I’ve never been a big fan of black and white photographs. I think it stems from the fact that my family was the last in the neighborhood to get a color television set. I remember pleading for our household to buy a color TV in time for me to watch the 1967 World Series between the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals but my pleas fell on deaf ears. In the end it really didn’t matter. Yaz and the Sox lost that series 50 years ago this month and I suppose the agony of defeat would have been all the more painful for me had I watched the disappointing finish in living color.
1967 Triple Crown Winner, Carl Yastrzemski – Photo © Dan Levesque 1978
I’m also too much of a realist to fully appreciate black and white images. The world is in color and that’s what my eyes see. Ansel Adams may have seen the landscape in varying shades of gray but I bet if you go to the places where he made his now famous photographs, the world won’t look anything like the one in his pictures – the exception being some of his night time shots. Yes, Virginia, there actually was color in Yosemite even way back then. There still is!
But . . . just like an old dog that learns a new trick, I’m starting to warm up to black and white photography. It sometimes can evoke a mood that color reproductions simply cannot. It also creates a more timeless sense of place. Of course, warming up to something and actually being good at it are often miles apart. These days with a single mouse click it’s easy to convert a digital color file into black and white pixels. Unfortunately, there’s no “auto” button feature that can convert it into a fine art masterpiece. That process still starts in the photographer’s mind and heart; not in the camera or behind the computer.
Ansel Adams once said that “you don’t take a photograph, you make it”. I recently read a new twist on that where the author said “first you take a photograph and then you make it” – implying that post processing in the (digital) darkroom is where photos come to life. The truth must lie somewhere in the middle.
I’m gonna give black and white a whirl – until something else inspires me (my wife swears I have A-D-D and can’t focus on one thing for any length of time). We’ll see how it plays out.
I thought I would share some digital photos from my archives that I’ve converted to black and white and added my own “special sauce” refinements. Let me know what you think.