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Black and white


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Black and white

25 Dec 2020 4:56AM   Views : 495 Unique : 329


I don’t want to make too much of this – but I definitely don’t want to make too little of it.

I view myself, photographically, as a bit of a monochrome specialist – black and white, as I called it first, and still do when I want to avoid being too up myself. Photographically, it’s a very pure art, stripping reality back to its bones, concentrating on the essentials.


Of course, there are associations with black and white, as there are with the colours – purple for royalty, red for passion, white for purity, black for obscurity. But these are cultural artefacts, and not fixed and final. In some cultures, white is the colour of death… So the significance isn’t a black and white issue. So to speak.

Making images teaches us an important lesson about the two extreme tones (people have been known to argue that they are not colours, but the absence of any colour), and that is that to appreciate either, one needs both. What we see in a monochrome pictures is defined by the beautiful combinations of black and white, and all the tones in between.


One of my photographic heroes, John Blakemore, has experimented with subtly nuanced images that are drawn in very limited tone palettes, white and light grey, black and dark grey. But most images live through a rich mix of the two, and everything in between.

The year has seen polarisation around the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ – and argument that to say that this suggests that white lives don’t, which is to miss the point. Western societies behave as though white lives matter, but often treats black skin as something lesser. As photographers, we know that to remove either from our images diminishes the pictures. We need to apply this lesson to our societies.


Locally, there was a great fuss a few years back about a statue of Princess Diana with black skin: there is relatively little said about the unrealistic blonde and blue-eyed Jesus seen in many images. Or the blonde Mary in Ely cathedral, below. Palestinian Jews in the first century were just a touch swarthy and dark-haired…

So let’s follow the example set by Bex and Jamilla in the pictures. We’re better together: at Christmas, and always.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
25 Dec 2020 4:58AM
A touch of insomnia (and no, I didn't wake up early to open my presents) means that I'm posting early. Happy Christmas to you, whether you've read every blog I've ever posted, or if this is the first one you've seen, and you're reading it simply to avoid playing Monopoly with Uncle James.
woolybill1 Avatar
woolybill1 Plus
16 39 79 United Kingdom
25 Dec 2020 8:24AM
Hear, hear! to every word!

Happy Christmas, John!

James124 Avatar
James124 Plus
8 81 59 Portugal
25 Dec 2020 9:56AM
You echo many of my opinions here John, especially on Jesus and Mary! We are a 'brown and white" family and happy with it.
handlerstudio Avatar
25 Dec 2020 5:00PM
John, I totally agree about black and white....it is one thing in photography...and another in life. For the latter, as far as I am concerned, all truth is in the spaces between black and white (for the truth of that...look, here and regrettably in the world, to the presidency of George W, Bush, who saw no greys). For the former....I think black and white (or as we call it here, "mono") is the truth in photographic image...and always has been (and this coming from an artist who loves color in photographs, furniture and life) always true. Reducing a photograph to tone and value, line, composition, an most of all, image. To me, in today's photographic world, perhaps the greatest living practitioner of that is Sebastao Salgado (and maybe one of those few greats in the pantheon of photographers) and Clyde Butcher right up here. If you do not know his work, check him out. His great love is Florida. Before a stroke a few years ago, he would shoot with an 11x14 view camera and use a horizontal enlarger. Discovered him a few years ago in the course of a climate change photographic trip around the Florida coast...and as we were about to drive across the state on Alligator Alley (Rt 41) people said we had to stop at his gallery...set in the midst of the Great Cypress Swamp, a place of unimaginable beauty and wildlife.

Have a good Christmas and/or holiday.

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
25 Dec 2020 6:11PM
Thank you, Peter.

So much truth in there: and thank you for expanding my vision with it. I shall look for Clyde Butcher tomorrow!
handlerstudio Avatar
25 Dec 2020 8:07PM

Quote:Thank you, Peter.

So much truth in there: and thank you for expanding my vision with it. I shall look for Clyde Butcher tomorrow!

I would be interested in what you think when you look at his work, John.

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
26 Dec 2020 4:26PM
It's easy to see why Popular Photography called him the new Ansel Adams: my first thought on scanning his Florida images was that he gives Florida the grandeur that Adams gave Yosemite. The beauty, the natural perfection...

I wonder what Adams would have made of digital imaging? It moves the goalposts and rewrites the rules (particularly the offside rule, a legendary stumbling block in soccer). But he wanted control, and by 'eck, digital gives it...

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