Photos © 1999, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved
This is not always the case,
but in many cases color does interfere with the reason for the photograph.
Photo 1 leads you directly to the bride and groom. Everything in the
composition keeps bringing your eye back to the couple. The ceiling
has almost vanished. What an example to show you exactly what I meant
when I titled this article!
The black and white copy was achieved in Photoshop by desaturating the
color image and adjusting the tonal range of the print through Image/Adjust/Curves.
Tim Roberts, the photographer for whom I work in Boca Raton, Florida,
made the picture recently at a New York wedding.
Now, let's look at Photo
2. I created this black and white image for Roberts' studio on Kodak's
T-Max 400 film during a color sitting just prior to her wedding ceremony.
The original was really nice, but not nearly as beautiful as this final
print. It, too, was enhanced in Photoshop. All I did there was to increase
the tonal range of the image.
After all, isn't that what black and white photography is all about?
That is, showing a beautiful full range of tones.
And, speaking of that, let's
take a look at a couple of black and white images by Gary Bernstein. This
is true black and white, right from the get go. Photo 3, A.D. Mujik, was
Mr. Universe when Bernstein created the image with one light in his studio.
He used 35mm Plus X film. Lighting is everything, isn't it? Color?
Who needs it? Who wants it in a photograph like that?
Then, there's his other image--the black and white couple--so sensitively
done, you can feel the texture of their skin (Photo 4). The mood is so
warm and wonderful. Color, certainly, would have been an intrusion here,
too. Caron and Kadiji were photographed on 21/4 Plus X film. One of the
things that I love about Bernstein's work is that he can shift moods
in an instant. He can "tell his story" as strongly in black
and white as in color. Which does he prefer? That would be a great question
to ask him, yourself.
It seems that many of my friends
have been reinfected with black and white fever. Peter Lorber, my panoramic
pal in Boca Raton, sent me a black and white image for this article. Travelers
and locals, alike, may recognize this as Mizner Park, Boca Raton (Photo
5). But has anyone ever seen it with an eye like this? Yes, this is definitely
one of those times where less is more. Without the color you see--really
see--what's there. Color may not really be an enemy here, but when
it's absent, doesn't it give you a great feeling of peace?
Two more friends of mine are
great exponents of black and white. Although they're both known
internationally for their newly discovered digital talents, they're
both right at home with the camera, and with black and white film.
Here, for instance, are two
striking images by Robert Hughes. His images, Detail from the Pearly Gate
(Photo 6), and Sycamore Tree (Photo 7), are masterful reasons for flipping
over black and white images. Shape, form, and texture are all there--just
no color. And you know what? Who misses it?
Richard Pahl's profile
portrait (Photo 8) is still another variation beautifully achieved without
color. The shockingly white hair of this man is emphasized against the
rougher skin of his face and hands. Delicate lighting and printing achieve
more here than the portrait ever could in color. Your eye goes just where
Pahl wants to lead you. It's all there. Nothing missing!
No, we're not at war
with color. It's just that nothing is obscured in these images,
reproduced here for your visual pleasure. Black and white doesn't
have to compete with color any more. Now that the novelty of color is
accepted by everyone, isn't it great that we're once again
recognizing the validity of black and white?