One very important difference between color and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in color you state. Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty… absolute certainty. — Paul Outerbridge
Yes, I am perfectly capable of reading a calendar. I see that it is still June. But my self-imposed month of black and white only is over. These cars, these beautiful old machines, demand color. They are bold, and make a statement.
I love black and white. I do. And all its shades and variants. Duotone, split tones. I love using monochrome to play up drama, or to suggest more in a photo. I read a quote that a good color photo is a good black and white photo. I don’t believe that to be necessarily true. There are times that I believe the splendor of color that we see in the world is required to make a photograph work. Or if not required, than at least central to elements that make a particular photograph work or not.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about digital photography, and color photography, and how they have changed the game. I have thought about all the old masters who had no choice but to shoot in black and white–I have wondered if they ever had those moments, with a scene unfolding before them, where they cursed the lack of color pigment in their films. I wonder about photos that might never have seen the light of day because they just didn’t work in black and white. It is not a question of right or wrong, just about vision and selection.
Ultimately, it’s not a debate about which is better, which more impactful, which more appropriate. The challenge of shooting black and white only reaffirms my belief that there are horses for courses, that there are different tools for different jobs. Just as a single focal length forces you to select images based on what works with that lens, so black and white and color photography force you to become more selective. To some, that can be restrictive. To others, it can be freeing. Fortunately, with digital photography, we have that choice, being able to shoot in color and then make those choices later, at will.
Does that make digital photographers lesser photographers? Or just different? You be the judge, I’d love to hear your answers.
If you are interested in seeing some awesome hot rods, rat rods, and other classic cars, be sure to check out the Bull City Street Rod Association and make it out to one of their Fourth Friday Cruise-ins.