Friday, 23 November 2012

Black and White

In preparation for this set of exercises focussing on Black and White photography, I have done some preliminary reading, specifically Michael Freeman’s ‘Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography’ (Freeman 2009) which provides a good history of the monochrome tradition (from both traditional art and photographic perspectives), discusses some of the contribution of photographic images to art (for example flare and perspective), and discusses the various ‘attributes’ of monochrome images and some possible avenues for development to the area (partially coloured images, split tone).

The second section looks at digital monochrome, and covers some specific issues relating to capturing a digital black and white image – that is that we have all the colour information present (in a RAW file), and then we have a multitude of ways of using this information to create a monochrome image (or variant of). There seem to be so many complexities to converting to black and white and I suspect the only way to come to grasp it is to actually perform the exercises on various images – for example the discussion around handling green vegetation seems to be very complex and can be addressed in a number of ways with a number of outcomes! It seems the capturing of the image in the first place is very much only the first step with black and white (this can probably be extended validly to  colour images too – there is just so much to learn in this field!). 

Section three discusses creative choices and mentions ‘thinking in monochrome’. To this end I have taken the advice of the book and set my camera to ‘monochrome’ so that I see that on my camera screen instead of colour. I hope this will assist me in starting to think about form, shape and texture a bit more. I have limited successful experience with creating black and white images, so I do need some help in this area.

The final section discusses an area that I really have no experience at all in: printing and display. I rarely print my images, and if I do I use a printing company, and because I have moved around so much in the last few years (UK, then Brisbane and who knows what next), I don’t have a regular place of printing, and thus they are a bit varied. I don’t own a printer at all (we did discuss getting one but decided to put it off until after our next move) and I’ve never done much printing at all. I also have no experience making photobooks, a medium I am quite interested in pursuing (if I ever have a project good enough!) and I only printed onto canvas (a gift for mum) for the first time a few weeks ago (and was very pleased with the results). As for printing, framing and hanging, I have no experience at all in this area. I feel that if I am to continue to Level 2 and beyond (that is my plan at this stage), then this is an area where I really need to develop. I think I will have to commit to purchasing a printer by the end of next year when we are hopefully all settled again) and start learning about printing, paper profiles, different papers etc etc. For this next assignment I note that I need to send prints to my tutor. I’m not sure when I’ll be getting around to that assignment but I’ll need to do some test prints through the best printing company around, which is fortunately located just a short drive away.

There were some artists mentioned in the book that I have done a little research on, though need to do some more:

Paul Strand: Strongly geometric (light and shadow for example this early abstract work), use of whole range of greyscale, soft, advocate of social and political causes, street photography (covert!)
Paul Strand, taken from for personal study purposes
Eikoh Hosoe: evocative portraits of body parts, light/dark strong use of contrast, using both ends of the spectrum, high key, contrast between male (black) and female (white), dramatic!
Eikoh Hosoe, taken from for personal study purposes
Ansel Adams: powerful use of images for changing peoples mindsets (setting up of national parks in United States of America), but I've always thought a bit conventional. Perhaps I should revisit. I did see an exhibition when I was in Edinburgh and the prints were pretty impressive hanging on the wall. Dramatic use of the mid tones, similar to Paul Strand, though with very different style (landscape). He was a master printer (I have read some of his books about printing/exposing b&w film)

Ansel Adams, taken from for personal study purposes

Harry Callahan: striking portrait of his wife with arms above head - almost bleeds into the surrounding, high key
Harry Callahan, taken from for personal study purposes


401 Projects. (2012), Eikoh Hosoe [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Adams, A. (2012), Ansel Adams Gallery [online], Available from:  [Accessed 24/11/12]

Designboom. (2003), Eikoh Hosoe [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Freeman, M. (2009), The complete guide to black and white digital photography. East Sussex: Ilex

Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2012), Paul Strand (1890 - 1976) [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Museum of Contemporary Photography. (2012), Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012), Ansel Adams [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012), Eikoh Hosoe [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012),  Harry Callahan  [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012), Paul Strand [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

No comments:

Post a Comment