Wedding & Portraiture
Color, The Enemy Of Form

Photo 1.
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.

Photo 3.

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.

Photo 4.

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?

Photo 5.

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.

Photo 6.

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?

Photo 7.

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!

Photo 8.

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?