that a photo is "too artsy," it could be a turn-off. In addition, I often spot lousy photos that it seems were converted to black and white to try to raise them a notch higher in the mind of the photographer. It's usually an unsuccessful ploy. You seem to be approaching the emotional effects of black&white and color non-competitively when you say "colour can affect me positively or negatively", which is the way I try to do it as well. My question was not "which is better" though some have chosen to answer that question, and those answers do give interesting insights as well.
    Wouter, sure, go ahead, rub your youth in our old, wrinkled faces :) Just kidding . . . the generational perspective on this is obviously significant. Actually, others of my own generation have told me that the nostalgic feel comes from other elements rather than black&white when they talk about films or TV shows. For me, I would say black&white probably has a little more tendency to evoke nostalgia but looking at those originally-vibrant but now somewhat washed-out colors of fifties films and sixties family snap shots does tug at those nostalgic heartstrings. Interesting that you mention sunsets. The one sunset I've taken that I consider among my first tier of photographs is black and white. I would probably find it harder to create a photograph I cared about of a sunset in color. It's usually the color of sunset photographs that, for me, emphasize negative aspects of what can so easily be a cliché.
    Clive, the more deranged the better, as far as I'm concerned! I think a "this is art" predilection associated with black and white can work both ways. For some, "art" will connote something positive and for others it will be a warning bell or a negative.
    Lee, I appreciate the point that more elements don't necessarily yield "distraction." I often come back to baroque. There's lots of elements telling lots of sometimes dizzying stories, in a wonderful way. I don't find that a distraction, but rather a fullness. Nevertheless, as Josh says in this thread, there is something special about the relationship between photography and light and I can understand why someone might be more prone to find color a distraction in this particular medium. I, myself, don't, though when color is badly used it sure does seem to stand out.
    Julie, it's interesting that everyday colors might be considered by some to be invisible, more part of the landscape. Great to hear how that works for you. I try never to be in a hurry when viewing photos, so color itself doesn't make me brush by anything. For me, color is another expressive element at my disposal as a photographer and to be appreciated as a viewer. I often like to think about what's not included in the frame when I'm looking through my lens. I appreciate when a photograph gets me to move outside the frame as well. Your description of missing colors puts me in a similar frame of mind.
    Josh, I admit a predisposition to disagree with anyone who might make the claim that color is a distraction. But your emphasis on light gives me pause and seems very apropos. I wonder what that thing in your deep recesses might be as well. Your reaction seems strong and personal and the emotional qualities of light and particularly the significance of gradation comes through profoundly in my experience of your photos.
    Rebecca, In what way would the layer of complexity added by color differ from the layers of complexity added by varieties of tonal variations? Yes, it is clearly an element to be reckoned with. How do you reckon?
    John, thanks for talking about the significance printmaking has for you. I respond emotionally when skill is apparent, more often tied to a complete body of work than to individual works within that body. Though I am moved when skill is evident, I paradoxically like some of my own photos best that were the easiest to make. I haven't yet found making photos more or less difficult in black&white or in color and realize that may change as I print more.
    Phylo, that's a poetic and fascinating distinction between your seeing color first with your "eye" and black and white first with your "I." It gives great insight into the way they affect you differently. It's also important that you mention that we may project onto these things as well as taking these things in. We do have both a passive and active relationship (or receptive and ascriptive) to these elements and it's hard if even possible to determine where the dividing line is between what we get from color and black&white and what we give to color and black&white.
    Scott, I'm glad you spoke about darkroom technology and effect. I haven't worked in a darkroom but I imagine the accessibility of working hands-on with black and white did make a difference in how some people think and feel about color, though I know some people who've spent a lot of time in darkrooms who had different experiences about color and black&white even before the darkroom was an issue.
    Arthur, I appreciate your mentioning what you think of as the abstract quality of black and white and the importance of our not seeing in black and white (most of us) every day. At the same time, I find myself often working with the abstract qualities of color and am mindful of the difference between "real life" color and the color in my photographs. I note, as well, the degrees to which accurate or representational color will be important to various people and especially within various genres of photography.
    _________________________________
    First, it's gratifying to me that there are a bunch of new faces in on this discussion. In the last thread, posted by Wouter, we were discussing the process we go through in this forum and some people were talking about their own hesitation to participate. I hope this forum is now opening up and really welcome all the ideas that have been offered. There's a lot to digest and it's really been quite eye-opening to read all these great responses.
    So, as I'm not sure where to go from here, I thought I'd post a few examples. I am aware of some of my own preconceptions about color and black&white and how many exceptions there are to the rules I might have thought there were. I noticed some others' predilections in addition to my own. Will any of these examples nudge ways of thinking? What do they bring up for you regarding color usage? I wonder if some go against the accepted grain of thinking about these issues? I figure this topic deserves some visual accompaniment.*
    *Obviously, I'm not posting these links in order for the photographs themselves to be critiqued. What I am interested in is further discussion about how black&white and color can be used and can make us feel or think.
    goldin:
    http://photonumerique.codedrops.net/IMG/jpg/Self-portrait_on_the_train_Boston_-_New_Haven.jpg
    dijkstra:
    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41EMNJN7NCL.jpg_SX350_BO1,138,138,138_SH30_BO0,100,100,100_PA7,5,5,10_.jpg
    callahan:
    http://www.photogrowth.com/images/blog/2007/0813_Harry_Callahan.jpg
    and
    http://www.mocp.org/collections/permanent/uploads/Callahan1984_9.jpg
    moriyama:
    http://mariagimenez.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/moriyama_02755_7501.jpg
    weston:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_CTlXCO4XDxU/SQXOGE1Fb4I/AAAAAAAABCM/v4oG7D_BbMs/s400/Edward+Weston.jpg
     
  20. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    In what way would the layer of complexity added by color differ from the layers of complexity added by varieties of tonal variations? Yes, it is clearly an element to be reckoned with. How do you reckon?​
    All shades of grey and black and white tend to go with each other as long as the composition is good (I can imagine a black and white shot that was out of proportion in distribution of tones.
    Color means working with a range of color -- like Julie said, that pink isn't going away unless you move it and reshoot. Not all color will look equally good together, but in different ways than having blown-out highlights or blocked up shadows.
    Setting up studio shots come to mind here -- picking color schemes, or taking advantage of fortuitous combinations.
    Black and white film is cheaper than color film, but neither is as cheap as digital with screen as the final presentation.
     
  21. Color adds another dimension to my photographs. It is infinitely more complex than B&W, but that complexity also makes for a larger conceptual working space, allowing for a vast increase in creative possibilities and problems, welcome problems at that. For me as for most of us descended from Old World apes, color is natural, thus also part of the vernacular of human visual language, making it easy to emphasize the "window" aspect of photographs.
    My introduction to color was in the hot light of the tropics, the pungent blue-greens aquamarines of the ocean, its shadings in the shallows, strong, raking light pouring down across terracotta tile roofs, whitewash playing ping-pong with light, filling shadows across streets, the riot of color used expressively and with abandon for everything from house paint to women's dresses.
    Although color can be defined objectively, as a wavelength number, that is meaningless. For me color is relative, not absolute. It can be incidental, as in the merely "pretty" or descriptive (Julie's "pink thing") or I can go in and make that pink into whatever I want it to be. For us, as with goldfish and water, color is a problem (a wonderful one at that) in that most people are desensitized to it. This means they are WFO to it in photographs, inhaling without question or reservation. And it's inner language is still a secret, largely unknown to almost all photographers (and painters!) beyond the incidental ("dude, the colors of this sunset were hawt ") or decorative. It is mercurial, changing depending on adjacent colors and that of the light. Color is organic and alive, my perception of it changing according to my state of ennervation. For me, it has also always changed when I mentally shift from one language to another (of a place I've lived in).
    The hard part of using color is to re-sensitize oneself to it. Then it has a chance of becoming one's color, not generic color.
    I still use black and white when it aids and abets my vision
    Fred - " What else could be said about color in the context of photography?"
    Volumes.
     
  22. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Fred, Weston's nude and other black and white nudes are perhaps a special case where black and white has the most dramatic difference from color. Nudes in color carry far more of the flesh than black and white nudes.
    There's a scene in the Secret Diary of a Call Girl where Belle/Hannah is having picture shot for a "Uber Whore" (her guy friend's characterization) presentation and "monochrome" is considered the classiest of them all. At the highest levels of working girl, it's important not to show too much flesh.
    This might also connect with Julie's idea that black and white asks the viewer to reconstitute the color, involves them more in the viewing.
     
  23. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 11, 2010; 08:14 a.m.
    Clive, the more deranged the better, as far as I'm concerned! I think a "this is art" predilection associated with black and white can work both ways. For some, "art" will connote something positive and for others it will be a warning bell or a negative.
    Right? That's another thing to contend with, "If it's B/W it's art, if it's color, it's kitsch". Aaaaah, the stereotypes!
    Bill P.
     
  24. While I do use my digital camera to make B&W images when I "think B&W", I do not care much to transfer my colour digital files to B&W, at least in those cases where I have shot in colour to emphasise colour or some feeling or aesthetic that I feel requires colour.
    Colour is probably our first visual recognition of the world arund us. Our eye receptors react differently to different wavelengths of colour. Colour is extremely powerful when used by the photographer with at least a basic understanding of the various elements of colour images - theory of colours - the specific character of each colour (primary, secondary, etc.) and its complements - the contrast of complimentary colours - the effect of relative areas of colour spaces within an image - the contrast of cold and warm colours - internal relationship of various sets of cold or warm colours - effect of different chromatic qualities of light - the differences between B&W compositional effect (point, line, volumes) and those of colour images of the same subject - and other relationships.
    The colour and B&W photographs work on different perceptual planes, which can also overlap. It's too bad many have not had the pleasure of darkroom black and white printing (this is a great time to do so, as excellent equipment is cheap), as it gives the patient practitioner a great feedback on the use of light and dark, of the various manipulations which change the effect of various parts of an image and of the creation of a print by trial and error that can lead to amazingly lovely tones and surfaces that can add significantly to the impact of the final image and to the appreciation by the photographer of the potential of an image. Darkroom activity is not as important for colour as for black and white, most certainly in the digital era, but it can aid the photographer in getting what he wants from an initial exposure in a different way than possible with Photoshop. H.-C.B. never did any darkroom work and might never have used Photoshop. The nature of his wit and vision didn't require it. Digital is really a timely windfall for colour photographers.
     
  25. Fred, I'm glad you bring in some links. Some of responses given really correspond with my thoughts on black and white, but whenever I try to formulate it, it starts to sound like colour photography is inferior. Probably because I cannot find the right words. So, some real life material will certainly work better. Because I honestly think it is horses for courses, and your links confirm that (for me at least).
    The Dijkstra Beaches with the rather bleached look were in fact pictures that I already thought of earlier in this thread. I still don't care much for the photos, but I do find that the use of colour here (more specific the tonality of the colours) interesting. It adds a layer, and an implicit message. Would it be very colourful and saturated, as one would expect on a beach picture, the message of the photo would be radically different. Neither would this work in B&W, or a sepia or the likes, in my opinion. The choice for muted colours seems right.
    The first Callahan photo is great, and would be complete drab in black and white. The colour makes it. And for the second the black/white seems the right choice indeed. It makes the picture simpler and guides the viewer a bit better. Colour might only distract here.
    The Moriyama picture, partially I get the idea it is black and white out of necessity. Too much different colours in a night picture does not really work, in my experience, and B&W can disguise that perfectly. That said, the relative little amount of grays also help giving this picture a more edgy and raw appearance.
    The Goldin (first) link, to me it seems rather irrelevant whether this is colour or black and white. I guess both could work.
    As for the last one, the Weston photo, I agree with what Rebecca already said.
    It's a good collection assembled to show the use for both colour and B&W. Good thing we have a choice :)
    On a rather unrelated sidenote,
    It's usually the color of sunset photographs that, for me, emphasize negative aspects of what can so easily be a cliché.​
    I was about to add to my first post how much of a cliché sunsets are, but edited it out; so when I read your respons I sure had to smile. Yes, they tend to be cliché. And I cannot resist them all the same. Natural light is fascinating, and sunsets are great displays of that, to me. Maybe I should try B&W conversions on them, though. Never tried that.
     
  26. The colour guru is Itten
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471289280/etherarnewanduse
    I couldn't find a good helpful review but anything by Itten on Colour is worth a good look at if you haven't been there before, I mention this because we get so many bad colour pictures because people don't know anything about colour.
    I guess the biggest area for people to get a handle on, re, colour, in photography is understanding the role that grey plays in the whole scheme of things as it changes colour according to what's next to it and how big an area it occupies.
    One of the areas where colour really has a huge advantage over B&W is work requiring a narrow tonal range, in b+w say 3-4, out of a possible 10, grades of grey. Sure there have been some fabulous b+ws but they often struggle to overcome dullness. Where as in colour this is exactly the area where colour can really sizzle or push emotional buttons.
    I think many of you know that I make marble heads as my main art and that instead of using the whitest marble I can get my hands on I often use quite highly coloured stone. I often get asked to do portraits, but usually manage to put the client off, mainly because I realised that a major component in "likeness" is the colour of hair, eyes, skin etc so even if the portrait is pretty accurate in terms of form, people will find it difficult to recognise the sitter. A bit of a problem when people are paying $s.
    I think colour has become the default setting.
    Julie, very good, but I would have liked a film/TV style parental guidance warning. I think you answered Phylo's question.
    All the best Clive
     
  27. jtk

    jtk

    "In art it's never really mattered what the artist does to achieve their ends, its the end that counts. " - Clive
    I don't buy that. Artists, patrons, and generic viewers have always cared deeply about the methodology. Consider VanGogh vs Salgado, for example, or of someone in a photo.net portfolio vs someone else who makes prints. Doesn't the difference "matter?"
    "It (color) is infinitely more complex than B&W, but that complexity also makes for a larger conceptual working space, allowing for a vast increase in creative possibilities and problems, welcome problems at that.

    (separated here to show seemingly conflicting concepts by JK, the reader)

    ...color is natural, thus also part of the vernacular of human visual language, making it easy to emphasize the "window" aspect of photographs." - Luis G
    Although we may individually be less skilled in B&W than color, or the converse, doesn't mean one is more "complex" than the other. The variables in B&W can be exquisitely more subtle than the variables in color prints, which may more readily be considered "acceptable" across a wide range because of Luis's "window" concept.
     
  28. John typed - " The variables in B&W can be exquisitely more subtle than the variables in color prints, which may more readily be considered "acceptable" across a wide range because of Luis's "window" concept."
    Not my concept, and most practiced photographers would know that. In the summer of 1978, MOMA's John Szarkowski put up a show titled "Mirrors and Windows". Szarkowski made a distinction between "mirrors"—pictures that describe the photographer's personal sensibility—and "windows"—realist, factual photos. This does not mean either/or, but that each photograph has some of each of those qualities, but one usually is dominant over the other.
     
  29. Clive - " I couldn't find a good helpful review but anything by Itten on Colour is worth a good look at if you haven't been there before, I mention this because we get so many bad colour pictures because people don't know anything about colour."
    I'm in total agreement with Clive on the latter part of the above sentence. As I remarked earlier, the language of color is still a secret, largely unknown to almost all photographers (and painters!) beyond the incidental or Pantone color wheel decorative. I also find Itten excellent, but I'd have to add Albers (do the exercises, ridiculous as they may sound, don't just read the book), Faber Birren and Kandinsky. Luscher is also good, though from a different angle. I found all of them helpful, and Itten's writing my favorite, but Albers' exercises, in my experience, were the most helpful, and I do not mean in getting me to use color like Albers, but in my own way.
     
  30. Clive, Luis-
    For photographers, the best practical applications of Johannes Itten's theories I have seen are found in a German text ("Farb-Design in der Fotografie" Deposito legal B. 29433-1977) by Harald Mante, which I have a copy of in its French translation. It has 96 photos and 450 explicative sketches that are tied to colour in photography. There may be an English translation, but the French version has the ISBN number : 2-249-25006-2 and is titled "La couleur en photographie" (Dessain et Tolra publisher, Paris, 1977).
    It's a great book, written with very good photographic examples by a practicing photographer.
     
  31. Luis -(do the exercises, ridiculous as they may sound, don't just read the book),
    The first art school I went to had Colour Theory as a compulsory first year subject, we did almost nothing else than paint excersises in Gouache and though I hated it at the time its proved very useful ever since.
    At various times I've had to teach first year uni art subjects (under all sorts of names) which always had an introduction to colour, but essentially these courses all related back to Bauhaus based stuff, the crazy bit is that photography lecturers were never assigned to these programs, almost always painters and sculptors.
    For those of you who have not come across this stuff - The reason for doing the exercises is that answer isn't quite as simple as it sounds, mixing the colours yourself makes you realise very quickly why your painting kit has 2 reds, 2 yellows and 2 blues, mix a golden yellow with the blue you use to make purple and you wont ever get a pure green.
    Enough - some people have an uncanny colour sense others have to get there by hard slog.
    RGB tries its little heart out to get close to getting it right but it is a big compromise and blues seem to be the hardest to get right.
    Clive
     
  32. jtk

    jtk

    It's well and good to cite various color theorists, but if you, Clive and Luis, cannot currently personally print color well (or at least control it in post processing), reference to Albers et al is hot air.
    The OT here is photography. It doesn't exist outside photographic technology.
     
  33. That's very entertaining - John.
    Of course I can't speak for Luis, but how did you make that jump that infers that neither of us can print?
    I could say, just for the entertainment value, how do you know what to print in colour when you steadfastly refuse to learn any of the colour fundamentals.
    I for one don't think its a really good idea to try and put a great big wall around Photography as its boundaries are very blurry. IMO
    Great chatting to you as always - Clive
     
  34. jtk

    jtk

    That was too harsh, sorry. I don't think a case has been made for the relevance of Albers or Itten to photography: the only credible case could be made by by a practitioner of photograpy...do either of you know of a notable practitioner who thinks either of those gurus relevant to their work?
    AS Clive pointed out, accomplished photographers are rarely interested in Albers et al ...which explains the disinterest of "photographic lecturers" (a near oxymoron).
    I'd be interested in exceptions or refutation, but notable color photographers seem to have preoccupied themselves with subtractive color, studying the responsiveness of their materials (emulsions, light) rather than silkscreen-oriented additive color theory. The wonderful dye transfer (additive) work from the Sixties simply rendered subtractive (E2, E3) photgraphy.
    Inkjet printing seems (to me, a moderately skilled inkjet printer) to be oddly subtractive, despite the multiple layers...presumably because of whatever's going on in the Epson printer driver's head.
     
  35. Hi again,
    Its an interesting point re: photographers talking about colour theory - I don't think I can ever remember one . But I can remember a post grad review when a student had a picture that was basically a portrait, ie head and sholders in a room, she couldn't understand what going on between the rather reddish/pink face and the background, her way of describing it was that it sort of made her feel a bit ill.
    The background was predominantly brown, more yellow brown than red brown, Tan, Khaki - in terms of colour theory, the brown I'm talking about would be described as a dark yellow. In the natural "harmonius" order of things yellow is a lighter colour than red. When you flip the tonal values so the red (pink) is lighter than the yellow is causes a colour discord, these can have quite a striking effect emotionally on people.
    She had accidentally created a very discordant work for which there was a perfectly reasonable explanation - I would imagine that colour effects like the one I've described confuse a lot of people when they see them in their pictures and they mask the area and fiddle with the sliders 'til everything settles down to what feels OK for them.
    On the other hand if they knew just a little more they could grab the chance of creating a really sophistacted and emotionally charged colour combination.
    Clive
     
  36. Actually, Clive can speak for me in this instance, as I would have been far less kind.
    Clive - "That's very entertaining - John.
    Of course I can't speak for Luis, but how did you make that jump that infers that neither of us can print?
    I could say, just for the entertainment value, how do you know what to print in colour when you steadfastly refuse to learn any of the colour fundamentals.
    I for one don't think its a really good idea to try and put a great big wall around Photography as its boundaries are very blurry. IMO
    Great chatting to you as always - Clive"
     
  37. Arthur - " Clive, Luis-
    For photographers, the best practical applications of Johannes Itten's theories I have seen are found in a German text ("Farb-Design in der Fotografie" Deposito legal B. 29433-1977) by Harald Mante, which I have a copy of in its French translation"
    Arthur, I've read one of Harald Mante's books. It was a skinny one in English. I believe it was a simplified version of the one you have. It was quite a good illustration of putting Itten's ideas into photographic practice.
     
  38. I write this hesitatingly.
    There were many new posters to this thread in particular to whom I'm really grateful for having contributed. I think the thread was interesting up to a certain point.
    I debated how to approach what I'm going to say delicately, perhaps was going to be as subtle as I could while trying to make a point. I've decided just to be honest and the chips will have to fall where they may.
    From about 3:56 PM today (January 11) I feel the thread has degraded. It's unfortunately become quite typical of Philosophy threads and I sense it's the kind of thing others have tried to address in various threads. A kind of back and forth lesson in how to drop names without actually saying anything of relevance to the original topic, or to anyone but the two or three other people who want to battle for top dog position.
    I feel badly because I was hoping that new people were going to start joining the forum and participating a little more regularly. I have this vision (no way to know whether it's accurate) of people reading and wondering what in the world happened here. To me, it's a train wreck.
    I wish I had a good solution or bypass, but I don't. Obviously, moving to another thread may be the only option. I'm sorry. I was hoping to continue things along and thanks to those few others who tried with me, but unless someone else can get this thread back on track, I hope to see you all in another thread soon.
    Thanks again to those who gave it a good shot and especially to those for whom it was the first shot!
     
  39. I tried to post a response but it never showed up, does that mean that the OP can close the thread?
     
  40. Ah! that one worked, excellent. While all this was going on I did a little survey of my own and discovered that at least 85% of new photgraphers who are considered significant all work predominantly in colour. If I'd looked 10 years ago the percentage would have been less, 20 years ago almost no colour. You can then extrapolate that in another 10 years almost nobody will be doing B&W.
    The new creative photographic frontiers have to be with colour.
    Clive
     
  41. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Photography is closer to earlier forms of art printing than to painting, and not all art printing was monochrome, just that color required more skillful printing techniques. Color is now cheaper, even in film, than black and white, because people like color well enough for economies of scale to have lowered the price of that.
    The Greek marbles that we admire for their white purity now were painted in the day, if I understand correctly, though I think sculpture today tends to be in original material rather than painted more often than not.
    Clive, I'm going to have to hit interlibrary loan for the book on color you've suggested, as that's obviously textbook priced.
     
  42. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 12, 2010; 01:00 a.m.
    I think the thread was interesting up to a certain point.
    Fred, here's what I consider the meat of the original (your) post.
    Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference? What's your perspective on color in terms of how you see it in photographs and also in terms of how and when you use it in your photographs? What else could be said about color in the context of photography?
    Fred, I try to give short, succinct, informative answers to the original post. I hope I, at least, have succeeded. I don't have the time to read lengthy posts, and I assume others have the same time constraints. Most of what you mention about irrelevant name dropping and top dogging can be considered off topic, and that becomes a moderator's issue, I would think.
    Bill P.
     
  43. Clive Murray-White , Jan 12, 2010; 04:51 a.m.

    You can then extrapolate that in another 10 years almost nobody will be doing B&W.
    Assuming a linear progression, you're right. Luckily, you don't trade stocks, or you'd be expecting DOW 77,000 in a few years. Very few things in life follow a linear trajectory, and creativity is far from one of those things.
    The new creative photographic frontiers have to be with colour.
    Really? That sounds pretty conclusive. I guess we can shut the door on B/W creativity.....
    Bill P.
     
  44. "Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference? What's your perspective on color in terms of how you see it in photographs and also in terms of how and when you use it in your photographs?"
    Fred, in regard to your question "what's your perspective in terms of how you see it in photographs", I do think the discussion about color (or colour) in recent posts is useful and in part appropriate, as it underlies the problem that color provides to the photographer or painter, a problem that is not the same as in black and white, namely the influence of color harmony and disharmony in an image.
    It is sad that in the past 30 years no other photographer seems to have written a color theory and application text like Harald Mante. Perhaps Dessain and Tolra (who have also published Itten's work, the photography of Ralph Gibson, and many others) can be persuaded to issue the volume in English. It could go some considerable distance in improving the understanding and the application of color photography and in improving the quality of the results in that medium. Some photographers, like Pete Turner or Ernst Haas, have understood, perhaps instinctively, why certain colors work better than others or why certain groups of colors and tones can convey more than just the subject itself.
    What we see every day in our changes of scene do not make great color photographs. We can choose to photograph everything of interest we see, without any consideration of the color composition. I often err by putting the consideration of color on the back burner, and usually I am rewarded with a result that is not as impressive as I might wish. The use of color is wonderful, but it is even more wonderful when the photographer understands some of the barriers to success and what works, or not. Like Clive (or was it Luis?), I didn't like very much having to paint my own color patches and compose my color wheel in an evening art course, but I haven't forgotten all of what I learned from that, and the understanding of the play of different colors.
    I am not sure that new posters on the forum will feel that color theory and application is all that necessary, but I think that the discussion on color use will add to their consideraton of the powerful and less powerful images in color photography.
    "The new creative photographic frontiers have to be with colour."
    Clive, you may be right about the color versus B&W tendency, which I feel is largely equipment influenced (For example, how many digital B&W cameras have you seen, I think there are none, even though the B&W sensor could be 3X as powerful as the same megapixel level color one?), but I have never been influenced by the expression "have to" in regard to what artistic or hobby activity I choose.
    As we all are witnessing, the number of B&W photographers has and will diminish, until it reaches a certain level. It would be as sad as the "genetically modified singular tomato" if that left no other photographic choice but color. Happily, B&W film and paper production is still practical and I can buy a variety of them at my local photo store (together with color films) rather than having to import those (artistic) materials from Freestyle in California, or England.
     
  45. Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference?​
    Whenever you make a photograph you are photographing light - the subject is there only because it is reflecting light. Color gives me the ability to show and additional feature of light - its color. For me, that is extremely important.
     
  46. deleted - double post​
     
  47. The people we cited (Clive, Arthur and I) are perhaps the best available old-school sources for someone interested in taking their awareness of color to the next level. Not, as Fred suggests, name-dropping. They're old names that worked for us, in our personal education in the understanding and use of color. In Clive's case and mine, we also used them successfully to educate others.
    Both Arthur and I found Mante interesting and informative. Color theory has moved on considerably since those days. Postmodern color theory is very different, yet the people we mentioned earlier provide a great foundation and first steps for anyone interested in learning color. All of this is relevant to the original topic and eminently useful information even if it doesn't conform exactly to how Fred wants us to express ourselves.
    Is this thread turning out exactly as Fred wanted it to? Of course not. I suspect the real world doesn't, either. As well-intentioned and controlling a director as Fred tries to be, the dance of life still happens.
    When Fred asked in the original post: "What else could be said about color in the context of photography?"
    I, and probably Arthur & Clive, thought: How and where to learn it? How did I learn it? Teach it? That is what this has been about, answering Fred's question.
    The thread is fine. In fact, it's been better than most recent ones, still holding plenty of promise and for that, I thank Fred.
    __________________
    As to Clive's predictions regarding B&W and color, given the nature of chaos theory, predicting the future in art (or the weather) is risky, if not fatal, business.
    _________________________
    Steve is alluding to one of color's great qualities, which we touched on a long time ago on the subject of print displays: Metamerism. I've already alluded in my initial response to cultural metamerism.
    __________________________
    For me, all of this knowledge was initially a handicap, until I took its human measure. Then it became integrated, forgotten, and truly useful in a purely intuitive, wordless manner.
    ___________________________
    Arthur, there is extraordinary color in quotidian life. Seeing it is another thing. Color is to us as water is to a goldfish: Hard to see.
     
  48. "Color is to us as water is to a goldfish: Hard to see." True, Luis, until one starts to think about it, whether via the colour wheel theory, or instinctively.
     
  49. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Learning theory is learning how to work more methodically, to understand more than instinctively what's happening in a photograph. If the theory doesn't connect to something instinctive, though, it's not going to have much impact.
    Some people have a fear of learning intellectually how to deal with problems in their art, but I'm not sure that relying only on instinct is as useful as its advocates suggest.
     
  50. Rebecca Brown [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 12, 2010; 12:21 p.m.
    I'm not sure that relying only on instinct is as useful as its advocates suggest.
    You bet. Next time you're on a commercial flight, ask if the pilot is self-taught, flying on "instinct".
    Bill P.
     
  51. Arthur - " What we see every day in our changes of scene do not make great color photographs."
    Why not? Most master color photographers have made excellent pictures in everyday scenes.
    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/images/screen/eggleston/eggleston_miami.jpg
    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://paulturounetblog.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/helen-levitt_nyc.jpg&imgrefurl=http://paulturounetforum.com/2007/05/25/how-much-for-that-eggleston-in-the-window/&usg=__qmkrwLqsbDdSylC-yX2ijxN3OWM=&h=413&w=640&sz=42&hl=en&start=59&um=1&tbnid=7c5RxepGJHNzPM:&tbnh=88&tbnw=137&prev=/images%3Fq%3DEggleston%2Bphotographs%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D40%26um%3D1
    http://www.williamgreiner.com/series5.asp?image=5&cap=5&strNav=terraflora
     
  52. Luis: Glad to see those images though in classic net form I'd reckon the colour has taken a bit of a beating.
    I was off crunching a picture of my own for PN, which was partly prompted by Rebecca's coloured "Elgin" marbles mention and probably shows why my bias is towards colour.
    In terms of Fred's original intensions for this thread the aim of this picture was not only to document the little sculpture but to attempt to create a picture that was able to do many of the things that the little head does. Always a monstrous problem for me. for a bigger version of the image: http://halfa.smugmug.com/Other/Clive-Murray-White-Sculpture/9029864_Swj2L#600769508_ZRo2B
    Though the choices about how to go about this were largely instinctual I am certain that knowledge played a fair role.
    Clive - nice to see we are all back
    00VU2K-209183584.jpg
     
  53. Rebecca, You say "that pink isn't going away." I've had a lot of white tee-shirts (even when not blown out) to work with in black and white that aren't going away either. I don't find that all shades of b/w and gray go together. I often find disruptive tonalities that challenge me to come up with solutions in b/w. More likely, what I may first see as a disruptive tonality might lead to an energized black and white punctuation mark if I can approach it head on rather than disguising it . . . very similar to a shocking pink. In this respect, I can relate to what Luis had to say about making that pink whatever he wants it to be.
    As with sunsets, nudes handled in black and white may, as you note, have a different feel. I suspect there are other subjects. The majority of street posts here and elsewhere are in b/w and I've even heard talk about how necessary and how much better b/w is for street. That may be a historic truth and evidence of a biased mindset or it may be something inherent to the genre. That attitude challenges me to want to shoot more street in color, partly because I like playing around in my work with my own and others' assumptions.
    William, the cool thing about preconceptions and stereotypes is, as with the street shooting example, that they give me an opportunity to undermine them. They often set up a springboard from which one who is willing can jump. As in social matters, the strange thing about stereotypes is that there is often some truth about them, but they get magnified and codified to a point of silliness. Sometimes, deconstructing them can yield some genuine insights.
    Arthur, when you say you use your digital camera to make b/w images, do you mean you pre-set the camera to b/w mode? I find so much latitude in shooting in color and then choosing my b/w conversion process to maximize flexibility and increase possibilities for tonal output. I'm not clear if that's actually what you meant and it would be interesting to hear the specifics.
    Wouter, glad the examples worked for you and thanks for addressing them with such insight. My own reaction to the Moriyama is not that it may be covering something up (color variety) but that it is screaming with expression of its own. I know, though, that I tend less to track back to what the "original scene" might have been and I think doing that when looking at photos might add a level to my own understanding of their construction that could be helpful. I probably would want to do that only after I've felt and digested the photo, but I think visualizing what the scene was and now where the image has come can be a really useful tool.
    Goldin is one of my favorite color photographers. Yet, I can see why you would expect not much difference were the shot linked to done in black and white, though I don't have that reaction. Because I find her color work so significant and strong throughout her body of work, I wonder if context might make a difference here. If we take her photos as a whole, does the color play a more significant role than if we view each photo as a separate entity? http://images.google.com/images?client=safari&rls=en&q=nan+goldin&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=WuxMS5TOGpPsswP7m_CKAQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQsAQwAA
    Clive, re "the role that grey plays in the whole scheme of things as it changes colour according to what's next to it." I was just talking to Wouter in terms of a more macro concept of context, looking at color over an entire body of work as opposed to an individual image. You've brought me back to the individual image and the importance of context in the relationships of tones and colors. Certainly, tone and color don't exist in vacuums, rather they appear in juxtapositions and relationships. So, for example, that pink we've been talking about might be dealt with not by dealing directly with the pink, but in fact by dealing with colors, light, and tones that relate to it. The way I often get the white tee-shirt or the dark shadow to work, the highlight to have a certain effect, is not by concentrating on the element in question but by concentrating on the elements surrounding it.
    Steve, I appreciate the association between light and color. As I said to Josh, I originally had a predisposition to reject the idea that color is a distraction. Josh pointed out the intimate relationship between light and photography and it gave me pause, opening me up to why someone would see color as a distraction. Now, you mention color as a feature of light, so maybe it is more intimately related to photography after all and puts me a little bit back into the mindset of resisting the notion of color being a distraction. I have no firm conclusion here, but this is a great way to open up my own way of thinking and of experiencing color.
     
  54. The majority of street posts here and elsewhere are in b/w and I've even heard talk about how necessary and how much better b/w is for street. That may be a historic truth and evidence of a biased mindset or it may be something inherent to the genre.​
    I don't find that to be true at all, that B&W is more seen as inherent to the genre, here or elsewhere, even though in the street/doc forum there might be more black&whites. But have a look at this compilation of streetportfolios, of which many are in color :
    http://www.in-public.com/photographers
    00VU4c-209213584.jpg
     
  55. Point taken, Phylo.
    The photo kind of sums up a lot, don't it!
     
  56. Luis,
    My comment: " What we see every day in our changes of scene do not make great color photographs."
    omitted what I was in fact thinking and meant to say, which was:
    "What we see every day in our changes of scene do (does) not necessarily make great color photographs."
    Sorry for the error, but better corrected late than not.
     
  57. I've even heard talk about how necessary and how much better b/w is for street.
    I don't know where Phylo came up with this quote, but c'mon gang, ....how B/W is "nesessary" for street? "Better"?
    I've shot street in B/W, color, day, night, day for night, in numerous formats, both still and motion.
    Bill P.
     
  58. William, he heard it from me, because I posted it above. I said I've heard it said. Neither of us said we agreed with it.
     
  59. I have never thought of B&W or colour photography as an a priori choice between the two mediums. The choice should be made I think based simply upon the nature of the subject and what you want to convey. Not many have discussed the wonderful chromatic contrasts and mood available through colour photography, or the superb tonality achievable (with practice) in the more abstract B&W images.
    Colours, like people, have character, and using them and putting them together is somewhat the same. Some concepts remain similar in both B&W and colour photography. One of these, not often discussed here, is the balance of masses in the two dimensional image. Where you place different masses (in reality, volumes), and there relation to each other, can work whether they are different tones of grey, white, black, or different colours and tones of colour. Look at successful abstract paintings, and you will see what I mean. Other concepts, like cold-warm colour contrasts, or the pairing of warm or cold colours, obviously work only in colour imaging. The elements of form, line and textures, or the use of chiaroscuro, while not limited to B&W, often work a bit better in that medium. Of course, there are always exceptions, and texture in colour is often a very powerful element for mood or other effect, and form and line can also be effective elements of colour images.
    I walked along the river this afternoon, photographing the impressive moving ice masses as they were being jostled by both current and tide (often contrary to each other). What I noticed, that I had not seen in some time, was the reflection of the blue sky in the water and the late day orangey warming of the ice flows that formed alternating strata between the patches of clear blue water. Orange and blue, and an interesting composition. The two colours are opposites on the colour wheel and excite our visual senses differently, providing an effective contrast.
    As nice as the ice can be rendered in black and white, that view said colour, and not B&W to me. This time at least.
    Fred, I would really love a digital camera designed for B&W (and if I could afford the second body to the colour one). The normal sensors of a colour digital must must capture three colours, whereas if converted to monochrome use only (as I understand it) they could provide three times the pixel density (say, 30 million, instead of just 10 million, or 60 instead of 20). But the photo market being the photo market, the desires of a small part of it does not carry much weight. All we have is the button allowing B&W only, which does not do the same thing.
    I usually shoot in colour with my digital, but when I want to shoot an IR type effect in B&W, I simply switch to B&W and place a visually opaque IR filter, or very deep red filter, over the lens. Luckily, my digital does not have a very efficient IR blocking filter over its sensor, so that becomes practical. When wanting to shoot B&W other than IR with the same camera, I find the best thing is not to let the camera do the conversion, but to shoot in colour and then do the conversion in something like PS Elements, or, and I don't have the software yet, in Nik's SilverEfex Pro, which I understand is very good for B&W conversions or for mimicking existing films and photographic paper response. One can always place B&W filters (yellow, orange, red, green) over the colour digital camera lens and shoot in RAW, then convert to B&W. Others will convert to B&W in PS by using different colour channels, which I am told does somewhat the same as B&W colour filters which seek to render colours differently in B&W (different tones).
    I still like shooting film and doing darkroom work for B&W, but digital can give very good results. Some of the greyish B&W conversions that were mentioned above are more a function of how the conversion was done than the ability of B&W to provide contrast and good tonal variations. Our view of B&W is perhaps becoming a bit foggy with some in-camera digital operations that don't recreate the best that digital B&W can offer.
     
  60. Steve, I also appreciated your reminder of the reflective light. The absorption and reflection (color) of light often becomes very significant to black and white work. For conversion to b+w it can be a primary concern and then I choose not to be distracted by color. It is then I become most intimate with it and understanding of it. You also mention color as an additional feature of light. Extremely important addition to be sure. And to a b+w photographer it can be a very important up front consideration. That said, I most often use color as a secondary step. In my architectural designs I often do not relate to colors until the interior design phase. the reflective light remains neutral in my mind, aside from occasional introduced parameters or environmental ambient color elements, existing or visualized. In my approach to photography it is similar.
    As Clive points out color relationships, harmony and discord, can lead to emotional insights and often that may suggest the handling of a b+w. Van Gogh's color pallettes and relationships have as much to offer or suggest to a bw photographer/photograph as Moriyama's highly energized work. Without acknowledging and working with color many b+w photographs would be drained of the special energy that can be achieved with light values in b+w. Bluntness and nuance, visual vocabulary is much more diverse and available to a b+w photographer when developed with an eye on color as well as luminance.
     
  61. Josh-
    I agree with a good part of that, especially how important an understanding of colour is in black and white photography. I know many B&W film photographers who have not understood the spectral sensitivity of their light meters, not to mention the importance of colour filters in modifying the reflected light that is being captured by their film.
     
  62. "Extremely important addition to be sure"
    Addition, as with color, yes. But viewing Black / White as an addition also, that is thrown at the world into the photograph, instead of viewing it as a subtraction of...color. That as much is true.
     
  63. Arthur. meters, film color sensitivity, filters, even paper base. My epiphany came when I was disappointed with some bw landscape work. I was killing the life of the trees and forest or flowers. boring and flat b+w trees and flowers, are those leaves?. No tree for the forest and sky. Until I discovered filters. Of course I went overboard at first with a red filter but very soon settled down to the lesser degrees of color filtration. Then I was able to capture what I thought I was seeing or wanted. I could even distinguish dead leaves from the living ones.
    Now when i use digital I begin my bw photographs with white balance as a first adjustment tool to conversions. Sometimes choosing inaccurate white balance because it will convert better, but most often preferring to aim for a clean white.
    Phylo, I am with you on that. Any form of interpretation, adjustment done by camera or processing is an addition. As a new view/expression it qualifies as an addition, even if some say it is a subtraction from the source origin. Remove or introduce any element from a starting point and it can be viewed as an addition. That makes me comfortable with it being viewed as + or -.
     
  64. One of the biggest realizations for me regarding color came long before I used it, with the effect of colors on B&W. Modulating tones in B&W with filtration was a personal revelation. Conversely, one of the most important things in color photography are the shades of color.
     
  65. Luis: with the effect of colors on B&W. Modulating tones in B&W with filtration was a personal revelation.
    So that's why TV studios (News desk) back in the B+W days were painted the most horrible collection of weird colours - so they would look right on a B+W screen. Always wondered about that.
    Clive
     
  66. Fred - " That may be a historic truth and evidence of a biased mindset or it may be something inherent to the genre." [B&W for Street].
    There's been lots of excellent color street photography.
    I gave an example of Helen Levitt's work earlier. Here's another. Lots 40 years old and older:
    http://www.lensculture.com/levitt.html
    From Chicago, Paul D'amato:
    http://www.pauldamato.com/
    Joel Meyerowitz
    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/M/meyerowitz/meyerowitz_red_coat.html
     
  67. Hey Fred. Now that we seem to have done some minor justice to color theory, influences and technique, I began to wonder more about emotional choices and impact. I was rereading your opening post and browsing your portfolio. Your portfolio shows you to be an equal opportunity shooter.
    "Does color generically give you a different overall feeling than black and white? Can you describe that difference? What's your perspective on color in terms of how you see it in photographs and also in terms of how and when you use it in your photographs?"fred
    For all the conversations we have had I don't recall asking ... What goes on in your head in choosing and viewing, (bw/color) even within your doc work? are there in fact some generic reasons for your choice(s).?
    Phylo "But photographically I can differentiate color to be more about looking with the eye first, and the recognition for things that have a certain vibrancy. Black&white for me is perhaps seeing with the I first, for things that resonate." I like that Phylo. very thoughtful. I once said that bw makes me want to see beyond the surface more often so it holds on to me and makes me reflect longer. But I like your way of putting it better.
     
  68. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 12, 2010; 05:20 p.m.
    William, he heard it from me, because I posted it above. I said I've heard it said. Neither of us said we agreed with it.
    Fred, I'm with you. Statements like that scare me. From prejudice to photo-bigotry, that worries me!
    Words like "necessary" have to be used with caution.
    Bill P.
     
  69. I hesitate, because the minute I give a reason I think of many exceptions to what I'm saying. But I'll give it a shot.
    Perhaps I use b/w as more pensive or thoughtful and color for more passionate work. Color seems to have a more visceral, more physical, even more sexual charge for me. When Rebecca talked about nudes and color, I didn't think of that. But it probably relates to my own color usage as well. More carnal?
    I also like to use color mundanely. My nude guy standing on the rooftop ( penis warning: http://www.photo.net/photo/9448504 ) and my photo of Gerald lying on the couch ( http://www.photo.net/photo/9728413&size=lg ) both work for me because they have that casual, snapshot-like feel. Gerald could be a very powerful and nuanced black and white, but I wasn't after that kind of high impact. It seemed more genuinely Gerald and more genuinely mine handled in an "every day" manner.
    I notice using b/w more often when there is something graphic or linear suggested. So, my photo of Ian sitting among the columns and shadows of the band shell ( http://www.photo.net/photo/7642273&size=lg ) had to be in black and white for me. The bust shot of Ian ( http://www.photo.net/photo/7674229 ) is in b/w as a homage to Hollywood portrait photography, Hurrell in particular.
    I use color sometimes compositionally, to connect elements in various parts of the photo through color bleeding into shadowed areas, etc. I find that an echo of a certain color elsewhere in the frame can cause my eye to move around or connect with something.
    As for documentary, the people for whom I'm creating the documentary want mostly color, so that dictates a lot. But they are open to some b/w. I use the color for warmth and for inviting presentation. The photos are mostly meant not to be arty or heavily moody, though I can't help myself sometimes. I will take some photos purely for myself and often those are the b/w shots. I may think of b/w as punctuation marks in the series which is, as I said, mostly color, so I will use b/w to halt the viewer, change or set up rhythms, create tangents to the main story, etc. Perhaps there's a level of internality with the b/w photos and more of the external world in the color ones . . . I'd have to think more about that but it might tie into the pensive/passionate distinction I talked about above.
    I recently used b/w somewhat subversively, for the photo of the houseboat scene downtown ( http://www.photo.net/photo/9961353&size=lg ). I don't generally shoot landscapes or "idyllic" scenes but something about this lazy little scene captured my imagination. It actually wasn't a very "pretty" or postcard-like scene, more of a worn down inner city respite along the waterway. I handled it in a pretty strong b/w so as not to suggest "postcard." An unexpected result was that some viewers assumed it was an idyllic scene to begin with when it really wasn't. The wear and tear of the scene, the real presence of the grit of the city even along this waterway was what actually motivated my treatment of it. And yet the conversion to a strong b/w made people think, somewhat inaccurately, about the original scene. I loved that reaction!
    As viewer, I tend to be accepting. A common PN comment is, "I would like to see that in black and white." I rarely go there. I'm pretty accepting of a photograph's being in color or black and white as a foundational choice and it just seems there to me, not to be questioned. As viewer, I usually take color or b/w as a given.
    My viewing experience of b/w is affected by context and also by body of work. Looking at a show that's entirely in color is different from viewing a few photos in color in the context of more black and whites. As a viewer, color is less likely to work for me or reach me if I feel it's there as a "representation of reality" or to convey something "accurately" (except in pj or documentary situations, or forensic usages). I prefer color (probably good black and white for that matter) when it's used as an expressive element. I like the way Luis put it above, when it's not just color but it's YOUR color.
    It's hard for me to extrapolate color or b/w from other elements. It's how it works in harmony or in counterpoint with the rest. Does it comment on or seem to come from the subject? If more imposed by the photographer, does it work? Does the choice of color or b/w seem to integrate with the story and/or the composition? How does it affect how the light makes me feel?
     
  70. Fred-
    Unfortunately I don't have the time to truly engage this whole forum. From personal experience, I know that when I am in the practice of shooting B&W, I tend to see and choose my subjects, and of course shoot my subjects with B&W in mind. The same goes for color. It can however be a hinderance and an advantage, having both right at our fingertips with today's digital world. As for things being distracting- that's really up to the photographer- and if they aren't able to deal with their "moment", that is to say minimize those distractions "in-camera", well then that's a place to start looking for change- wether its shooting style, framing, color vs. B&W, retouching- it doesn't matter- its all the same: manipulating the image to meet your needs as an image maker. Of course, its always easier to get it right the first time 'round:)
     
  71. Martin-
    You've said very succinctly what I feel. Each is a medium to exploit for its own potential. I usually have a pretty firm idea of which medium to choose before each visualisation of an image and rarely switch to B&W after shooting colour in digital. It is interesting how your comment on distracting elements also fits into the "power of less" concept previously discussed, or the similar concept of when less is more, more is no good, and the need to analyze often our own shooting style or approach.
    Fred-
    You have touched on some of the reasons for preferring colour or black and white. There are many, some of which I also brought up, but each person will appreciate and prefer different qualities of both mediums. That, undeniably I think, is the pleasure of photography, and some of what lifts it above the snapshot level.
     
  72. Fred, to answer a question from way, way back in the thread, on colour use in the entire body of work of Goldin. Yes, seeing all those photo thumbnailed together, nearly all of them "feel" like they have to be in colour. And so the total has to be too. But I always look one photo at a time. Thinking about a "body of work" of any artist, I associate that with the feel, with connection between the works, with a message. But not with their actual content, or the presentation of that content. To draw a parallel: Mahler's 9th, Lied von der Erde and the performing versions of the 10th are to me as deeply connected as they are different. I cannot listen to them without realising the other, but they stay seperate pieces of art. The 9th is a black and white photo, Das Lied von der Erde is colour. The 10th, I'm undecided...To the ear, very different works. But they do speak one message.
    So I think I may draw the connections between works of art different, hence the different angles on that probably.

    Reading through the postings, Steve made me realise I indeed missed something in the earlier musing. The colour of light. It's in fact one of the first things I check before I want to go out to make photos. Too many building, landscapes, skylines, city scenes, just don't have any visual impact if the light is flat, dull, washed out. But the right type of light, and those same places can be jawdropping gorgeous. And the reverse.
    Black and white does not rely that strong on those qualities of light. The light may change the tonality and contrast, but not much more. Of course, it can also disguise the lack of nice light. In this sense, though, black and white really takes something away. In the role of a photo as memory-enabler, that could be a big loss.
    But this also brings me back to when black and white makes more sense than colour. To me, at least.
    Arthur, are B&W and colour really 2 different mediums to you? For me, it's a natural selection on how I want to present a photo, ultimately. Maybe because I'm all digital, so I can always change my mind later on, but also when looking at the work of others, to me photography is the medium, and the inclusion or exclusion of colour is a choice on how to present what one wants to present. Or, as Martin has put it nicer, "manipulating the image to meet your needs as an image maker".
     
  73. Fred, after posing the question openly to you I had a misgiving. In the face of the many exceptions it seemed unfair or ... ?
    I admire that you took it on. So with the many exceptions aside, a given ....
    "Perhaps I use b/w as more pensive or thoughtful and color for more passionate work. Color seems to have a more visceral, more physical, even more sexual charge for me. When Rebecca talked about nudes and color, I didn't think of that. But it probably relates to my own color usage as well. More carnal?" fred
    You got my attention. .... The first thing that catches my attention is your using color for your more passionate work. I immediately thought of your 'tango' shot. Boy does that make sense. If you were in the mind to express your passion that you might be first drawn to color. And likewise I clearly see the upfront pensive bw coming through your work.
    What really intrigued me was the use of the word carnal, color is more carnal with a question mark. An interesting exploration Fred. One that will stick with me. One that inspires me. and will probably surface in future work.
    As you jump to color used mundanely, I first took it to mean for the mundane subject. I was wrong I believe. When I recalled your examples I realized it was not always the subject but more in the expression or the manner it was approached. Passion to mundane expression. That just seems to show the flexibility you are finding with color that I haven't. I have never felt the latitude with color that your words and work have suggested.
    The idea of making it your color really falls into place here. How often it seems that the real power of expression comes back home to making it yours.
     
  74. Wouter, I really do consider B&W and colour different mediums, with very different qualities, caracteristics and possibilities for me, dependent upon what I want to shoot and how. I often carry two small MF cameras (discontinued Mamiya 6s) as well as my digital "35", independently loaded with colour transparency film and B&W film. I rarely ever make a photo of the same subject with both (as not many subjects, or my perception of them, are ideal for both), and by using the same lenses for both cameras I have only to remove the colour filters when using the colour camera. Even with the digital (which is sometimes the only camera I carry) I tend to decide on the medium before shooting, although I convert from colour to B&W only later, in post production.
    Fred, I am not sure colour is more carnal in effect than B&W. It IS more realistic. I have seen some fantastic nude photos of women by Bettina R (sorry, I forget her last name, ...a well-known European photographer), where the use of high key, focus and other methods, and a great sensitivity to the sensual image has allowed her to produce some great work.
    B&W is often much more suggestive than colour. That I think is due to the abstract nature of the medium and our desire to apply our imaginations to the image and not to have something too easy to completely recognize.
     
  75. "I am not sure colour is more carnal in effect than B&W." Arthur, I know that you directed your comment to Fred. I also noted that you say you are not sure. But since this was of particular interest to me when I read Fred's comments. I would like to interject something. I read Fred's mention of carnal as a passing thought. One that I find an intriguing option. I think we would all agree that there are countless sensual bw nudes. Bettina Rheims (?) has well established her abilities in bw and color.
    When I read Fred's casual comment I took it in the context of how he might use color. It had not occurred to me to pick up my color medium to express myself when going there (tho I have done it). To consider a different approach to carnal with the different mediums. Like you I clearly consider bw and color different mediums. I would tend to pick up bw to go there.
     
  76. "Fred, I am not sure colour is more carnal in effect than B&W."
    Arthur, to emphasize what Josh has said, my post was about how I work and what I feel relative to my work. It's not about what is. I wouldn't want to say anything about what color or black and white is objectively, because I think that would be pointless in terms of my expressive use of them.
     
  77. Arthur, to continue the point.
    You go on to say "It [color] IS more realistic."
    I don't think so. I think it depends how it's used.
    Look at the Weston nude I posted in my first links above and then check out this color photo by Goldin: http://timeislivingme.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/cookie_1983_c2a9nan_goldin.jpg
    To me, the b/w is MUCH more realistic. But that doesn't mean I think b/w is more or less realistic than color. It depends how it's used.
     
  78. There is no blood in black and white.
    That's (often) the point.
    [I said color is carnal way back at the top of this thread and nobody even noticed. *sigh*]
     
  79. Fred-
    That's a good example (the Goldin), but for me both the Weston and the Goldin are realistic to different degrees, the Weston because, while the pose is great, the use of B&W is as realistic as it can get in B&W without adding colour instead of grey tones. The Goldin is a colour image in simple filtered light (or alteration of the white balance of a sensor or film), much like placing a yellow-orange filter over the lens. Otherwise the image is somewhat like the Weston to me, a realistic portrayal of the girl at the table and the busts on the wall. The only abstraction for me is the filtered light.
    More abstract or expressive colour images can indeed be less realistic than the Goldin example or Weston's nude example. Bettina Rheims uses B&W in a different way than Weston, using high key effects and blown out highlights and/or chiaroscuro effects (if my memory serve me, it has been a dozen years since I saw magazine reproductions of her work). Elsewhere, Bill Brandt used extreme wide angle lenses and B&W to portray his nudes in a non realistic manner. His work does not strike me as a sensual or carnal expression, however. Would his work succeed also in colour? Probably, but it would be different. I think there is something special about B&W in directing emphasis on the abstract forms, as in Brandt, whereas colour might distract from that intent, and elsewhere by yielding sensual and carnal attributes to human portraiture. Of course, colour can also provide images of sensual and carnal perception of the photographer, but I don't think colour is inherently more suited in that area than B&W.
    Like you say, it is how the mediums are used. It is probably not either, or.
     
  80. Good catch Julie. I Apologize. I know I missed it. It is often the case of not when it was first said but when it hits home. I have experienced the same eye rolling *sigh*.
     
  81. Julie - I think I did.
    Julie, very good, but I would have liked a film/TV style parental guidance warning. I think you answered Phylo's question.
    And I think you were wise to bring it up again and you are right on the money.
    My own feeling about the early exhibiting photograpers who used colour was that you can sense that were nervously putting their toes into a place where many thought they shouldn't go - there was a strange selfconscious quality to most of the work as it tried to carve out an art niche in a commercially dominated genre.
    Clive
     
  82. Julie, since it is an interesting take "... for me, color is "meaty," carnal", I wonder if you have more food for thought about it? As I said I never made that connection to color before. It also seems that Clive sees some value in it.
     
  83. Julie, I know you're not really looking for credit here, but your original post that used the word "carnal" likely had an influence (even if subconsciously) on my use of it.
    We all know the important thing is not who brought it up. So, let's get to it . . .
    Clive, why is it a significant concept to you, worthy of praise to Julie for bringing it up? How do you see the relationship, for yourself, if you do in some way, between carnal and color use in your photography or in art in general?
    Similar question to Arthur. I understand and agree that color is not more suited in that area than B&W. But we both keep agreeing that this is not an either/or matter and not a competition, so can you say something about your own use of color related to what's carnal? For instance, you recently talked about, and I found very interesting, the fact that you bring two cameras with you when shooting. Now, I assume something goes into your choice of shooting color and shooting black and white. I'm not asking for you to see the two competitively. I'm asking if there is a carnal* aspect, ever, to your shooting in color that you can describe or that you've thought of. Not compared to black and white. Just in itself. What's carnal about color for you and have you utilized that?
    *I talk of carnal as being of the body, perhaps closer to sensual than spiritual. Not necessarily sexual, though it certainly can be.
    Josh, you talked specifically about your response to the use of the word "carnal" and I'm moved that it will give you some impetus to keep carnal in mind when shooting color. Exploration at its finest. Can you say any more about what "carnal" means to you and how you might relate it to color?
    P.S. Josh, I was writing while you posted.
     
  84. Fred, as I have stated the connection is a new idea to me. I will get back to you after mulling it over. Also after refining my thoughts on carnal, sensual, sexual, temporal, corporeal etc.
     
  85. jtk

    jtk

    Is photography the concept here, or are the last dozen posts as centered on personal, temporary word usage ("carnal") as they seem?
    While the photo teachers among us sometimes have useful contributions to make...where are their photos? Those that can, do...
    I'm attracted to the images of Josh D W, obviously a photographer. If he wanted to photograph more in color than he's shown, he'd undoubtedly do so. Maybe he does?
    I''ve been familiar with Albers work for a few decades...I've enjoyed work, prints and paintings, by analytic types who found it fertile. I don't think it has yet achieved relevance, much less importance, in photography.... if it had done so, the scholars among us would have cited examples. Nan Goldin's work isn't an example imo, as that would work just as well in B&W as in color. or rendered in charcoal.
    I think shades of gray or color relationships are important, but secondary. Weston's work and Goldin's work could have been done with iPhones.
     
  86. Fred, I must put up some more recent images to my very small PN portfolio, and I will try to find some that are at least partly the result of a carnal viewpoint or expression. Looking at some of the images I have posted, I can find just one that is a very conscious visualisation in that sense, the B&W image titled "Palpable" (shot with my digital camera and macro lens). I wanted to convey a sensuous and/or otherwise compelling image based on ordinary household ustensils, a simple background and lighting effect. The title is de-sexualised. It hasn't received any comments to date, which may mean it isn't perceived as intended.
    I am looking now at some of my other images in a different light, wondering if a sub-conscious level of carnal or sensual intention, not realised at exposure, led me to photograph the two colour images titled "St. Lawrence River Rocks" (there is a relation between the inanimate rocks of the scene) and "Hommage to Monet" (did I see flowers, human bodies connected, or really nothing but an interesting play of stained window light?) and perhaps the image "Arch" in B&W (the central foreground tree and the circular opening to the sunny scene beyond). Are these reasonings simply amusing, of no import, post-modern contrivings, over-interpretation after the fact, or was I expressing mildly sensuous thoughts sub-consciously? It probably doesn't matter one way or the other, but it intrigues me and may indicate that the human desire for sensuous experience can express itself both subtley and more strongly in our work.
    As for the latter, it will be interesting to review past work, and others might also be prompted by your discussion to do that.
     
  87. Ah yes, I Googled Bettina Rheims and the work shown, more typical of her career, is not at all like the B&W photos of a decade or more ago (not sure when they were made), which were sensuous and subtle, expressionistic, and not at all realistic like her more recent, and to my mind, less interesting work. Even if her father was of the Academie Francaise....
     
  88. Fred - I can't give your question all the attention it deserves right at this moment - up to my eye balls with a project - but Julie's response did ring the right bells for me.
    In a way I think she's even closer with "blood" and maybe I can offer. colour has "life" or even colour is life.
    My non photography experience is that when I started using coloured marble ( which I thought had life in it) for my sculptures I did so fairly nervously knowing that the weight of history favoured plain white stone. The great surprise was that when people talk about appreciating the coloured in preference to white they always say the colour has some life in it - white is plain, dull, dead etc. Same for black
    Clive
     
  89. Many Rodin sculptures appear almost black, but communicate enormously well by their form and tension. Black and white photography does that when well used. I am thinking of that famous Bresson or Doisneau photo of the American soldier and the French girl in a light dress at the liberation of Paris, or the photos of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, which show B&W to have much "blood" and "life". No more than color, but in a unique unchromatic manner, where light and form are the life of the more abstract black, grey and white image.
    Perhaps we should characterize color photography more by what it is, or allows us to do, rather than what B&W is not.
     
  90. jtk

    jtk

    Perhaps, rather than Bravo and Rodin, we could talk about relatively contemporary photographers.
    Bravo's fine, but how is he relevant to the topic (surely not just because he worked in B&W?)...and how is Rodin relevant?
    Me, I don't think the distinction between B&W and color is even minimally well informed. In particular, the claim that there's more information in one than the other is uninformed both scientifically and aesthetically: we see as much as we can see, we're not limited by what's put in front of us. We both edit and fill in blanks.
    The images today from Haiti are agonizing and would lose something in B&W...or they'd gain something, depending on who made the images, their targeted audience, their intent, and their skills.
     
  91. John, Thanks for the nod.
    I stand as the guilty one for pursuing the word 'carnal' here in context to expressing it with color. It goes to why I am here. For insights and ideas that stimulate me to explore, photographically.
    For example when I read, "Weston's work and Goldin's work could have been done with iPhones." That stopped me in my tracks. Weston's work on a iphone.? I'll bite, I think I have said things to others that made this is a good challenge, so... I tried it. I have a lush Lodima Press book of Weston's work. I took a couple of good but less familiar photos and and put them on my phone. It had a drastic impact on my response to his work. It left me wanting. They did become much more common, they were missing his signature gradations. But they were not photos that were clearly Weston w/o the print qualities intact. So I also took one of the well known dune nudes, and it warn't bad. Still very distinctive. It was good but notably drained of Weston's energy. I did not print it. It only made it to the computer monitor. Turned out to be very interesting really.
    I know you frequently talk about the experience of the print vs monitor. As viewer, I think the impact a photo has on me is even more influenced by viewing medium than color or bw at this point. As photographer I lean heavily on bw for reasons already stated.
     
  92. Josh, interesting story about the phone pics of Weston photos. Very thoughtful experiment. Connects back to color and b/w nicely for me.
    ______________________________________
    Phone screen, monitor, print are delivery systems. Impact may even be the same for certain pictures on all kinds of delivery systems. But response is different. Response is not only based on impact. It's based on senses.
    Same for b/w and color. Doesn't matter much to me which is better, which has more or less information, which is an addition or subtraction (though it's interesting to hear different takes on those subjects).
    Difference of delivery matters.
    John, Goldin might have similar or same impact in b/w and color. Impressive that she could do that in color but is her color itself significant? In b/w, her subjects would be the same, content would be the same, moment would be the same. Sensual response to her in color, completely different. Her color is significant to what I actually see. Her color reaches me viscerally. Her color is significantly perceptible. (Not all color photos accomplish that.) None of this is dependent on my liking her photos or my judgment about them.
     
  93. thinking . . .
     
  94. Arthur, it would be interesting to explore the differences between "carnal" and "sensual." I keep thinking that carnal is edgier than sensual, but haven't yet articulated it clearly for myself. Obviously, there's a relationship. Lots of objects can be sensual for me. But carnal recalls the body. Not that only bodies can be the subjects of carnal photographs. Trees, for example, can be carnal as can other objects. But I think I'd have to feel the "body-ness" of the tree rather than, for example, just the sensuousness of its curves or textures.
     
  95. thinking . . . -- Fred Goldsmith
    *laughing*
    This thinking stuff is dangerous. I'm going to do a brain dump of the background to my "There is no blood in black and white." I'm sure I'll regret it, but what the heck.
    "Brain dump" = a big mess >> free association stuff. Here goes:
    Color/black and white
    Biology/physics
    Absolute/relative
    Color = digestion, hormones (color vision evolved around needs to do with mating and food/health). Black and white = tension, forces, energy, resistence, flow.
    On absolute/relative, "a" color does things all by itself while "a" black and white tone does not:
    red >> blood, apples, sunsets, etc.
    yellow >> eggs, blondes, puss, summer squash, etc.
    zone III (black and white tone two steps below middle gray) >> Huh?
    blue >> sky, eyes, swimming pools, etc.
    zone VII >> Who? Wha...? [The zone system manual says it's "very light skin, either in sun or when entirely in shade. Average snow in raking sun. Light grey concrete, bright colors. Whites with texture and delicate values." But I would maintain that none of that has any meaning without the surrounding/other gray tones in the photograph.]
    More on black and white as relative:
    revealed/hidden
    exposed/unexposed
    known/unknown
    Philosophically, color engages the world. Where is the spit and the sweat in Plato? Where is the bleeding or indigestion in Kant? Embody the forces of black and white within the flesh of color and make contact; what does philosophy look like in a plaid polyester jump suit?
    Imagine a black and white picture of a crying child with a bloody nose. In black and white, it's about the eyes and the wailing mouth; about the facial expression, the tension of pain and sorrow. Make that picture color and it's about the blood, the animal, the tribal. [I was going to use Sally Mann's picture of Emmett to illustrate but I seem to have conflated it with the picture of one of her little daughters with a black eye -- both in black and white. Interesting...]
    (Clive, thanks, and I did notice your comment. I mistook it to be about the odors and the "hands on" bit. Josh, I absolutely love your iPhone test. Beautiful.)
     
  96. Some interesting thoughts, Julie. Thanks. I for one cannot associate with all your free association points, as for example, your absoute/relative case, where colours are indeed absolute only in the sense of reality. Art in many cases is not particularly concerned with reality. I think someone said that the world is as beautiful as a "blue orange".
    I agree, Josh, nice experiment, and I think somewhere above I mentioned to Fred that both the Goldin and the Weston share an equal relationship to reality for me, although Weston's is for me the more succesful one (Goldin's is "fun", with the countepoint of wall mounted busts and the sad looking girl, but the colour doesn't do much for me except to say that the girl, notwithstanding appearances, is alive, while the sculptures are not).
    So, rather than blast away at B&W, without recognizing its particularly artistic value or by simply relegating it to the dust bin of history, as Clive seems to infer (sorry, Clive, if I have misinterpreted your thoughts), what can anyone here say about the value of colour in photography, other than it's evocation of reality? For me it is a powerful tool or medium, but certainly not because it is more "here" (in the sense of reality) than B&W, or more palpable to our visual senses. I really wish that a volume the equivalent of Harald Mante's was available today. Photographers are not alone among artists to under-use (and in some cases be ignorant of) the effects of colour.
    Fred, I agree that sensual and carnal can be distinguished a bit from each other (my dictionary placs them as synonyms, but it is the rather good old stade Oxford), but the photographer can see sensual images in many things that also refer to a more carnal image in the photgraphically real sense. The difference between thought and the creation?
     
  97. Two very different pictures, illustrating Julie's point about color and blood (w/o getting into the gory side).
    In color:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/14655132@N04/1893437010/
    B&W (Sally Mann's Emmet)
    http://www.phillipsdepury.com/auctions/lot-detail.aspx?sn=NY040109&lotnum=107&search=&p=9&order=
    _______________________
    For me, carnal is related to the flesh. I've studied plant morphology and been in clear-cut forests in the northwest and carnal didn't come to mind. It does in butcher shops, festivals and commuter trains. Note how we speak of carnal pleasures. Sensuous implies pleasure/voluptuousness, but not necessarily about the flesh. The shape of a bottle or abstract sculpture can be sensuous, while not being carnal.
    ____________________
    Either color or B&W is whatever one makes of it. Ascribing innate qualities to either medium is a fine exercise, but meaningless to me save for the fact that it leads to formulas, which are a lovely thing in art, because it's like having someone else do some heavy lifting for you, pointing to obvious places to crash through while they remain immobile.
    _____________________
    Some contemporary color photogs...
    http://www.chaskielberg.com/#a=0&at=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=1&p=1
    http://www.barbaraprobst.net/exp_39.html
    http://www.christianpatterson.com/
     
  98. "the colour has some life in it - white is plain, dull, dead etc. Same for black" Clive​
    If light is life,then black has more life in it through its higher absorption of light. I've read an article recently about an artist from Brussels who's first in making a work with the darkest material ever used, 144 times blacker than black ; light goes in but doesn't go out. It is only as of tomorrow that the work is on display but per description it shows a black square with a smaller square of BLACK in it that's made by using nano-technology. Black isn't always just black and white isn't always just white.
     
  99. Arthur - " I really wish that a volume the equivalent of Harald Mante's was available today."
    Maybe it is.
    http://www.amazon.com/Photograph-Composition-Color-Design/dp/1933952261
    http://fileshunt.com/rapidshare.php?file=photograph+composition+color+design+harald+mante
    http://www.allbookstores.com/author/Harald_Mante.html
     
  100. Luis-
    Thanks. It is probably a more comprehensive work than his earlier one and the Amazon purchaser's reviews (20) vary between 3 and 5 out of 5. Some of his photos relate to an aesthetic of 30 years ago, which may bother more avant-garde artists, and the omission in his later book of photographic details (lens field of view, f stop and shutter speed on his Contarex camera) are minor complaints. His application of Itten's theories as well as Kandinsky's compositional theories are probably the strengths of his work, compared to Michael Freeman's text (I am quoting the reviews, not my own knowledge re "The Photographer's Eye"). There was also earlier text translations (1970s?) to English by Van Nostrand Reinhold, which may be available in some photographic libraries.
    Although a bit academic (but less so than Itten and Kandinsky), his works are good references for those using color in various creative approaches in the photographic medium.
    Luis, the blood examples are good illustrations of one significant difference between the two mediums. The very recent stark images out of Haiti point to the evident qualities of colour in describing the human costs of that disaster (I wish the plate techtonics people and seismologists or other engineers could perfect their electromagnetic devices to monitor an impending event better (some measure of the forces, temperature change, or other) and provide some sort of warning device, although the event seems almost as difficult as predicting Brownian movements).
     
  101. "Either color or B&W is whatever one makes of it. Ascribing innate qualities to either medium is a fine exercise, but meaningless"
    "It [color] is infinitely more complex than B&W" --Luis
    Can you explain? Do these contradict each other? Is "complexity" a different sort of quality from other qualities? In what way(s)?
    Just for clarity, I think several of us have talked about various qualities we work with in b/w and color, certainly not thinking of them as innate or exclusive, just expressive for our purposes at the time. Some, on the other hand, do seem to be talking about innateness. I don't find the latter statements meaningless.
    ___________________________
    So, rather than blast away at B&W . . . what can anyone here say about the value of colour in photography, other than it's evocation of reality? --Arthur
    I don't know if you are using "value" intentionally or just more casually. I don't see this as a matter of value. For me, it's a matter of expression. My feelings about each are pretty much value-neutral. As Luis and others have said, it's what gets the job done.
    Please see my post of Jan 13th at 10:45 am, where I talk about color and passion, sexuality, the carnal, the mundane, the casual, snap shot evocation, warmth, non-artiness, compositional uses, presentational uses, setting up rhythms with color in a series, etc.
    Again, these descriptions and motivations, these qualities, are not anything I think of as inherent to color or as existing in color to the exclusion of black and white. They are ways I have found myself using color to express myself and to express things about my subjects and to present projects. They have nothing to do with comparisons.
    I would expect to hear people using black and white for the very same reasons I use color.
    Josh has talked quite a bit about the range of expressions and uses he gets from black and white. See January 10, 9:41.
    Phylo made a great personal distinction on January 11, 4:09.
    I haven't done an exhaustive re-read, and sorry if I left anyone out who talked about color in its own right and non-innately. I know Clive did bring up the significance of color relationships in terms of harmony and discord, which Josh then picked up on.
     
  102. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Color can be realistic or not realistic (one of the Goldin's referenced above is a non-realistic use of color. Black and white is always one level removed from realistic, is these days about the photograph as a photograph (this perhaps hasn't always been the case). Color can range from representational to not so much. The non-realistic use of color is more kin perhaps to the black and white than to the more representational use of color, perhaps more so because color is associated with a more realistic depiction, so unreal colors even more than black and white draw attention to the photograph as result of choices rather than as representation of what's "out there."
     
  103. Touché, Fred. I do tend to exagerate when trying to make a point (one of "for colour", not "against B&W"). Yes, there are several excellent reasons already stated, as you mention. The others I was hoping to see related a bit more to the recognition of the "character" of various colours and to their complex (but not so complex) "chromatic relationships", and how these can be effectively used in colour photography (as per the the Mante reference; alas, I have no way of effectively providing them here). Maybe that aspect of colour photography is for another discussion. Maybe not.
     
  104. Luis, I'm glad you brought up "flesh" related to carnal. I was hesitating about "body" and I think "flesh" may be an answer.
    If carnal didn't come to mind in those forests, maybe you just weren't thinking of your own place in all of it. ;)
     
  105. Fred (El Picador) typed -" Can you explain? Do these contradict each other? Is "complexity" a different sort of quality from other qualities? In what way(s)?"
    I don't consider what I perceive as the quantitative complexity of color (extradimensional compared to B&W) in the same league with an innate qualitative aspect. To me, color is a different language with a larger vocabulary, one that can say anything, just like black and white, depending on who's saying it. But now that Fred mentions it, I love the energy in contradictions and paradoxes, so I would heartily welcome calling it that.
    Fred - " Some, on the other hand, do seem to be talking about innateness. I don't find the latter statements meaningless."
    I encourage everyone to talk about innateness. I carefully phrased what I said because I anticipated this kind of reaction. I said it was "meaningless to me ", not universally meaningless. For me, it has the same (non-)meaning as:
    What is the value of clay? What is the value of acrylics? Oils? Gouache? Watercolors? What is the value of pencil lead? Ink? Marble? Video? Film? Digital?
    The value of all these for me, is in what one does with them, how they aid and abet or counteract/neutralize one's energies. Either can result in great work.
    Think of it as an operational definition.
    [Disclaimer: Not for one instant do I assume my own thoughts and beliefs to be absolute truths, let alone a yardstick for the universe.]
    I do, however, agree that an at overall level, the discussion has meaning and merit to me, which is why I am here and reading most of it intently.
     
  106. ???
    Rebecca/Arthur
    , I'll consider it a lot more, but I don't think I see photographic color in terms of it being "realistic" any more than I'm concerned with "realistic" when it comes to black and white.
    This is me thinking out loud. I don't mean it dogmatically, because it's stuff I'm playing around with, not concluding:
    For me, part of the joy of a photograph is in its not being the same as the reality used as the raw materials for its creation. (Photographs themselves, of course, are real.) If I wanted that original reality, I'd visit the person whose portrait is hanging on my wall in a frame behind glass or I'd go to Yosemite instead of thumbing through pictures of it in one of the books on my shelf or I'd eat a green pepper. I don't expect the same input or response from the picture hanging on my wall as from the person who I would visit. And I don't utilize color or get the same response from it in a photograph as I do from color elsewhere. I find the plasticity (?) / artificiality (?) of photographic color and black and white tying them together much more than I find "realism" separating them.
    That's why I don't readily think I see black and white in photographs as more of an abstraction than color. Color in photographs, to me, in most cases, is expressive, not representational. (I can, of course, think of cases where "representation" is an issue.)
    I know there's long been a concern in the history of photography with "accuracy" of color. I've concerned myself with that in many instances. Accurate, to me, is different from realistic.
    ???
     
  107. Although an interesting think question, Fred, I couldn't hang in to digest all the many views foregoing....
    A few minutes ago I scanned an old black and white print. Does it have a different emotional register in me than some of the color images I did at that time. Not sure. First off, I think at the time I could and had to tune in the mental black and white filter that film directors used to "de colorize" the world before them...you recall the film Shadow of the Vampire with John Malkovich as German director Murnau and who can forget Willem Dafoe's wonderul performance as Schrenk. I think that it would be hard to rethink the aesthetic of the German Expressionist films made solely in Monochrome. In that sense B and W it is different and can be more alluring. I find that I am sometimes 'seduced' by the skillful technique used to 'make up' for our non color sense in older photos. Yes, there is a different feel and that goes hand in hand with a different response in my optical cortex. If I knew what it was, I would really be smart, go and publish books about the Joy of Black and White...
    Side story,not that exciting but comes to mind. A lady here made her living with only black and white portraits shot in her beachfront home, and she sold a bunch . She invited me and my daughter and grandaughter to a free sitting. I accepted because one did not say no to Madame X. Naturally I was ready to learn how she does it while I was in the pictures. Used a handheld Rolleiflex she brought from Germany. No formal posing. Moved the little bulb hot lights that she got at the Home Depot around the room as she saw fit.
    Later, I get the proofs which were also the final product 8 x10s. I could then see how she managed her livelilhood and I learned something about the aesthetic of the time among her clients.( My $$ attorney btw had one of Madame Xs oeuvres on her office wall.). Was she good at her craft? Beats me. I bought one out of guilt. " Sorry and thanks, I have a lot of photos, these are good ( I lied) but I will buy one."
    Honestly, all images looked washed out to me, as in 'exhausted home developer.' pushed to the outer limits. Never mind that part. They were unappealing in every way to my eye.. But they must have had some emotional appeal to her client base that loved her. Being so stripped down and naked as contrasted to the typical studio color shots we all had I can only guess. I still don't get that appeal,not really. And I can't define it closer than others. Me, I go for color/colour mostly and sometimes B and W convert, and then, darn, guess what, I still don't know which I prefer...
    Colour is every day, black and white is a holiday.​
    That must be it:) gs
     
  108. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 14, 2010; 08:22 a.m.
    "the colour has some life in it - white is plain, dull, dead etc. Same for black" Clive​
    If light is life,then black has more life in it through its higher absorption of light. Touché
    The theory is one thing, how we experience it another.
    A couple of things: The other day my sister sent me web proofs of some photos that she had taken of her family, they were awful but that's beside the point, but I did have to smile to myself because the photographer had included B+W and sepia toned versions of some of the pics, and stated in his note to her,
    I’ve rendered several shots in black and white (the classic timeless look) and some in sepia (a warmer tone than b&w).
    I can of course produce any image in colour, or sepia, as you wish.
    Because we are reasonably knowledgable here in PNPoP we only really look at the quality end of the photographic spectrum and possibly studiously ignore the sheer weight of influence that the mundane photographic strata exerts.
    This is not really an argument about the ability or otherwise of B+W to provide the world with goosebump producing images but the subversion of its effectiveness by the insideousness of the propaganda implicit in "classic timeless look".
    The other point: Many of us have mentioned other arts, sculpture mainly, in this thread, me included, but have elected not to mention painting in the same breath as photography.
    Painting is and always has been the most popular of the visual arts and as we have mentioned in other threads, painting for a variety of reasons has been rattled by photography. If B+W was so effective you would assume that there would be a very considerable number of B+W paintings, but there isn't. You only have to look at new art to see that much of it is now photographic, and alomst hour by hour people get closer and closer to the range of image making possiblities that were the exclusive domain of painting by using photography. Scale and surface texture have both made great leaps.
    The print surfaces of those huge Bill Henson's that I posted, whilst in no way trying to duplicate paint, leave the viewer with a very similar experience.
    If Vermeer or Velasquez thought that B+W was in the ball park they would have used it.
    Of course great pictures were produced in B+W because people will always find a way to make great art within the limits of any technique.
    Clive
     
  109. If B+W was so effective you would assume that there would be a very considerable number of B+W paintings, but there isn't.
    If Vermeer or Velasquez thought that B+W was in the ball park they would have used it.​
    I'll bet that there are as many great black&white, or at least "desaturated" paintings around as vivid color ones. it worked for Picasso in one of the most known paintings of all time :
    http://www.ciber-arte.com/genios/guarnica.jpg
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/74/PicassoGuernica.jpg
     
  110. Gerry: Interesting example. Obviously her clients bought the portraits from her because she was Madame X or they liked the expressions she illicited from her subjects, but probably not because she mastered B&W as Yousuf Karsh or Irving Penn did. Or Micheal Kenna, in another much more recent era. I can fully appreciate why you like colour images; it may have little to do with why some photographers prefer B&W.
    Fred:
    You said: "For me, part of the joy of a photograph is in its not being the same as the reality used as the raw materials for its creation." For me, too, that is the essence of art in photography. What B&W does so well is not only related to the way it handles light and luminescence, or light and shadow, or the concentration of the viewer on point, line, space and texture, in a manner that colour can also do, but often much less successfully, because the mind must also abstract (isolate) these primary communicative elements from a panapoly of colours and tints. Mante shows these examples in his text (colour versus B&W, of the same scene) to illustrate where, in his mind, colour succeeds, or colour fails badly.
    The use of shadow in B&W is often a signal of mystery, or uncertainty, or mutation. With colour it does not always make such a statement, as the eye concenrates more on the colour and chromatic tonalities.
    Example: Consider Weston's famous green pepper, with its surfaces and areas of low luminescence suggesting the human form, or other atypical non-pepper forms. As a photo in green (I tried it, out of curiosity. Not exactly like Weston's image, of course, but close in terms of form and light), it does not work at all. Perhaps the colour image would be nice though in a cooking magazine?
    A priori, a colour image without artistic modification, or interpretation by the photographer has a strong pull to reality. I for one reject that pull, as my purpose is not to make a facsimile of that which I see in my purely observational phase, prior to the phase of interpreting or conceiving an image from the scene. So reality is not an objective, in either my colour or B&W images.
    So, having dispensed with reality, how can we use colour?
    In other terms, how can we make colour (apart from compositional elements) work for us, artistically? I think that taking into account the character of each colour is very important. The French (and Québécois) consider yellow an intellectual colour, for the English it is a happy colour. Red is a sign of excitement or danger. Green is (was) used in hospitals as a calming colour. There are warm and there are cold colours, the effect of which can be used to communicate. There are complementary and discordant colour combinations that can also be employed. The contrast of complementary colours can be powerful in some cases, also the effect of differing areas of colour spaces within an image and how they are juxtaposed or inter-related over the surface of the image (also an element of importance in abstract art). The photographer can employ the contrast of cold and warm colours in the story he is creating, or play on the internal relationship of various sets of cold or warm colours, not to mention the different chromatic qualities of light. The equilibrium or disequilibrium of masses within an image can be employed just like it is in B&W photography, as can chiaroscuro effects, the isolation of specific colours and the differences between compositional effects (point, line, volumes) and those of colour images of the same subject - and other relationships.
    I would be interested to know who is trying to use colour in these ways. For me it goes some way in providing an abstraction, or an expressive approach, that compares with B&W photography.
     
  111. Clive: Hand painted art also had its monochrome and "krypto-chromatic" beginnings, which probably then lasted 20,000 or more years, from the first known rock paintings at Lascaux or Peche Merle in the Perigord of France, in c25,000 B.C. While Niepce and Dagueurre and Fox-Talbot and Eastman had to wait until the Lumière brothers for chromagenic media, that was probably a great thing, as it allowed the development of the art of B&W photography, which might have otherwise not been considered.
     
  112. jtk

    jtk

    Josh DW wrote (heavily edited by me re: my iPhone comment):
    "...when I read, "Weston's work and Goldin's work could have been done with iPhones." That stopped me in my tracks. Weston's work on a iphone.? I'll bite... I took a couple of good but less familiar photos and and put them on my phone...It left me wanting. They did become much more common, they were missing his signature gradations. ... Still very distinctive. It was good but notably drained of Weston's energy. I did not print it. It only made it to the computer monitor. Turned out to be very interesting really."
    Yes.
    Weston remains my idol...I wasn't suggesting iPhone to replicate the Weston that we know, or that he'd have used it to make versions of images that are burned in our minds...but if he tried, I think he would have done something comparably remarkable, something distinctively his own.
    Here are some iPhone images that suggest possibilities...may currently be limited to 4X5-ish printing, no bigger than most Daugerrotypes. Harry Sandler has a lot to offer...I've been moved by his more conventional prints: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DigitalColor-PrintExchanges/photos/album/159569808/pic/list
    " As viewer, I think the impact a photo has on me is even more influenced by viewing medium than color or bw at this point. As photographer I lean heavily on bw for reasons already stated."
    Me too. I also lean on B&W, but others lean on color and yet others lean on bongo drums or calliopes. I don't think we do what we do because either color or B&W inherently can convey more, or even that they're inherently different in any important way.
     
  113. "..or that he'd [Weston] have used it to make versions of images that are burned in our minds...but if he tried, I think he would have done something comparably remarkable, something distinctively his own." As do I John. I believe he couldn't help but recognize the unique characteristics that belong to the I-phone. Additionally I think his color photos are distinctly different than his bw, (tho not distinctly his imo). A conversation I would love to pursue with him. My starting point, I find the camera format, film stock, color/ bw have a significant influence on what and how I express. Like Weston I am exploring those differences and with some regard for the similarities.
     
  114. jtk

    jtk

    For me, one of the juciest aspects of digital, for whatever it is that involves me currently, is the guilty pleasure of instant ability to POST-visualize rather than PRE-visualize (Ansel recedes even further into my rear view mirror). This is particularly rewarding with RAW and Lightroom...breakthroughs analagous to TriX or E3 IMO :)
    My perception of tonality and color surely must be influenced by this versatility... I can't say whether subtlety has improved or declined, but inkjet is overall a huge step forward vs enlarging (higher detail resolution, more shadow and highlight detail, more overall control, probably-more-archival-than-anything-earlier)
    Lighroomer/printers more accomplished than I am (that's a bunch ) might not be as amused as I am by this particular 2010 facet of B&W vs color, especially if they've never loved darkrooms, but I find it more fun for rumination than, say, "the problem of evil."
     
  115. Interesting that a number of fine art photographers, particularly those using MF and LF cameras, have not given up colour film for digital (other pro photographers have had to, given the more pressing demands of clients). The quality of the colour films is very high and difficult to emulate numerically, notwithstanding the convenience of digital. They can then scan and post produce and print their images on high quality papers, using extremely durable inks, better in terms of permanence (nothing is archival) than anything in normal colour wet darkroom practice, except for one or two high end methods that are not in the reach of most of us. They have the best of both worlds, and don't have to encounter the high cost of MF and larger digital cameras. B&W darkroom printing is still the method of highest permanence, when done properly, but colour digital is catching up.
     
  116. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Fred, late getting back to you, but photography is haunted by representation. Cf. Clive, I think that most art work was in color as much as possible (the cave paintings use various earth pigments), so black and white photography is relatively new -- though drawings and prints would be earlier monochromes (though a lot of Chinese and Japanese block printing was in color even though that meant getting precise registry of the blocks.
    The idea that photographs have some life other than as representations is rather unique to people who care about art as a thing in itself, not particularly anything that my family believes in. At my dad's birthday celebration, my kin took my camera away from me to do the group shots that included me. The purpose of photography in my family's life is to document events and people, as realistically as possible, which means color. I suspect, but don't know, that most people use photography this way, and that in the past, more people than not wanted this from their painters and sculptures.
    My family may pick up on color as an abstraction, but they've never try to arrange the group shots in any chromatic way.
     
  117. Phylo - " The theory is one thing, how we experience it another."
    True to a point. We've been citing Modernist color theory (a lot of which came from Germans), but things have progressed way beyond that in the last half-century. Working off the color wheel by itself is never going to make one into a colorist (or even a good interior decorator). There's how one personally experiences color, which is, in no small part, affected by one's culture.
    The cultural context of the colors you use make a big difference. The black and white which have been talked about here have varying meanings (and remember color, like most complex symbols is polyvalent) in different cultures. In Japan and other Eastern countries, it is often used for funerals (akin to how we use it for angels, ghosts & spirits), whereas most Western cultures use black for funerals.
    In China, black is the color that symbolizes young boys. Red in India is the color of purity aned brides, in South Africa, it is the color of mourning.
    Now that we're deep into a global display mode with the web, we face a largely unspoken (except among Pomo color theorists) Tower of Babel type of problem with color photography when showing our work or looking at others'. Or with web design. Will we develop a kind of color experanto? Or will the world adopt Western symbology?
    In my own case, when I mentally switch into a different language, my perception of color changes subtly, but I can see it.
    Color works very well for me in several ways, but these two are prominent: 1) The fact that most people (specially photographers) are complete chromatic illiterates leaves an under-the-radar, secret channel/way of going viral into the viewer and pictures available. 2) I find it easier to express emotions with color when it multitasks as form and content.
    Black and white is like a distillation.One gives up some things and gains others. One thing gained is that the viewer often fills in his own colors. Then there's the matter of why many people claim to have black and white dreams (I've never had one). That connection is an interesting one.
    As Rebecca points out, color is essential to the snapshot, or to any photograph whose function is primarily a mnemonic fetish (most pictures are). It doesn't have to be accurate (think of postcards), just somewhat credible.
     
  118. That wasn't me Luis, who said The theory is one thing, how we experience it another , it was Clive's response to me, but yes, there is truth in it.
     
  119. Sorry about the error in quoting, Phylo.
     
  120. "The idea that photographs have some life other than as representations is rather unique to people who care about art as a thing in itself,..."
    Rebecca, woud you consider photogrammes in that statement, or other attempts at abstract photography? In abstract painting, the representation or calling up of a likeness to something is not evident, or on a different level, to that of figurative painting.
    The cave drawers may have wished for colour in their materials but often had only a blackish or dark material, that is not completely distinct from a modern black chalk artist who has wilfuly accepted his limited palette and uses it for its particular expressiveness. Like the B&W photographer.
     
  121. The purpose of photography in my family's life is to document events and people, as realistically as possible, which means color . . . --Rebecca
    My family too, though I'll get to why I don't think that means color.
    ____________________________________
    The non-realistic use of color is more kin perhaps to the black and white than to the more representational use of color, . . . --Rebecca
    Great. Definitely an intriguing line of thought. Have you considered that in relation to your work? Do you find yourself using color that way at all? Might you in the future?
    Back a bit, I noted that Weston chose clouds, which makes his idea of Equivalents more readily understood, a little more blatant. I wondered, in that thread, if a significant aspect of Equivalents couldn't be in photographs of any kind of subject, not just the ones that already leaned toward abstraction like cloud formations. Equivalents as experienced even in more representational scenes, say of kids playing in a park, if photographed with the same desire for expressiveness that White had in using clouds. I have similar thoughts on color. The more blatant abstract use of color, sure, is when it's pushed. But I tend often to find an expressive abstraction even in what others call the more "realistic" use of photographic color, when it's not as blatant to see. Perhaps even benign uses of color just operate simultaneously on two levels for me.
    Getting back to families, I don't think mine would see black and white as you do, as more abstract. Especially the older generation (and me when I was a kid) took black and white snaps to be representational (just as yours uses color). They didn't see the black and white as an abstraction. It was simply what their cameras could provide. I doubt they look at black and white snap shots even today and think of abstraction, unless there is something abstract about the subject matter itself.
    So, I guess I find it more a about a mind set than something about color or black and white themselves. For me, it's about usage and context.
    If my family is going to come into it, I think they'd approach shooting snap shots with very little difference whether they were shooting color or black and white, so they may be only of so much help when I think of my own usages. I did say that sometimes I intentionally use color in a particular way to get that snap shot feel. That would be a time when they would come into play.
    Because I use color in such a variety of ways, even when I use it with a snap shot feel on occasion, it seems like that is an expressive and even a fairly abstract use. It doesn't feel like any sort of baseline.
    When I take actual family snap shots, I am likely to be in a different mind set.
     
  122. Clive Murray-White , Jan 14, 2010; 04:53 p.m.
    If Vermeer or Velasquez thought that B+W was in the ball park they would have used it.
    If those artists were limited to black and white pigments exclusively, you can bet your last dollar on seeing great B/W works from them.
    Bill P.
     
  123. There is little compulsion to use all the colours available to the eye's limited spectral range (what we can see in a rainbow). Sometimes the most effective colour photography is based upon an even more limited range.
    One of the very prevalent thought processes I engage in while shooting in colour (which makes up about one half of my photography at the shooting stage) is which colours do I want, which do I want to reject (as being superfluous). Much colour photography accepts the whole gamut of colours in scenes or in family portraits. In seeking which angle to shoot a subject, or indeed which subject to shoot, I am attracted not only by the compositional choices but by the chromatic ones. Perhaps even more so than in the basically more abstract B&W medium, colour gives us the opportunity to balance the "weights" of certain colours in an image, where we place them in relation to each other, how they relate emotionally and aesthetically to each other, and how we light them, and how we feel about their effect on the subject.
    Colour painting provides more freedoms for expressiveness than colour photography (or opportunities for freedom, as one can always find an example that shows equal freedom in both media), simply because there are some things in photography that are beyond our control.
    That for me is the challenge to colour photography (and all photography). How to use the expressive nature of colour reflected from objects and the character and direction of light, how to best use the colour elements in a scene (within the opportunities offered by other compositional elements or subject matter itself), and how to produce expressive images or even abstract ones, within the constraints of an electro-optico-mechanical device.
     
  124. Bill, excellent observation. What is great about art, from the cave drawers (Shamen?) 25,000 years ago, to present users of the graphite pen or chalk, is man's ability to express himself in art whatever the medium. All media are indeed wonderful.
     
  125. To me, the point of Clive's mentioning Vermeer and Velasquez was to suggest that they, in fact, did have a choice, yet they and so many other master painters chose to paint in color rather than black and white.
    Clive seems to think it has something to do with color's effectiveness compared to black and white.
    I'm thinking that the reason has more to do with differences between painting and photography than with differences between color and b/w. I wonder if what Josh talked about regarding the tie between photography and light has something to do with photography's unique relationship to black and white. Though painters, of course, consider light, I don't think the relationship of paint and canvas (as the medium) to the capturing and use of light is the same kind of essential relationship as it is in photography. I think it would have been much more idiosyncratic (and not just because of it being less popular) for a painter to work in black and white, idiosyncratic as relates to the medium of painting itself.
     
  126. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 11:26 a.m.
    Bill, excellent observation. What is great about art, from the cave drawers (Shamen?) 25,000 years ago, to present users of the graphite pen or chalk, is man's ability to express himself in art whatever the medium. All media are indeed wonderful.
    Arthur, yes, all media sure are wonderful!
    Bill P.
     
  127. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Arthur, regarding the cave paintings, do take a look at The Nature of Paleolithic art by R. Dale Guthrie. Also, we're looking at paintings that are 15,000 to 30,000 years old -- how much fugitive pigments were used, dunno. Guthrie has some very interesting theories about who the painters were based on analysis of hand silhouettes (teen aged boys). They did have access to many of the earth pigments, which seemed to match the subject matter fairly well. Lampblack alone would have been easy, hold a stone over a fat-burning lamp (horse fat works very well according to some researches who've been reconstructing Paleolithic lamps and such). They apparently wanted more than black and white, so they were bringing in raw materials from outside to get some color if the colors weren't available as mud on the cave floors.
    People went to great lengths to get non-fugitive blue pigments in cloth and art -- indigo dyeing is an extremely smelly process, and I can't imagine that getting ultramarine pigments was all that easy either considering that prior to contact with the Americas, there was only one source for the raw material in Afghanistan (lapis lazuli).
    00VVas-210187584.jpg
     
  128. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 11:49 a.m.
    I don't think the relationship of paint and canvas (as the medium) to the capturing and use of light is the same kind of essential relationship as it is in photography.
    Fred, having been introduced to fine art in the early '50's by my great aunt, a Limoges poreclains painter, I can assue you that painters are intimately connected to light, probably more so than photographers.
    Bill P.
     
  129. Bill, I've known quite a few painters myself, including my mother. Your assurances aside, I'm happy to accept that you might see it differently from me and would welcome an explanation of why you do.
    I didn't talk about painters' connections to light or photographers' connections to it. I talked about the mediums.
     
  130. Rebecca, a very nice image. Seeing colour that way, or even with a less limited but still restrained colour spectrum, is one reason why I sometimes forsake my love of B&W for the other medium.
    Fred and Bill, I don't think it is easy to argue whether photography or painting in colours has the stronger hold on the use of light. Both mediums depend greatly upon it, whether it is the basic truth of light reflecting from a surface to provide colour and form of an image seen by humans, or whether it is a Rembrandt or a Turner or other, in which light is a highly creative element of the design and of the communication to the viewer.
     
  131. Arthur, I'm not really arguing anything . . . please understand. I was ruminating and interested in hearing Bill's thinking. You give me room for more thought, though I do tend to feel a difference between light actually being captured in the photographic process and light being expressed with paint.
     
  132. On a non-related issue, do any of you wish that the number of photographers responding to the Photo.Net forums was greater? Most of the PofP topics seem to be a bit moribund, with only one or two active at any one time, but that is also the case of the several other PNet forums I have been scanning recently. Perhaps the New Year has its challenges for others and not everyone can mix work and hobby at home. Some other Internet sites are not of the same quality as PNet and some are not taken quite as seriously (I'm not denying that that can be good at times), so the health of PNet is a concern.
    I think that Fred has the same concern, in his mention of hoping to attract new contributors. How can we open the window a bit larger? I guess I am not alone in valuing these forums for the exchange of ideas and a chance to think differently about my own photography?
     
  133. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 12:55 p.m.
    On a non-related issue, do any of you wish that the number of photographers responding to the Photo.Net forums was greater?
    Arthur, I agree. i don't have much time to devote to the threads, but I do try to participate as much as possible. The topics are interesting to me, and I hope my input helps people. It would be nice to get a broader spectrum of people involved, though.
    Bill P.
     
  134. Fred, I think I just realised that my use of the word argue or arguing is spilling over from my French vocabulary, where we use the very similar verb to infer, to deduce, etc., without it being necessarily a more confrontational argument.
    I remember my first project in my new job at a French speaking business some decades ago where my boss wanted to know whether a concept I had studied might not be useful to propose to another firm and client. He asked me if I was in agreement with him. I did not understand his word "d'accord", but thought that he wished me to concur with that possibility. As I often do, I took the English word "to concur(r)" and put an "ence" on it, as some other trans-language word exchanges do. Unfortunately, being "en concurrence" with him had very much the opposite meaning to what I had intended. In French, it meant being in competition! Happily, I was able to save my job by deducing from the instantaneous lowering of his massive black eyebrows that I should reformulate my response.
    Anyways, sorry for this slight mistracking from the main theme here.
     
  135. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 12:16 p.m.
    Bill, I've known quite a few painters myself, including my mother. Your assurances aside, I'm happy to accept that you might see it differently from me and would welcome an explanation of why you do.
    I didn't talk about painters' connections to light or photographers' connections to it. I talked about the mediums.
    Fred, it's been my experience that trying to create the effect of something giving off light using media hat does not give off light is a huge part of the technique of painting, as I'm sure you know. Sure, film has the same characteristics in that it also does not give off light, but the photographer can say "There's a nice subject, let me photograph it. How it will be rendered is the film manufacturer's headache." The artist, let's say painter, says" Nice subject, now how do I render it to look believable with the pigments at hand?"
    That's a thimblefull of the dumptruck sized situation that artists face.
    Bill P.
     
  136. "There's a nice subject, let me photograph it. How it will be rendered is the film manufacturer's headache."​
    If it was just that easy...
     
  137. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 01:40 p.m.
    "There's a nice subject, let me photograph it. How it will be rendered is the film manufacturer's headache."
    If it was just that easy...
    Okay Phylo, how is it not that easy?
    Bill P.
     
  138. A musician can render a piece of music from a sheet of paper, a photographer can render an object or subject from a "piece of everything". It's not only the instrument or medium that makes the rendering, is it. If it was just that easy...
     
  139. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 02:10 p.m.
    A musician can render a piece of music from a sheet of paper, a photographer can render an object or subject from a "piece of everything". It's not only the instrument or medium that makes the rendering, is it. If it was just that easy...
    Huh?
    Bill P.
     
  140. Yes I know, hard to follow up on.
     
  141. Fred: To me, the point of Clive's mentioning Vermeer and Velasquez was to suggest that they, in fact, did have a choice, yet they and so many other master painters chose to paint in color rather than black and white.
    Clive seems to think it has something to do with color's effectiveness compared to black and white.

    Fred: You are very good at this because you have considerable skill in persisting with a question and drawing out nuances within a topic, in my case you help me find out what I "seem to think". Or even making me realise that "seeming to think" is very much part of my character.
    So now back to the point - It would be nice to have a tame psychologist contribute a view about human's relationship with colour. I know that product packaging designers know a hell of lot about the psychology of colour, a neccessity when your product has to compete for attention on the supermarket shelves.
    Your quote above triggered the idea that we keep putting little walls up around each visual art based on their medium, I'll call this a craft based approach.
    It would be my observation that many/most of this generation of artists have almost no serious attraction to craft (in many quarters "craft" is a very rude word). They don't distinguish between say, painting and photography but see them as being consumed into the more important word "art". (as far as they are concerned.)
    This means that they will sub-contract the craft component of their art out to anybody or any company that can get the job done. In my field the briefs for sculpture commissions never mention the time to create/sculpt the work but always say "fabricate" and assume that you will hand your plans over to a specialist manufacturer. In terms of major competitions and survey exhibitions every sculptural media and approach is in it together.
    Similarly there's no special craft based deliniation between painting and photography as art, its just the resulting artwork that counts. All of the exhibiting photgraphers that I know now send their work out to be printed. This is part of the general trend.
    In recent years all of the craft based arts have taken quite a hammering. If I decided that my art had to be photography based, even though I'm a reasonably competant photographer I'd actually get a top line commercial pro to do it for me, just like ad agencies - the creative person does a good enough version to get the client in the groove, the finished article is done by a pro studio. This all comes about as much from the economics as anything - who's going to buy large format digital speculating that the artworks will re-pay the mortgage.
    Having said all this I strongly suspect that a very large section of society pray for the return of artworks that show evidence of their making or have a greater craft component to them.
    So not quite about colour but the mechanics of art.
    Clive
     
  142. Clive, that's a very cool post . . . and thanks. I agree there is more in common to the various mediums of art than separates them. That has to do with expression. And it's good to look at craft in a related but somewhat different light.
    I do think there is something very much the same going on with painting, photography, sculpture, music, and dance, etc. Ironically, one of those things is that they can all reference themselves as mediums. The painter, with a brushstroke, can make the viewer very much aware of the medium (Van Gogh). The photographer, with a decisive moment, can make the viewer aware of his medium (Bresson). The filmmaker, both narratively and technically, can make the viewer aware of his medium (Truffaut's Day For Night).
    I'm considering a self portrait these days and want to approach it self-reflectively. A bit of that Escher hand drawing the hand that Phylo gave us recently, but perhaps a bit of photographic reflexivity as well. (I'm trying to avoid mirrors/shadows.) Will let you know if I get there.
     
  143. Clive Murray-White , Jan 15, 2010; 04:04 p.m.
    Fred: To me, the point of Clive's mentioning Vermeer and Velasquez was to suggest that they, in fact, did have a choice, yet they and so many other master painters chose to paint in color rather than black and white.
    Sure they had a choice, but let's keep in mind that the prelims (sketches) for the painting were usually done in pencil or charcoal, and they abounded, usually kinda worthless (pity). Who would want their commissioned portrait to look like a premminary sketch when color was where it was at?
    So sure they had choices, but the client dictated policy, just like today.
    Bill P.
     
  144. Loose thoughts,
    Arthur, "Sometimes the most effective colour photography is based upon an even more limited range." very interesting observation that triggers some pondering for me. I don't know how to answer the questions your comment brings up .. yet.
    .
    Fred "I don't think the relationship of paint and canvas (as the medium) to the capturing and use of light is the same kind of essential relationship as it is in photography." nor do I. I am picking up on the 'relationship' aspect - including my relationship to the mediums, as creator and as viewer.
    At the core I am in a different mindset. In painting, I have to construct a foundation to build upon with reflected light, color. As photographer I feel the foundation has been a gift of reflected and incident light. The blank canvas, the process of creating, requires a set of different head muscles to engage... the method of applying color upon color to arrive at my destination is not one I can easily equate to capture and post process of a photo. I can feel the differences having an influence on me and my voice. I can use that to my advantage or just go with it or fight it to challenge the status quo... The creative process in painting and photography has many similarities but as I work the differences are substantial, in particular with light and color (and notably the physicality).
    In color I tend to look and go to the potentials to be found in relationships and energies the, 'harmony and discord' 1+1=3 ideas. I am hyper aware of this when I paint, less when I photograph in color because so much of the foundation is a given. My imposed limitation. Perhaps, (i am just now thinking it) that becomes an obstacle for me... when the foundation is a given. I have constructed, from the foundation up in bw. I never tried that in color.. Barbara Kasten for example.
    stimulating example Rebecca.
     
  145. Bill, good points both about prelims and about clients. Prelims are especially intriguing because, often they weren't meant for public consumption but, perhaps because of that level of "privacy," they often seem to offer us an intimate view, real or perceived. At the Kandinsky exhibit I just saw, I think I recall most of the preliminary sketches being in color.
    Some of the people I photograph, depending on the situation, request black and white or color. Most leave it up to me. Often, though I work with subjects, I don't work with them as clients. I suspect the same was true for many painters throughout history who chose color. Then, of course, so many painters weren't painting portraits and, in most of those cases, there wouldn't have been a client, though they may have been commissioned by a client.
    P.S. Josh, just noticed your post. Will read, digest, and respond in due time. Thanks.
     
  146. Fred: I'm considering a self portrait these days and want to approach it self-reflectively. A bit of that Escher hand drawing the hand that Phylo gave us recently, but perhaps a bit of photographic reflexivity as well. (I'm trying to avoid mirrors/shadows.) Will let you know if I get there.

    Small world - I got a little fed up using models that I didn't really know too well so I plucked up the courage to think of using myself as model, my problem is that I think my identity is tied up with my glasses - and there are not too many stone sculptures with successful representation of glasses!
    I enjoy the photographic self portrait genre almost as much as the "flying dog". Lartigue et al.
    I know what you mean re mirrors but dreaming up another scenario that allows you show that it is actually a self portrait as opposed to a portrait could be a very worthwhile journey.
    To get it back on thread Colour, B+W, both?
    Clive
     
  147. Just as I finished writing my previous post I became aware that there was gardening talkback on the radio - Eureka: why do people like flowers?
    Understand this and we may understand more about why we inately respond to colour.
    Clive
     
  148. I know what you mean re mirrors but dreaming up another scenario that allows you show that it is actually a self portrait as opposed to a portrait could be a very worthwhile journey.
    To get it back on thread Colour, B+W, both?​
    Lee Friedlander !
     
  149. Understand this and we may understand more about why we inately respond to colour.​
    I've never thought of myself as responding to color, and color only. Response to context seems more "naturally", don't know if we can take color for the context that we're responding in. Green lights : Go ! Red lights: Stop ! That's just one context, but for which there are many more, and this for only two colors. Proof to me that it's not the colors we're responding to but more the context ( red can also be: passion, go for it, do it as much as danger, blood, stop, run ! )
    " There's blood on your legs, I love you. "
    Imagine that image in a photograph ; is it about a love song or not ?
     
  150. "I've never thought of myself as responding to color, and color only." Phylo. Since color is rarely presented in a vacuum or near vacuum, I would go there to. But I think of color as an integral part of my response. In simplest terms the color of the walls in a room play a significant part in my emotional response to it. Am I feeling relaxed or fidgety. Energized or lethargic. Are there multiple colors at play. These relationships influence my mood. Of course the 'other' elements and context are not insignificant. I found Van Gogh's work to be weighted strongly to those color considerations. The context was always secondary in my viewing. A field, a vase of flowers, a room, a 'straight' self portrait. It can be powerful and loaded consideration in photography as well.
    Fred introduced Nan Goldin. I think that her work being in color and how she used it was one of the distinctions that struck me when I first encountered it. The way many Cuban photographers cash in on the 'carnal' qualities of their environment is very striking and unique to me. The context has another face in that work. Color clearly has a voice of it's own. But is still finding it's way in photography in new ways.
     
  151. " . . . the method of applying color upon color [in painting] to arrive at my destination is not one I can easily equate to capture and post process of a photo. --Josh
    Funny you should say that. I was thinking about that process and how sensual and textural it must be, the actual feel of the brush applying the layers of paint, the actual feel of the layers of the paint. The way I would equate it with my color work so far in photography is that I do work in layers. I'd have a harder time describing a layering aspect to my shooting (though awareness of translucence comes to mind, which allows colors to layer themselves, as does the awareness of the overlap of colors that various lighting sources can provide, especially as they cast shadows that blend), but the post-processing layering aspects seem there. The literal use of software layers to adjust color temperature, channels, saturations, tonalities, color balance. When I transpose those layers and get different effects, make slight changes which affect the other layers, that feels like a real building process to me.
    _____________________________________
    "I can use that to my advantage or just go with it or fight it to challenge the status quo..." --Josh
    Seems to suggest a creative openness to what you're doing. I'm reminded of Julie's brain dump way back as well as some of the other qualities that were being suggested as pertaining to b/w and color, respectively. My reaction was to wonder whether that would matter. How would qualities being unique to or even innate to color or b/w affect me? Were science to determine (prove) that color was more carnal than black and white, I might as likely challenge myself to make carnal black and whites as to go with the flow of what's inherent in color.
    Josh, I appreciate that you brought the differences in which you approach each medium to bear (your relationship to each). If the artist is the one who creates, it sure seems like the medium offers the power of suggestion.
     
  152. In simplest terms the color of the walls in a room play a significant part in my emotional response to it.​
    Yes, that's a good example. True. But there can be a point I guess where the response to the room ( the colors of the walls ) is no longer applicable for guiding the very experience in that room. I'm thinking about color much like time here ( not as a rule per se ), but that it's somehow relative and in essence non-existent as an entity.
     
  153. "Where is the spit and the sweat in Plato?" --Julie
    I find it in his characterization and use of Socrates and the Socratic method.
    The spit is in his tendency toward downright nastiness, his ability to outwit, to predict where those he is questioning will go and cut them off at the pass. Spit and polish could almost describe Socrates's slow and steady march toward enlightenment, slowly wiping away preconceptions rather than asserting truths.
    The sweat is his being, self-admittedly, the philosopher mid-wife. He works up the sweat with patience and with pressure. I sweat out his lengthy arguments.
    Socrates got around more than many philosophers that succeeded him.
    [*smilingly, with a little tongue in cheek*]
     
  154. "Having said all this I strongly suspect that a very large section of society pray for the return of artworks that show evidence of their making or have a greater craft component to them." (Clive)
    That is what is the lifeblood of B&W traditional darkrom photography. Unlike most colour wet darkroom work, it let the photographer CRAFT his image in the darkroom. I still do that, and I know that many also enjoy that craft, and my clients and theirs appreciate what goes into making a unique photograph and print. I spend quite often two or three hours to get the print that mirrors my approach or subject perception. Photoshop and other image crafting tools can accomplish almost the same thing, when used with an artistic approach in mind.
    That has been a liberation for the serious colour photographer. It is not an easy craft, just as wet darkroom black and white is not as well. A well crafted and printed image can require hours of effort.
    I know where you are coming from, Clive, in regard to conceived and then manufactured sculptures. I had a challenge a few years ago to realise a sculpture for a heritage park, that would symbolise the arrival of Europeans to our area, their arduous creation of a North American non-aboriginal society, and their dissemination of descendants throughout the continent. I worked four weeks on the development of the concept, to research history, culture, materials and possibilities, and I did several test sculptures at smaller scale. My final concept had more to do with me than with the prior research, perhaps, but the prior research had to be done. Unfortunately, the rather imposing sculpture made up of different abstract elements (12 feet high by 20 feet length by 6 feet wide) required techniques of metalworking that I did not fully possess, so I priced it out with a subcontractor. Fortunately for me, I came only second in the competition, as I would have suffered a financial loss. But it pains me a bit that I couldn't realise it, nonetheless.
    Was there a craft component in my work? Yes, a small part in realising the small scale models, but there was a large part that I would not have performed. One problem with much photography (and some would not think so) is that the hands-on craft part is often sub-contracted to others. The photographer in that case is missing an essential part of the artistic approach and realisation.
     
  155. Fred, Clive-
    I encourage you to do your self portraits, by whatever technique you choose. It works quite well, once you reject what you think you should appear like and probe a bit deeper. I have learned a bit of myself in doing that, although what I have learned is susceptible to change. Although not the main thrust, I also did split photographs of my face. Amazing how the two sides, whatever the expression, are different. Putting a right side view as also the left side reveals something that the overall view doesn't.
     
  156. "But there can be a point I guess where the response to the room ( the colors of the walls ) is no longer applicable for guiding the very experience in that room."Phylo
    Phylo, we differ here, ... I think? The color of a room remains a guiding part of the experience for me. Then when I think of color as a dressing or decor (as time passes?) I don't feel it so much of as a separate entity. Less of a lasting influence...? but I don't know if I can remove the established influence or if it is now so much part of the equation that it cannot be now non-existent. You gave me some food for thought with that.
    Maybe I am hyper sensitized to non neutral decor and clothing and the dressings of a scene when I am in a creative way. For work and photography. I was one who said that there are times I find color a distraction, especially at the front end of the process. But as I stated before I mostly choose to start in neutral to create, not so as viewer tho.
    The mirror (reversed image) plays a dominate role in how we percieve our physical self. It is fascinating to compare to how it differs from how others encounter us. In the mirror view our right side is on our right side, to others our left side is on their right side, and in the photograph. The photograph seem so challenging to our self perceptions (aside from 'I look good / horrible') To pick up on Arthur's last comment. When you flip the negative the response is often more extreme. The facial asymmetry that some of us suffer from becomes more apparent, foreign.
    I once came across a bw self portrait in some old work. I could not remember taking it, which was odd because I rarely come across an unfamiliar photo of my own. It was upside down when I saw it and when I turned it upright it turned out to be my girlfriend. To her benefit I never saw any similarities in our face before or after. It would not have happened in color. It couldn't, I am a redhead, she a brunette.
     
  157. LOL. I think i should stick to expressing myself in other mediums ... not writing - another long learning curve to take on.
     
  158. The color of a room remains a guiding part of the experience for me. Then when I think of color as a dressing or decor (as time passes?) I don't feel it so much of as a separate entity. Less of a lasting influence...? but I don't know if I can remove the established influence or if it is now so much part of the equation that it cannot be now non-existent. Josh​
    Yes. I had to photograph a house once of which the occupant ( who happened to be a painter ) was an obvious fan of Mondriaan : yellow bathroom, yellow staircase, blue and red furniture. I found those primary interior colors to be a playful distraction of my experience in the house while taking pictures of the rooms. There definitely was something going on there, which was directly apparent upon entering the house and for me felt more like a reaction added to my already floating / "neutral" impressions that day. Paradoxically the colors ( which were of course only one aspect in a larger whole of interior design ) felt too conscious an effort to be of an intuitionally felt entity of lasting experience guiding further and lasting impressions, if that makes sense.
    "LOL. I think i should stick to expressing myself in other mediums ... not writing - another long learning curve to take on."​
    ? Not at all, or, count me in also. Putting C in front of B to see what A does as a concept is much more interesting than A-B-C, see ?
     
  159. Black and white, line and form do not exist "out there."
    Color does.
     
    Line and form, the substance of which black and white images are made are the structure of your perception. Move an inch this way or that and the line and form that you had seen no longer happens. To repeat, line and form are the structure or a construction of/by your perception. Line and form are consequences of your perception. They do not exist outside of your individual perception.
     
    Color does. A particular wavelength of light is being reflected or emitted from that given location. Move an inch or a foot or a mile, and that particular wavelength of light will still be being emitted from that given location (unless the sun goes down or a squirrel gets into the transformer).
     
    Stories are made from (causal) line and form. They too are not "out there." They are your or my or someone's found structure.
     
    The trajectory of the "out there" into form and line and further, into ever more condensed or summarized or powerful stories/structures might be like this (from bottom to top; it's upside-down):
    stuff happening
    people ("witnesses") talking to each other
    news coverage
    op/eds
    history
    stories, novels, movies
    poetry
     
    Good poetry is more powerful, but it is, necessarily more interpretive than news coverage. Summaries are interpretations. They don't move away from (our perception of ) the "out there" (to the contrary) but they do move to "a" found structure in it.
     
    Black and white pictures are a move up that ladder of formfulness. It's moving toward more condensation, more summarized, more condensed but not at the expense of message; rather by the addition or finding of more structure -- in the way that the best stories or further, the best poetry is more intense by being more exactly formed.
    [One of the very few things more ridiculous than a person taking a brain dump in a public forum would have to be someone quoting Emily Dickinson poetry in a photography forum. Well, Fred did color commentating (CNN? Fox?) on Socrates (in a magnificent plaid suit): I would not want to be outdone ... ]
    Look at the first two verses of Dickinson's poem, There's a certain Slant of Light:
     
    There's a certain Slant of light,
    Winter Afternoons --
    That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes --
     
     
    Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference,
    Where the Meanings, are --
     
    There is no color in those verses, but there is huge structure and form; meaning. Now, look at this bit from I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died. Notice how your attention jumps and changes when she mentions a color -- and a fly which I will claim is a "colorful" creature:
     
     
    I willed my Keepsakes -- Signed away
    What portion of me be
    Assignable -- and then it was
    There interposed a Fly --
     
     
    With Blue -- uncertain stumbling Buzz --
    Between the light -- and me --
    And then the Windows failed -- and then
    I could not see to see --
     
    I think that we have to be taught to find line and form in the visual. Look at how children make pictures; big blobs of color with little regard for outline. Line and form comes later. I think one of the most amazing things about the Lascaux cave paintings is their searching for, beginning to discover, bits of of line and form. Finding. Form and line are found. Color is there. Using color roots, proves, connects; it's evidence, it's universally recognizable because it's not (personally) constructed. It (color) is valuable and useful and desirable for those reasons. It's also different from black and white for those reasons.
     
     
  160. About the Lascaux cave paintings, I posted a cool link of a virtual visit to the lascaux caves in the Minor White/ Langer thread, if you haven't clicked on it already., it's well worth checking out, very detailed. ( beware if you run on an older system though, might run slow, don't know ).
     
  161. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 04:47 p.m.
    Bill, good points both about prelims and about clients. Prelims are especially intriguing because, often they weren't meant for public consumption but, perhaps because of that level of "privacy," they often seem to offer us an intimate view, real or perceived. At the Kandinsky exhibit I just saw, I think I recall most of the preliminary sketches being in color.
    Fred, it's so true about prelims. They offer a unique look into the thoughts of the artist while making choices. Very intimate stuff.
    These days it's easy do do prelims in color, centuries ago you couldn't just wander down to the art supply house and pick up a pack of colored pastels....
    Bill P.
     
  162. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 02:22 p.m.
    Yes I know, hard to follow up on.
    What's your point ?
    Bill P.
     
  163. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 16, 2010; 08:01 a.m.
    Huh ?
    Your original response to my post was.....
    Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 01:40 p.m.
    "There's a nice subject, let me photograph it. How it will be rendered is the film manufacturer's headache."
    If it was just that easy...
    And you haven't said anything constructive since then. So what's your point?
    Bill P.
     
  164. Julie Heyward [​IMG], Jan 16, 2010; 07:08 a.m.
    Black and white, line and form do not exist "out there."
    Color does.
    You're kidding, right?
    Bill P.
     
  165. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 15, 2010; 02:10 p.m.
    A musician can render a piece of music from a sheet of paper, a photographer can render an object or subject from a "piece of everything". It's not only the instrument or medium that makes the rendering, is it. If it was just that easy...
    Bill P.
    Huh?
    And you haven't said anything constructive since then. So what's your point?​
    If you actually wanted a conversation that gravitates towards the constructive both ways, surely you could have given me a better response than "Huh?", huh ? A response for example that would have invited me to further explain myself constructively. We give for everything we're getting, so maybe that's the point.
     
  166. Julie, a few questions and observations...
    If line and form aren't "there", then how can a blind person detect them by feel?
    Color for us is not wavelength, it's what the brain interprets from the trichromatic detection system in the retina, which, btw, has been found to differ in individuals by as much as 40X (!), while the interpretation of color is far more consistent. Color is in the brain.
    Trichromatic color is now thought to have evolved so we could see each other blush (which has survival value).
    Color also devolved back into dichromat vision in New World monkeys.
    Many animals have far better abilities to detect color than humans do, including tetrachromacy, UV sensitivity, and perhaps even pentachromacy. We are hardly the pinnacle in evolution in terms of sensitivity to color.
    Boomeranging back to photography, one of the most interesting theories of color perception came from the inimitable Dr. Land: Retinex theory. It also shows just how much color is in the brain, as this demonstration shows:
    http://people.msoe.edu/~taylor/eisl/land.htm
    _________________________
    Clive typed: " Fred: You are very good at this because you have considerable skill in persisting with a question and drawing out nuances within a topic..."
    That's what a picador does to the bull, he extracts the best performance from it.
    _____________________________________
    Last night I was at the opening of a gallery owned by an acquaintance. I went with a master photographer and custom printer, and we looked at two abstract paintings by the same artist. He remarked on how muddy the colors looked, and I said that she must have painted them in fluorescent lighting and the tungsten lighting was killing those subtle blue-greens. He was skeptical, and bet me a beer on it. The artist was there, I sought her out, talked her into walking over, and I asked her if she had painted this under FL lighting. "Yes, but how did you know?". I got my beer, and spent some time talking about color and thinking about this discussion.
    ___________________________
     
  167. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 16, 2010; 08:41 a.m.
    If you actually wanted a conversation that gravitates towards the constructive both ways, surely you could have given me a better response than "Huh?",
    Phylo, your original response was....
    If it was just that easy...
    So if you really wanted a dialogue you would have come up with something a bit more constructive than that. So enjoy your game, play it with yourself.
    Bill P.
     
  168. Yes Bill, that was my original response, which I then explained further in my next response to you, after you asked me for some further explaining : " A musician can render a piece of music from a sheet of paper, a photographer can render an object or subject from a "piece of everything". It's not only the instrument or medium that makes the rendering, is it. If it was just that easy..."
    Your response to that was Huh? and I guess that's where the conversation ended for me also instead of going a bit further, constructively.
     
  169. All throughout the last bit of the thread (I refrained from responding quite a bit since my background in artists and they way they employed their skills and crafts is quite marginal), I've just been thinking about Mondriaan. Which is a good thing, cause it made me read up on his work and other artists of De Stijl.
    I only learned to appreciate his work after I've been more actively and thoughtfully working on making photos. Because colour does matter, even when we employ black and white.
    Josh remarked "But I think of color as an integral part of my response.", and I tend to agree strongly with that. I sense Julie's remark that colour does exist out there points in the same direction (although I would argue shapes do exist, and more than meaning and found, but that aside for now).
    It's not only because of the experience as such, but also because of a very strong point made by Luis G (and somehow a bit ignored afterwards): colour, and the use of specific colours, have strong cultural ties and hence a possible effect on people with that specific cultural background.
    Colours are another tool in the big toolbox, which can be used to great effect, or which can be left out when it won't add. To me, colour and black and white simply are not two different media. Maybe even painting is not a different medium either... We choose a way to convey and present our vision, using skills we have (or think we have) and because some way of presenting embeds our vision better than others.
    Personally, B/W or colour is a after-the-act decision, possibly because I never worked much with film at all, although quite immediately after seeing a photo properly, I know whether B&W or colour is the right choice to present what I want to present. So, my seemingly favourite saying again: horses for courses. It's not either/or, but and/and. The intent dictates what's applicable.
     
  170. Wouter Willemse [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 16, 2010; 09:47 a.m.
    Personally, B/W or colour is a after-the-act decision, possibly because I never worked much with film at all, although quite immediately after seeing a photo properly, I know whether B&W or colour is the right choice to present what I want to present. So, my seemingly favourite saying again: horses for courses. It's not either/or, but and/and. The intent dictates what's applicable.
    Wouter, try making the B/W / Color choice before you drop the shutter release.
    Try planning the shot beforehand, and see how it affects your artistic process.
    In motion picture, that decision is made befroe the first frame is exposed, as part of the production design process.
    That way you don't expose two thouisand frames before you realize that you've selected the wrong stock.
    A far as "Horses for courses", it's a lot easier to arrive at the track with the proper racecar, rather than arrive with three cars, then deciding which one to run.
    Bill P.
     
  171. "Personally, B/W or colour is a after-the-act decision, possibly because I never worked much with film at all".
    Wouter, the non-familiarity with B&W film may be a "handicap" in that sense, but I don't think it need be. I have found that, whether shooting digital, colour or black and white film, the advantages of B&W media for an application are most beneficial if considered at the outset. Thinking B&W during visualisation has a lot to do with the way we see colours and the other compositional elements (point, line, form, texture) and allows us to decide whether the image we perceive (not necessarily a more "realistic" reproduction) will work better for us in colour or in black and white. Doing that afterwards is obviously not the same thing, and while it may occasionally be rewarding, it does not engage the photographer in the act of B&W image creation (Including the issue of not seeing colours as such, the translation of colours into greyscale tones, and the lens filtration or other methods to alter the response of colours when transposed to B&W, the seeking of compositions that work better in B&W, or in colour if that is the intent, the specific quality of light in B&W compared to its effect in colour, and so on).
     
  172. Bill, Arthur, for ages now I am contemplating to get a film camera, just for B&W film, so yes, I am aware that I may be somewhat "retarded" in that area. Yet.... I think the difference should not be overstated and seen as too different. No matter at which point of the creative process you decide it should be colour or black or white, it is a decision of presenting a vision. It is part of the intent, and as such a tool.
    Bill, as for try to plan the shot more ahead, I am getting there. Still in a learning phase (well, in the earlier stages, I hope to never stop learning), but yes, I am taking more and more photos intenionally as B&W (still have to convert them afterwards being a digital boy). But having the freedom to go both ways is rather nice too; one of digitals small advantages possibly. Sometimes, both work.
    Arthur, I do not nullify the inherent extra qualities that B&W can have, and I noted earlier in another post that B&W photos, in my view, do need stronger compositional elements to really work. But somehow I feel you explanation of when to use what underlines both being a tool in bringing across a message, and that was my point. The choice for colour or B&W is a creative choice, fitting in our own view and intent.
     
  173. Wouter Willemse [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 16, 2010; 10:21 a.m.
    Still in a learning phase (well, in the earlier stages, I hope to never stop learning)....
    Wouter, we're all still learning.
    I met someone once who said that they knew photography. I just walked away, quietly. It's not good to agitate those people.
    Bill P.
     
  174. Wouter, it is best to decide whether an pic will be B&W or color before releasing the shutter. One thing I do when working on the tripod is to go into B&W mode to compose, then without touching that, switch back to color raw to make the exposure.
     
  175. I'm familiar with Wouter's process myself. Sometimes, I am able to determine in advance whether the finished photo will be in black and white or color. I like previsualizing but it's a very nuanced and hard skill to develop, not one that you're told to do and then, voila, you just do it. Times are increasing when I approach a situation or subject and say to myself, I'm motivated a great deal by color here, etc. or I'll ask myself how these colors will translate into a black and white vision I'm seeing. Often, lighting will suggest to me whether I will go black and white or color. Sometimes, it's obvious to my gut what I will do. But more often, I'm with you Wouter, not yet quite experienced enough to determine in advance which way I'm going.
    There's plenty you can do in post processing these days to engage yourself in the black and white conversion method that will work well, even if you hadn't considered black and white yet. I find that process, in itself -- attending to the conversion process and what various colors do and how I can work with the different channels and tonalities in the conversion -- affects how I see more and more when I'm out shooting. It's a different way of learning from what others may have had access to experiencing. I find that allowing my shooting eye and my post processing eye to work together and teach each other is very challenging and I've been getting pretty good results. Making decisions during post processing that weren't made at the time of shooting has actually taught me a lot about color and b/w problem-solving. I think, with time, the astute observer and photographer will develop the previsualization skills necessary. No pressure on this. Friends of mine have even encouraged me to practice various skills as well as previsualizing, something I know about from being a musician but that's not often talked about in terms of photography.
    Of course, sometimes a moment appears, I snap the shutter, and don't have time to consider the complexities of chromatic color scales and relationships. Sometimes I don't even have time to fully contemplate the composition or what gets put in the frame, i.e., I'm shooting a scene with traffic going by and accidentally the passing automobile is either in the perfect or not the perfect position, or it's not a matter of perfection and the car is just where it lands. (Sometimes, I have control and can wait for the desired position of the car, but a bus could come by in the other direction and ruin all that.) I decide later what the best way to handle that car is and it may even determine that I crop that picture to affect the positioning of the car. Had it been a yellow cab instead of a car that drove into my frame unexpectedly, that might very well dictate, later, whether I pursue color or black and white. Had the bus had streaks of orange that echoed the light of dawn I was shooting in, I might then decide color as well, after having taken the shot, or not if I was worried about cliché.
    The flexibility of digital is one of its hallmarks. That we don't necessarily have to decide in advance whether we're shooting black and white can be a big advantage to allowing for many more choices at many more stages in the process, with much less compromise than what used to be. Some modes of previsualization can be as much a hindrance to creativity as they are a help. All depends on the individual.
     
  176. I should add "All depends on the individual and the situation."
    I always appreciate the advice more experienced photographers give me and there's been some great advice given here. I keep it in mind but also explore where I'm at and try not to be in too much of a hurry. I don't pressure myself. The road to previsualization (to whatever extent we each seek to go there) begins with not previsualizing and then with degrees of it. Those stages are ones I learn from. While moving toward previsualization, I keep in mind there's a lot of stuff I can learn and a lot of creative avenues I can explore precisely from not previsualizing. I usually find myself right where I'm supposed to be.
     
  177. Fred typed- " There's plenty you can do in post processing these days to engage yourself in the black and white conversion method that will work well, even if you hadn't considered black and white yet."
    That sounds great (we all want to maximize our options, don't we?), but in my experience it doesn't work that way because seldom does a B&W composition work equally well if you colorize it in PS. Nor do color compositions work well simply by conversion into B&W. Pull a Josh and try it with someone else's color work.
    It's not that the technique doesn't work well (as I mentioned earlier, I compose in B&W mode, then go back to color raw for precisely that reason), it's the compositions. If your color compositions work the same in B&W, you're not aware of color because you're not weighing the composition accordingly. Cropping is an option, but to maximize the image, if you're not sure, shoot it both ways (compose one for B&W, and another for color).
     
  178. I am very happy to see the agreement above about pre-visualising in B&W as a distinct option from looking at an image as a colour result, a point which I have been making in several contributions to this thread, hopefully without going into too much detail and detracting from its obvious focus - colour photography.
    To dot the i's of my thoughts on this: Nothing beats B&W film exposure at the present time for that purpose, and if one doesn't want to do wet darkroom work and prefers Photoshop or its equivalent, scanning film with the digital print route is fine. Of course, the latter is still burdened with the problems of the appearance of digital B&W prints under different light sources and in some cases ink bronzing. Despite that, the MF and LF film shooters are living in a great period.
    Shooting in RAW is indeed the best choice with digi B&W rather than using in-camera or basic PS software. The colour filters I spoke of before with B&W films, used to modify the response to different colours, can be somewhat reproduced by colour channel mixing in the ultimate B&W conversion from colour. Again, too bad the manufacturers have not used the full ability of the sensor to register B&W, thus allowing far higher pixel densities than present with the same sensor (which has to divide sensor sites over three colours). The market for a B&W only camera would not be great, but I know of a lot of Leica shooters (a somewhat perverse crowd of which I am one) that have used their numerical Leica uniquely for B&W (the higher ISO response of my old M8 is bad in any case for colour, restricting me to low ISO exposures).
    Try the Nik software (SilverEfex Pro) on their 15 or 30 day no-holds trial, if you want more control on your colour conversions. Some other software may also be good for this. Colour channel use in the conversion from RAW is good as well, but I can understand why many think in-camera or basic PS B&W conversions are "Blah", often yielding muddy or lifeless images. Again, it is a question of thinking about how colour relates to B&W. You have to work at getting the better result. But that is enjoyable and part of the craft, as Clive might say.
     
  179. Try the Nik software (SilverEfex Pro) on their 15 or 30 day no-holds trial, if you want more control on your colour conversions.​
    Yes, SilverEfex Pro is excellent, I have the color version also. I use SilverEfex mainly for processing my black&white negative scans, and not so much for conversion from actual color negs / files.
    There was a camera from kodak on the market, 15 years or so ago or in the early 90's, and that had a black&white only sensor.
     
  180. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 16, 2010; 12:09 p.m.
    Colour channel use in the conversion from RAW is good as well, but I can understand why many think in-camera or basic PS B&W conversions are "Blah", often yielding muddy or lifeless images. Again, it is a question of thinking about how colour relates to B&W. You have to work at getting the better result. But that is enjoyable and part of the craft, as Clive might say.
    Wet B/W photography demanded tons of choices, too. There was no "one" way to do it .
    Different negative developers, positive developers, papers, enlarger settings, all contributed to a bland or great photo.
    Bill P.
     
  181. The thing I like about black and white is that is it not natural, unless you're color blind. I think that because it is not natural that it forces your brain to think about it, and maybe that invokes a mental process that does not happen when you view a photograph in color. It seems to me that black and white photographs (in general) are much more passionate than color. Black and white photos evoke some kind of emotional response for me, maybe it's that I associate B&W with old memories. Also it seems to me that B&W draws much more attention to texture and detail than color. Color, in my opinion, has the temptation to be over-used to draw attention to itself, losing the other qualities of the photo that may be more apparent in black and white.
     
  182. "I think that because it is not natural that it forces your brain to think about it, and maybe that invokes a mental process that does not happen when you view a photograph in color." (Charles). That is an interesting statement, although I would probably add a comma at the end of it, and write "unless the image is particularly striking and thought provoking, and/or the photographer has creatively used colour harmony, discord, lighting or other compositional effects."
    "Different negative developers, positive developers, papers, enlarger settings, all contributed to a bland or great photo." (Bill). Perhaps we could add to those points the additional ones of selective use of dodging and burning, masking techniques, and the alteration of local contrasts by filtration in different regions of the projected image. But I understand what you are getting at, in terms of these craft post exposure approaches in making a B&W darkroom image. Fortunately, though, PS makes that possible now for colour images as well as digital B&W ones.
     
  183. Charles Eagan , Jan 16, 2010; 01:09 p.m.
    The thing I like about black and white is that is it not natural,

    Even though I've been promoting the colour side of the argument this is about as straight forward as it gets because it acknowledges that things have changed, because when there was only B+W it was as natural as you could get.
    For me Julie has nailed it again with her Line and Form post which could possibly be expanded a little with Line/edge/shape and Form/volume/space.
    And her introduction of colour/space is crucial, that's the way each colour locates itself on, or in front of, or perceptually behind a picture plane, the obvious and most repeated quote on this is the old landscape painter's advice to students, "Never put red in the background as it will try to fly forwards" You only have to half squint at a row of books on bookshelf to notice how some colours come forward and others recede. As major issue in colour photography.
    Story time: The mention of seeing how wierd reversed faces look reminds me of a really odd job I had a year or so ago, a woman asked me to do a "corporate" portrait photo of her, you know the kind of thing that co's put in annual reports and hand out to the press. I do the shoot and show the results to the client, they looked fine to me - but she said "It's all the wrong way around" my parting is on the other side - a bit of a discussion - and we realised her own perception of herself was what she saw in the mirror everyday, so she asked me to flip the picture to her own mirror view and was then much happier! It looked crazy to me.
    Clive
     
  184. "Personally, B/W or colour is a after-the-act decision, possibly because I never worked much with film at all,..." Wouter
    "... as for try to plan the shot more ahead, I am getting there. Still in a learning phase ..." Wouter

    "I like previsualizing but it's a very nuanced and hard skill to develop, not one that you're told to do and then, voila, you just do it." Fred
    "I find that process, in itself -- attending to the conversion process and what various colors do and how I can work with the different channels and tonalities in the conversion -- affects how I see more and more when I'm out shooting. It's a different way of learning from what others may have had access to experiencing [with film] ". Fred

    I started and still am immersed in film alongside digital. I shoot them differently - but that is another story. I strong supporter of the benefits I find in previsualizing (or visualization depending on who turned you on to it.) I learned to hone the skill, (one of my best tools imo for certain photos) by thinking before shooting and comparing to my final product. These days with digital, new photographers have what I might consider an advantage ( for this context ). The easy access to color and near immediate results. I have often considered what I might label the disadvantages of having no wet darkroom experience. But for here and now it seems to me that Wouter and Fred (who have stated that the previsualization process is new and worth developing), or any diligent digital photographer, may have a stronger sense of the potentials of color and bw. It seems like a ripe time for learning to previsualize.
    Fred, I took particular interest your going to the conversion process. It seems that the there may be some real potential in building layers of color, localized work in channels and of course not just for conversions to bw but also in color. These new digital tools may, (why wouldn't it), open many new doors. As I browse PN and other sites I am finding myself more and more tuned in to discovering how it is being explored.
    .
    btw. Phylo, Lascaux cave paintings site was good stuff.
     
  185. correction."..any diligent digital photographer, may have a stronger sense of the potentials of color and bw." josh
    should read; ... may develop a stronger sense of the potential and/or relationship...
     
  186. Josh, thanks. You've consolidated a lot of what I was trying to say and it's nice to hear someone as experienced and as well versed in film as you allowing for the new possibilities Wouter and I are facing. I hope you don't mind my using and piggybacking on some of your ideas in responding to Luis.
    Luis, I wasn't questioning the validity and/or significance of previsualization and of the benefits of eventually being able to shoot with b/w or color in mind. I was talking about how I learn. Because I think honing previsualization skills will take time, I am aware that I will be able to utilize that skill to a limited degree as I'm getting more used to it and better at it. So, I take that situation as a way to learn and I think what I learn along the way will affect how I eventually develop my own way of previsualizing. Like I said, for now, those times when I either do not or cannot previsualize can teach me a lot, especially with the advantages that a digital work flow can provide in terms of color control and conversion to black and white.
    The unique aspects of shooting and post processing digitally already do and will continue to affect my way of previsualizing.
    This may be opening a can of worms, but I wonder what people think. We've been emphasizing how important it is to visualize based on the different mediums (or whatever we want to call them) of b/w and color. To what extent, then, do we also recognize and work with the significant difference in developing b/w and color previsualization skills in a digital work flow, on the one hand, and a film workflow, on the other? Obviously, so much learned from film is invaluable when it comes to digital. It also seems likely to me that there are things about digital that cannot be gotten from applying film methods to digital . . . things unique to the digital work flow, skill set, and especially visualization. What I was pointing out after Wouter made his post were some instances where I think digital post-processing and the access to color that I have will distinctly make my experience of previsualizing unique and my own. Again, I wasn't setting up a competition between previsualizing and not previsualizing. I was talking about ways I learn.
    [*I will likely stay open to the possibility that NOT previsualizing color or black and white might wind up the way for me to go in at least some cases. The only way I would make that determination would be to learn and hone the skill of previsualizing and then decide if I want to reject it in some cases as a way of seeing and shooting.*]
     
  187. For me, it began with Kodachrome. There was no post-processing, it was all automated, so everything had to be up front. Composition, exposure, lighting, contrast, filtration, etc. had to be right, before releasing the shutter. This is an invaluable skill set to learn/have with either film or digital. With black and white, too.
    A few years later, I bought a Pete Turner print, and spoke with him. He was very open about what he was doing, and afterwards, I immediately ran out and bought the same model Repronar he was using, and suddenly, I could lower/increase contrast, saturation, density, cropping, filtration, and more in post-processing. Of course, the simplest free PP program today does much more, but back in the Flintstone era it was a huge improvement and a portent of things to come.
    ______________________
    Fred, I understand what you are saying about how you learn, no argument there. Also, that there's no competition regarding composing before releasing the shutter. We can both agree most people do that.
    Another suggestion on learning.... As charming as remaining non-committal and in the nether-position of becoming is, composing generically has severe shortcomings and cannot always be corrected by cropping in PP. In art as in life, making specific decisions, saying yes to this, not that, and being matters.
    _____________________________
     
  188. Pre-visualisation has always been for me the mental process I go through when considering how I will render a selected scene, that is, how I intend to make the image. I pre-visualize the elements of that image and also what I probably will have to do downstream (PS or darkroom), once the exposure is made.
    As such it has little to do with whether it is digital or film media. The pre-visualisation in both cases is quite similar, although the technology of image capture may be different. Those who work in both realize that post exposure manipulations in each, whether film or digital, are very similar, although in one case, for B&W film and paper work, the various post exposure methods of exposure, burning, dodging, re-framing, selective contrast control, and other, are done in the darkrom, whereas, with the digital post exposure they are done in Photoshop or an equivalent software.
    Accordingly, what I have learned to do with pre-visualisation and capture on film has been transposed very readily to digital. When I consider colours, compositional elements, lighting, the particular placement and angle of my camera, and all the other emotional and conceptual thoughts related to the making of an image, I am pre-visualising in exactly the same manner in film as in digital capture.
    In the specific case of B&W, I find it completely counter-intuitive and even nonsensical to undertake the pre-visualisation in the context of a colour image, and then arbitrarily convert it to a B&W image at some later point. My pre-visualisation activity is similar for digtal or film, but it is quite different for the making of a successful B&W image, as compared to the pre-visualisation considerations that go into my making a colour image.
    I know this doesn't apply to most readers of this column, but perhaps the automatism and facility of "taking" a picture interferes with our mental pre-visualisation in "making" a picture. Trying to ressurect a less than well-conceived image downstream in Photoshop is a lot more arduous, even poorly conceived, than making the specific decisions before clicking the shutter.
     
  189. "As charming as remaining non-committal and in the nether-position of becoming is" --Luis
    That was a condescending thing to say.
    "Charming"?
    I think commitment is good and I'll make a commitment and take a stand when I think it's appropriate. Exploration is also good. And I will continue to explore shooting that does not always commit to color or b/w in advance. It will depend on the photograph, the situation, the spontaneity I need, where I'm at on my learning curve, and what I've learned I can accomplish in post processing that allows me freedom and flexibility, which are as desirable as commitment. Like most things, different balances will be struck. I'm not going to box myself in.
    There are two applications of "commitment" here. One is committing to a color or a b/w composition when we're shooting, which I just addressed. And one is a committment to previsualization itself, and I'm in a process of becoming on that score. I'm comfortable with that and don't see it as a "nether-position." Are you saying that "learning" is a nether-position of becoming? I hope not.
    What exactly are you referring to when you talk about charming non-committal and becoming?
    How did you learn how to previsualize? As Josh said, by looking at your product and learning from that? That's what I'm doing.
    I have learned and continue to learn things about previsualizing from seeing my results and then from digital post processing, specifically from color conversions . . . among other things. I'm glad I've been open to that. I've been very committed to that and stay committed because I have learned so much by doing it and because I can see the progress in my work. While being committed, however, I've been open . . . to good teachers, good ideas, and especially to digital as a process with some distinct characteristics. I commit to my compositions in camera when I can. I am also committed to getting the most out of situations in which I don't have either the desire, the need, or the experience necessary to commit to color or b/w in advance. When I say "getting the most out of those situations" I mean, firstly, getting some darned good photos. Secondly, learning that, with digital, it may not always be necessary or even desirable to determine color choices in advance. Thirdly, being willing to learn from situations where it might have been better to previsualize had I been experienced enough to do so.
    _____________________________
    "Accordingly, what I have learned to do with pre-visualisation and capture on film has been transposed very readily to digital. . . . I am pre-visualising in exactly the same manner in film as in digital capture."
    "I find it completely counter-intuitive and even nonsensical. . ." --Arthur
    Arthur, thanks for your answer. It's too bad we can't sit down and have a cup of coffee together. I think we'd have a better understanding of each other. At least I hope so.
    What you say about previsualization makes sense. I understand that the previsualization transposes well from your film experience to your use of digital technology and process. I am reminded of music. Methods of learning the harpsichord would transfer so well to methods of learning the piano. And yet, each has its unique characteristics that I'd want to explore in depth and in their own right.
    The deliberateness in shooting you describe seems appropriate to what you're doing and to what I observe in your work. It wouldn't necessarily be appropriate for or appealing to me and wouldn't even be available to me in many instances because of the kind of shooting I do. This is not any kind of judgment. I think it's just a natural and genuine difference between us and what we're doing. I certainly don't see your way of doing things as nonsensical. I respect it.
     
  190. Thanks for your appreciation Fred ( in the streetdoc thread, but posting my reply here seems more fit ), I can appreciate much of how you seem to make portraits always work so "effortlessly", as I see evidenced in the endphotographs. But I guess as the photographer I'm not any more responsible for the embedding of the mental trigger in the photograph as the actual subject that is photographed is responsible for making the photograph. Not any more, not any less. Like the "Drawing Hands". I think this is also applicable in the viewing and experience of color as form, as well as content.
     
  191. A long overdo supper with friends last night saw the opportunity to consume a fair amount of modest but good wine (happily they could walk back to their own little Canadian cabin in the boonies after all that and avoid having to drive) and to engage in animated discussions about what inspires the personal philosophy and view of mankind of each of us. Accordingly, it was perhaps not the best time after the evening and at 1:00 AM to write a comment to your most interesting thread, Fred, and not appropriate either to use a qualificative like nonsensical.
    No approach is nonsensical if it fits the aims of the photographer. Without putting too much "mea" in my "mea culpa", in the wake of my remark, I simply think it is more useful to work out the possibilities of B&W or colour in my mind during the pre-visualisation of what I would like the final result to be, but I don't deny that many excellent B&W pictures result from a spontaneous conversion from a colour image later. My own photographic approach is fairly deterministic, and I am trying to become more free, a bit more arbitrary, and definitely more experimental in my approach.
    Yes, it would be a pleasure to meet you and have a coffee and chat. That is also true for many fellow photonetters, who like you provide a communication of ideas to me that is important to my learning and practice of this passionate activity. I have always thought that photographers are a group of people who are among the most connected to our human society.
     
  192. First of all, thanks for all the responses. There is a lot to chew on and learn from, and I am grateful for that. It's also interesting to see the "process"-side of B&W-versus-Colour a bit more.
    The previsualisation, to me it's a fascinating process, maybe partially because it's early stages for me (I am relatively new to photography), but also because it requires quite a lot of baggage. It's where most of the things discussed here can (and should?) come together: intent, interaction with the subject (or lack thereof), composition, identification of symbols to amplify intent, use of colours, and if so, which ones. There is a good reason to admire photographers who master this, or most of it.

    Luis,
    Why is "becoming" non-committal? You take a step there I miss. Becoming, to me, means travel. With an start point and an end point. Which means, to me, there is commitment, to get somewhere else. It's the essence of learning. Being is non-committal, becoming takes commitment. Being is in this sense, is just a snapshot in time.
     
  193. Fred - " That was a condescending thing to say. "Charming"?
    I apologize, but I meant it does have its attractive creative qualities, the status of multiple potentials available to the photographer. I fully accept the way you choose to do things, Fred. I said that at the outset, so I wasn't suggesting you change anything. You are a very convincing person, and I wanted to make sure Wouter grasped that there are limits, strengths and weaknesses to every method, yours and mine included.
    Fred - " I'm not going to box myself in."
    As far as I can see, no one is interested in you doing that.
    Fred - " Are you saying that "learning" is a nether-position of becoming?"
    Not at all. I'm saying that becoming and being are both useful. A cloud of creative possibilities is one thing, but in the end, the artist one way or another collapses that cloud into one finished work or series.
    I am also saying that not everything can be decided or fixed in post-processing.
    Fred - " How did you learn how to previsualize?"
    By doing. There were a lot more creative controls/options with B&W than with color at the time, which is one of the reasons (besides the expense) that artists were drawn to it.
    Fred - " Secondly, learning that, with digital, it may not always be necessary or even desirable to determine color choices in advance."
    That is where we differ. You throw in the "always", which I won't touch. However, if, in general, color or B&W do not affect a composition, then what you say can lead to great pictures (and raises big whopping questions about color & B&W).
    If, in general, color does affect a composition, then what you're saying is not true. If color or B&W weighs into composing, a generically shot composition will fall short for either post- decision, and no amount of PP can bring in what didn't reach the sensor or film) though of course, as a compromise, it will work almost always better for one than the other.
    The teaching value of conversions is perfectly clear to me..
    Your modus does not seem nonsensical but ineffective, since generic approaches seldom result in great photographs.
    What I was advocating was not negating either possibility, but if one is not sure, making specific compositions and photographing it both ways. Yes, this stems from the film era. It's not an archaic practice, but a viable one in the digital age, and for the same reasons.
    In other words, not either/or as you suggest here: "Secondly, learning that, with digital, it may not always be necessary or even desirable to determine color choices in advance."
    But also/and, leaving choices still open. We are not as far apart as you think. What's wrong with pouring passion and creativity into every inch of the creative path(s)? Getting as much as possible up front, though that does not mean a straitjacketed previsualization by any means. It means getting as many variations as one may need up front, and availing oneself of possibilities in PP as well. All of the above.
    Yes, this would be a lot easier across a table...
     
  194. You are a very convincing person, and I wanted to make sure Wouter grasped that there are limits, strengths and weaknesses to every method, yours and mine included.​
    No worries, I'm well aware any process has pros and cons.
    We posted at the same time, you already answered my previous question in this last post, thanks.
     
  195. Just a detail, but the use of the term post production (PP) in photography seems awkward and inaccurate to me. I prefer the term post exposure (PE?), as it seems to me to more accurately describe the actions we take to complete our concept of the image after those of pre-visualisation and exposure, whether they are digital adjustments to the image by PhotoShop or via the wet darkroom. Post production would simply be the presentation and viewing of the image.
    If I remember correctly, Ctein, of the "Photo Techniques" magazine group of writers, produced a book of such techniques, which he titled "Post Exposure."
     
  196. Phylo, the reason I referred to your photos as "made" as compared to the others on that thread is because they have more layers to them and reach a depth the others' photos don't. Some of the others shot interesting subjects and did not get photos that look as good or touch me as much as yours. As a matter of fact, most fell to my eyes with a thud. So I assume more is going on than what the subject emits or what the subject is responsible for, and I attribute that to the photographer. As viewer, I play a role as well in how I see it and feel about it. For me, that doesn't diminish the role of the photographer.
     
  197. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 17, 2010; 10:16 a.m.
    Just a detail, but the use of the term post production (PP) in photography seems awkward and inaccurate to me.
    Arthur, it should seem awkward beccause the term is incorrect. The term is a motion picture and audio recording term, where a lot of "detailing" is done in "post".
    The terms used in photography are "pre-press" or "pre-print", which indicate the work done to a negative, positive, or a file to make it ready for the printing process, whether it's an individual print, a series of prints, a magazine layout, etc.. "Preprint" is a term also used in the science community.
    Bill P.
     
  198. Fred,
    Yeah, I'm certainly not diminishing myself as the photographer, or myself as the I that plays an integral part in my photographic output of myself being a photographer ( or you "being it" or anyone else ) of course not. But the more is going on thing you're talking about I view as precisily that thing which can be described as the symbioses between photographer and subject, where both subject and photographer play an equal role in feeding each other. I think this is uniquely to photography as a possible medium of expression and what makes it so interestingly, lovingly, perfectly elusively straaange to me, and I'll bet to some million others, give or take a few.
    " Just like one guy can write a sentence and it's beautiful and another one can write it and it's dead. What that difference is, I don't know "
    Harry Callahan
     
  199. Nicely said, Phylo!
     

Share This Page