A Big Giant Raspberry
May 22, 2017
Again the Question comes up – why B&W. This is a short rant in response to recent "advice" that I might want to work-up for sale some "color" images from my thousands of Easter Island exposures At the same time a good friend and really fine photographer just informed me that she is seriously considering going over to the "dark side" – color. I understand her frustration.
On the negative side, as a medium B&W:
Can feel like a dying art • is difficult for people to "decorate" with • does not jump up and grab the eye • requires a modicum of sophistication to appreciate • is much more difficult in that a great color exposure is only a starting point and never a good B&W as-is when converted • dooms one to hours of printing angst • reduces the number of successes considerably • is much trickier to prepare for on-line viewing • makes you want to hurt someone the next time they ask you if you have a particular image in color, or suggests that your sales would increase exponentially if you would switch • there's the modern impression that because so many photographers, especially those using apps. with "presets", are creating B&Ws as a subset of their color work, that that is all it is • It can take ten years of effort to accumulate anything resembling a portfolio of good B&W work – requiring at every stage, tenacity and persistence.
Quite a list and probably not compete…… and hey, the transition to color is temptingly easy, after all initial exposures are made in "color" now (or more accurately RGB). Every B&W photographer I know, and a couple of them are very, very good, has either tried switching or toyed with the idea.
With over 30,000 exposures from my Easter Island project alone, I do have a lot of great color images. And s a result I have one kick-ass screen-saver for my computer. An appropriate use.
But on the positive side B&W:
• Exposes everything that is hidden behind the mask of "pretty colors" – pretty much rendering that aspect of the image to the status of noise. A good B&W gives someone an opportunity to display an image that goes beyond something they might like out of National Geographic Magazine. Like painting it can say something beyond simply recording what was there.
• On the commercial side, as flooded as the world is with great color images, good B&W prints – relatively rare – can in spite of being on the under side of attention, surpass color in direct sales of hangable art.
• B&W is an art form it itself that says as much about the artist as the subject. It offers infinite opportunities to, like a painter, put one's own vision into each image, eventually evolving a "style". B&W gives one an opportunity to watch oneself evolve as an artist rather than simply in the skills necessary for the initial exposure. B&W photography is a fine-art form as much as painting, requiring the same dedication to the craft of photography as color but with more in artistic input.
• A life of conscious effort looking for and showing the form, geometry, contrast, depth and meaning in a scene behind all the (again) noise of colo can be helpfull in learning how to dismiss the unessential and focusing in on what's important in the rest of one's life.
• Dedication to B&W photography leaves one free from (or deprives one of – depending on perspective) dependence on the cudos and likes of the masses – and the resultant pressures. Leaving one at liberty to simply do what you want, and screw the rest of the world. The freedom of any practicing but "unsuccessful" artist as apposed to one in the spotlight struggling to fulfill expectations from galleries and the public.
• I would have to add that digital printing makes life a good bit less frustrating for a B&W photographer who, like me, wants complete tweaking control. With the enlarger if I wanted a particular leaf "burnt in" I would outline the leaf on a piece of cardboard, cut it out and add an additional exposure holding that card above the image (blocking the light to the rest) while shaking it slightly to keep the edges slightly blurred. Now I can simply zoom in and use a burning brush. I have images that required up to fourteen separate exposures and a stack of labeled dodging/burning cards to print.
My reply to the recent "advice" that I might want to market color prints is the same as always:
A Big Giant Happy Raspberry.
AND a new little item for our Other People’s Art collection: Dave Hardell
A new gallery opened up in town next door to RiverView Gallery where Nan and I show. It’s another member or group gallery. On my first trip in I spotted this llittel 11 inch tall clock made out of bicycle gears. Just what I was looking for to go in the living room. It fits right in on a recessed shelf along with some small clay pieces, and finally lets me know what time it is without either taking out my phone or walking to the other room. By the way, our kitchen clock is also a work of art from a local artist.
The creator of this piece is by metal sculpturist Dave Hardell. He also has an Etsy Store at: https://www.etsy.com/people/davehardell. But it’s a lot more fun to venture into the gallery and actually see some of his stuff – and from other artists.
I have a little trick I use to keep items like this powered. Flash units and other battery powered accessories require batteries with close to full power to work properly. After use in these I keep them in a kitchen drawer for just this kind of thing – an otherwise exhausted battery will last a year or more in something like this.