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Why we like monochrome photographs.


User_Removed 5 4.6k 1 Scotland
26 Jul 2012 5:18PM
In a sense it seems a bit regressive. In the days when most photographs were monochrome, everyone strived for a usable colour film and processing.

As soon as economic printing technology allowed, newspapers and magazines moved from black and white illustrations to colour.

We can all probably remember the day when we (or our parents) replaced their 17" b&w Murphy television with a Phillips colour model.

I saw an interesting research finding a few years ago. After all of the necessary controls and statistical standardisation, it was shown that, on average, viewers at a photographic exhibition would spend twice as long looking at a monochrome photograph as they would spend looking at a colour one.

One explanation that I recall is that chrominance and luminance are processed by different parts of the brain. Luminance, apparently, is processes by the section of the brain that deals with interpretation while chrominance is dealt with by the part of the brain that deals with memory recording. When we see an image in colour, it gives us much of what we expect and we do not need to interpret it. But when there is no chrominance - only luminance - we take longer to interpret what we are seeing.

I don't know if I have explained that very well (or even accurately) but it does seem to tie in with my own observations. I do look at monochrome images for longer than I look at coloured ones, all other things being equal.

What draws you to monochrome images?

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Newdevonian 2 452 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 6:16PM
It's 43 years since I developed my last roll of Pan F! You have given me an idea. I still have 35mm and 645 film capability. I might have a play and see if I can get interested in greyscales again! I suspect that will give me better image reproductive quality than digital colour, Photoshopped monochrome creations.
puertouk 3 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 7:01PM
In todays society, everything more or less is glorious technicolour, so anyone coming across a B & W image looks at it because it is different and I suppose some photographers enjoy this format, rather than colour. I suppose it's like fashion; you look at some things today and you think to yourself, hey I wore that 30 years ago. People go through fads. People come up with something new and for the next few years everyone is copying that style. Milky water, bokeh etc. Now we are waiting for the next fad someone comes up with.
Nick_w e2
7 4.1k 99 England
26 Jul 2012 7:10PM

Quote: Now we are waiting for the next fad someone comes up with.


I wouldn't call black and white a fad.
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
26 Jul 2012 7:17PM
If photography had been in colour from its inception, we would undoubtedly regard B/W as just an "effect".
779HOB 2 1.1k United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 7:20PM

Quote:I wouldn't call black and white a fad.


Oh come on, it's only a fly-by-night thing. It will never take off.
779HOB 2 1.1k United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 7:21PM
Oh, I seem to have joined a group. Didn't mean to do that.
cats_123 e2
10 4.2k 25 Northern Ireland
26 Jul 2012 7:24PM

Quote:We can all probably remember the day when we (or our parents) replaced their 17" b&w Murphy television with a Phillips colour mo
17"?...we'd have been lucky to watch a 10" or 11" Smile

My take on this is that we all see `colours' in different ways...e.g. I have trouble separating blues and greens, the spectrum is so wide...although there are `tones' within black & white they cause much less disturbance (to the brain) and we therefore tend to look more at what is in the frame than the appearance. Smile
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
26 Jul 2012 7:28PM
Yes, I wonder how many mono enthusiasts would feel enthusiastic about buying a B/W television............... assuming such a thing is even available these days?
779HOB 2 1.1k United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 7:31PM
I'd buy one. But they'd have to start making programmes with b/w in mind from a lighting PoV
User_Removed 5 4.6k 1 Scotland
26 Jul 2012 8:00PM

Quote:Yes, I wonder how many mono enthusiasts would feel enthusiastic about buying a B/W television............... assuming such a thing is even available these days?


With a black and white photograph, you can take your time to interpret it (original point) or appreciate it as you wish.

But with black and white TV, Inspector Regan would have shot the bad guys and passed Sergeant Carter a cigarette before you could blink.

Tongue

In fact, it is getting back to something I said on the exploratory thread in the general forum before this group was launched. Much as I have enjoyed looking at all the mono images that have been posted, I have really only reinforced my prejudice against viewing them on a computer monitor. I don't think that many of them (including my own) look half as good on screen as they would as large, well presented prints.

That, in fact, is reflected by my own practice. In my camera club's league competitions we can enter three prints and three digital (projection) images in each leg. Last session all my prints were monochrome and all my digital images were colour.

.
779HOB 2 1.1k United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 8:05PM

Quote:But with black and white TV, Inspector Regan would have shot the bad guys and passed Sergeant Carter a cigarette before you could blink


That's what I mean by shooting for b/w, they'd slow it down.
keith selmes 11 7.1k 1 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 8:12PM
Some of the comments by LF in the first post looked quite interesting, but now we seem to be drifting to the same old same old.
This is wherer CB says that if colour came first, mono would be considered just a special effect.

I then say that in Chinese classical art, a drawing or painting in colour was considered suitable for decoration, but serious work was done in mono, or just lightly tinted. Long before any photography, given a choice of colour or mono, that is how they chose to do it, so I think the special effect idea isn't really enough.

Then I also say, it appears to me that colour can obscure the shapes and arrangements in a photo image. As if we are distracted by the colour from attending to the underlying compositon. On the other hand some images are all about colour combinations. In some cases, taking out the colour gives a stronger and more fascinating image, because that image has strong arrangement of shapes and shades, whereas another will be quite bland as it doesn't, and without the colour there isn't much there. So again I think there is something fundamental involved which is much more than a special effect.

I wonder if the idea about chrominance and luminance processing has somethong to do with this.
keith selmes 11 7.1k 1 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 8:13PM
****er I've joined another group Grin
779HOB 2 1.1k United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 8:15PM

Quote:but now we seem to be drifting to the same old same old


Sorry.

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