COP3 Essay 5666 word preview draft

The dichotomy between black and white and colour photography


In the following essay, I will describe a brief history of photography by relating to key points in time. My opinions will be formed and presented once the theories and opinions of other’s have been cross-compared, analysed and critiqued. I will investigate the practices of purely black and white photographers, purely colour photographers and photographers who appreciate both of these forms. I will use their work and standpoints to contribute towards developing my own creative response, personal opinion and conclusion. Before starting this essay, I strongly prefer colour to black and white because we see in colour, and to shoot in anything else would be illogical and pretentious, especially when used in the modern context. However, I have set out to challenge this belief and therefore feel that after further research and critiquing,, the conclusion of this essay will take a more appreciative tone towards black and white.

Chapter 1     

A dichotomy is ‘a division or contrast between two opposing or entirely different things.’ –  (Pearsall, 2002).

Black and white photography is the capturing of light through an opening, whether it is a pinhole or a lens, onto a light sensitive surface, that is later processed using a number of different chemicals which produce a monochromatic image in black, shades of grey and white.

In 1826, the first permanent photograph was made by French inventor, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. It depicts a window view of the landscape and parts of buildings surrounding his home. –  (Gernsheim, 1986; Peres, 2008)

Niépce - ‘View from the window at le gras’. 1826

Niépce – ‘View from the window at le gras’. 1826

Niépce – ‘View from the window at le gras’. 1826

To begin with, black and white photography was seen as something that had to be merely accepted rather than celebrated, ‘When the invention of photography was announced to the French public in 1839, people were astonished at the mechanical accuracy of the medium, but its lack of colour was noted as a liability.’- (Bussard et al., 2013) Following this scientific breakthrough, two main inventions within the development of photographic methods took place; the Daguerreotype process being the first publicly announced photographic technique created by French artist and photographer Louis Daguerre in 1839, by which a highly polished silver coated copper plate is covered with light sensitive chemicals, exposed to a scene through a camera and then processed in a dark room, and the Talbotype or Calotype process created by English inventor and photographer, William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841; the first process to produce a semitransparent negative from which multiple prints could be made. This is when the processes that we use to this day in film photography of; developing, fixing or stopping and printing were created. – (ibid; Greenspun, 2007)

In 1861, some 35 years after the first ever permanent photograph was made, Scottish mathematical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell found a way to introduce colour to a photograph, ‘He suggested that if three colourless photographs of the same scene were taken through red, green and blue filters, and transparencies made from them were projected through the same filters and superimposed on a screen, the result would be an image reproducing all the colours in the original scene.’ – (, 2011) This is known as an additive colour process. – (Peres, M., 2008)

Maxwell – ‘Tartan Ribbon’. 1861

Maxwell – ‘Tartan Ribbon’. 1861

The problem with this method though, was that in order to achieve a single colour photograph, three monochrome photographs had to be made, meaning that taking pictures of moving subjects, people or animals was incredibly difficult.

For the following decade it seemed that there was a race between many physicists and photographers to be able to produce a colour photograph in one shot. The dye sensitization discovered by German photochemist Hermann Wilhelm Vogel made ‘emulsions more colour-sensitive through the use of dyes’ – (Hirsch, 2010) yet soon after, Louis Ducos de Hauron, French physicist, inventor and photographer, who, ‘was the first to describe a ‘one shot’ camera, or ‘photochromscope’ with mirrors with which all three separation negatives could be exposed’ – (Gernsheim, 1952) He also described the subtractive colour process, by which a negative is achieved. – (Gernsheim, 1952; Rogers, 2006)

In 1907, the Lumière brothers released the first commercially available colour film which incorporated microscopic potato starch grains that were dyed red, green and blue in order to filter the different coloured spectrums of light. However, ‘successful exposures were especially difficult to make given the inherently slow speed of the autochrome.’  – (Lavédrine et al., 2013) ‘In 1935, a three layered emulsion, in which the top layer is sensitive to only blue light, the middle layer to green and the bottom layer to red coating on a film support was devised by two American musicians, Leopold Godowsky and Leopold Mannes’ – (Gernsheim, 1986) and was released to the public as Kodachrome.

The possibility of readily available colour brought on debates and arguments between critics, photographers and audiences, ‘Although photographs in colour had been desired since the medium’s invention in the nineteenth century, commercially viable colour photographic processes were not available until the early twentieth century. By that time, monochromatic photography had become a common part of everyday life, so much so that black and white images seemed ‘real’ despite their chromatic deficiencies. As photographic technologies developed, discussions about the realism of black and white versus colour emerged.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000)

It is noted that black and white was still the more accepted medium, despite the fact that we see in colour and that the real world around us is in colour, ‘There was a prejudice against colour when it came to documentary photography: In the new depression era, modern industrial colour came under a cloud of suspicion as a marked sign of the profligate commercial culture which threatened to divide the social fabric.’ – (Stein, 1991) Yet colour eventually became very popular, ‘By WWII, colour photography was in flux, presented in a myriad of way on both museum walls and magazine pages.’ – (Bussard et al., 2013)

In the 1940’s, Ansel Adams, a National Geographic photographer, was one of the first well known photographers asked to test this film and have his images published. ‘National Geographic endorsed Kodachrome film in 1937. It was one of the first American publications to do so.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000) Kodachrome were trying to make black and white a thing of the past, ‘The reason why the pioneers of photography made black and white pictures was that they lacked the technical means to make colour ones.’ – (Hedgecoe, 1998) but this attempt wasn’t as successful as they had planned; although Adams remained to be in favour of black and white photography, he still agreed to experimenting with colour, ‘I accept colour photography’s importance as a medium of communication and information.’ It is logical to deduct his acceptance of colour being credible and viable in photojournalism and documentary photography.

‘I have yet to see – much less produce – a colour photograph that fulfils my concepts of the objectives of art. It may approach it, give pleasure and induce contemplation, but it never seems to me to achieve that happy blend of perception and realization which we observe in the greatest black and white photographs.’ – (Adams, 1957)

Here, he diplomatically writes that colour photography isn’t as artistic as black and white, which I find to be an unusual opinion since I associate art with colour. Bussard’s statement of the seriousness of black and white, and the artistic qualities of colour also contradict with Adams, ‘in the documentary era – the 30’s and early 40’s, monochrome photography’s association was with reality and truth, while colour photography was usually associated with superfluous fantasy and commercial extravagance.’ – (Bussard et al., 2013)

‘In 1969, the Charge-Coupled Device, or CCD, was invented by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, who both won the Nobel Prize for the invention in 2009. It makes use of the photoelectric effect as theorized by Albert Einstein. By this effect, light is transformed into electric signals.’ – (, 2014)

This breakthrough in technology was later used in 1975, when the first digital images were taken by Steve Sasson, a Kodak engineer. These two megapixel photos were stored on a cassette tape, which could hold thirty images, ‘a number I chose to be conveniently between twenty-four and thirty-six (relating to film capacities). I didn’t want to store one or two images on there because they’d say well that’s not very useful. I didn’t want to store a hundred or a thousand images on there because no one knew how to deal with that concept. The key to putting an idea across is you have to understand the culture you’re dealing with.’ – (Sasson, 2011)

In 1976, The Museum of Modern Art displayed their first colour (film) photography exhibition solely created by William Eggleston, which raised debates between critics and public audiences alike, about the appropriateness of colour in photography. – (Cotter, 2008;, 2010) ‘Photography didn’t use colour seriously until Eggleston came along. Colour was the prerogative of the slick advertising man, that dealer in cliché and banality. Eggleston saw a use for heightened colour; in fact, his colours can be shrill to the point of near hysteria.’ – (Glover, 2013). This style has been simulated and imitated by many, including photographers; Gregory Crewdson and Martin Parr.

After further developments in digital photography were made, ‘The first truly digital camera was Fujifilm’s Fujix DS-1P. It was revealed in 1988, and converted video images into digitized red, green and blue values before storing them on a solid-state removable memory card.’ – (Tarrant, 2007) ‘It used a 400 Kilopixel CCD sensor, and although it was aimed at general public, it was never actually marketed.’ – (Baldridge et al., 2013; Camerapedia, 2009)

Many other digital cameras were marketed and sold in the same year; the recognition of the popularity of this media was quickly realized by Thomas and John Knoll who, in 1988 invented Adobe Photoshop and released it in 1990, making digital photography more accessible.

Thomas Knoll also went on to invent the Digital Negative (DNG), Portable Document Format (PDF) and the Raw file formats, giving the possibility for a more professional and creative approach to digital photography, rather than it just being viewed as a novelty development in technology. – (Lewis, 2013; Hendrickson, 2012)

In 1987, Jim McGarvey invented the world’s first Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. The original Electro-Optic, Tactical Camera (both built in a Canon F1 SLR body) and Hawkeye II (Nikon F3 camera body) models were specifically designed for and sold to the government and military. In 1991, the Kodak Professional Digital Camera System (built in a Nikon camera body) was released to the professional market, costing $25,000. – (McGarvey,  2004; 2012)

The technology of the DSLR camera still had a long way to go, ‘I was still shooting Kodachrome on vacation. The image quality of the DCS couldn’t compare to Kodachrome! And I had no need to transmit images, and I didn’t even have a computer at home that could handle those images. The DCS was not a convenient camera for personal use… It was the first high res colour camera and colour fidelity was a major challenge throughout the DCS history… we should have made the shoulder pack smaller and made a much more appealing product with a few months of packing the same electronics into a more compact form factor.’ – (McGarvey, 2013)

More recently, he states, ‘Full frame DSLR image quality is near perfect, but that performance could be a lot cheaper and smaller someday. Also there is room for progress by developing light field cameras capable of shooting in very low light’ He believes that digital photography has made a wider audience available, and that ‘The really good artist still stands out, but it’s harder to make a living at becoming a low end pro, since anyone can do that kind of photography nowadays.’ – (Taylor, 2014)

On black and white versus colour, he stated, ‘I love B&W for people and vintage scenes. I love color for landscapes and product shots. It depends on what you want the viewer to notice.’ – (ibid.)

By deductive logic, this could mean that he believes black and white helps to show the essence of the person he is photographing, as landscapes and products or still life lack this inner soul. This would coincide with the idea that colour is an external skin, ‘The Latin word for colour, for example, which is the source of the term in many languages, means ‘to hide, cover, conceal.’ Colour is something that covers or clothes; it is a material reality, a sheath, a second skin or covering that hides the body, similar to the Greek word for colour, ‘khroma’ coming from the word ‘khros’ meaning ‘skin’, or ‘surface’ – (Pastoureau, 2010).

In 1995, The Vancouver Sun became the world’s first newspaper to convert to all digital photography, with the Kodak APNC2000 with the help of staff photographer, Nick Didlick and his team. –  (Didlick, N., 2006)

Didlick recalls, ‘Newspapers were B+W and in the fifties had colour and then went back to B+W because of time and costs in production. It wasn’t until the mid seventies we saw newspapers printing colour in new on a regular basis (there was some pre-printed colour ad sections of course before this). If I had to pick a time for regular colour in newspapers world wide it would be late seventies or early eighties.’ – (Taylor, 2014) From this, it is apparent that newspaper companies wanted to print in colour, not only because they wanted to move with the times or meet the public’s expectations of having the technological means; they actually wanted colour in replace of black and white, but were too early for the development of affordable technology.

He goes on to state that he did not mind working in either medium, ‘From my point of view, as a photojournalist, colour wasn’t really a big deal generally.’ His main focus is on exploring the boundaries of photography and technology, so colour, at the time was his main focus, ‘I have always been one to push the boundaries of visual media and technology so I loved it (the transition from black and white to colour in newspapers). Has my opinion changed (since this transition)? No, Its moved on to other forms of visual reporting.’ – (ibid.)

The idea of colour ‘not being a great deal’ for a photojournalist contradicts with many others, who prefer working in black and white, as ‘a versatile ISO400 film can handle everything from an outdoor rally at noon to an indoor press conference without wasting time, rewinding and changing to different films. It minimises the chances of mistakes.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000) and, a more specific case, ‘Diana Walker, who covers the White House for the newsweekly, shoots her behind the scenes exclusives on black and white film. It allows her to shoot in low light situations easily, she points out. She also doesn’t have to worry about balancing colour for fluorescent light or watching the colour of the background. Nor does she need to use a strobe to guarantee a well-exposed colour saturated image. She believes that black and white film actually produces more interesting images than colour film in low light situations.’ – (ibid.) Black and white gives her the freedom and versatility that she finds she couldn’t have with colour.

With regard to how the audience perceives black and white or colour photographs, Didlick then says that colour brings more of an impact to its viewers than black and white does, ‘It was eye candy for sure but the affect it had on readers was mostly on the news side of colour photography. Colour definitely had more impact on readers; grief stricken people, blood and accident scenes would be especially difficult for some readers. It was like in black and white, there was still a step of removal for the reader to picture, with colour that step was removed emotionally. Now we are just used to it.’ – (Taylor, 2014)

The desensitization towards colour is due to the rise of technology and availability of colour; Colour images were once seen as shocking; Susan Sontag, a political activist and film maker indirectly confirms this, as she describes a time before this accessibility of colour and technology, ‘Photographs are often more disturbing than the real thing… in a photograph or film we have to look at what the photographer wants us to see, in real life we can look at what we want for as long as we want.’ – (Sontag, 1979) However, she does make a claim that I feel is still relevant today, ‘exposure to photographs often weakens our feelings when we see the same thing in real life.’ – (ibid.)

It is a feasible concern that the more we see images of something, the less of an affect we have when the subject itself appears in front of us, which is why black and white is still popular today; it allows us to see things in a different way, ‘In a colourful world, black and white images sometimes stand out. Even though the publications today can easily run colour, some are choosing to publish black and white images instead. They convey an air of dignity and seriousness. Shades of grey connote the traditional, respected documentary style. Black and white journalistic photos stand out against competing colourful advertisements.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000)
Because of this, some adverts today including; First Direct Bank – (First Direct, 2014), the new Audi A5 – (Audi, 2012) and Avis car hire – (Avis, 2014) choose to shoot in black and white in order to stand out from other competing advertisements and to appear modern, as this stripping away of colour and decoration corresponds with the age of Modernism which took place between the eighteenth century and the late twentieth century, whereby; art, architecture, clothing, photography, products, transport and typefaces were simplified in order to bring a Utopian ideology into action. The aim was to make everything less alien to those belonging in different cultures, which was done by establishing and ensuring that form followed function.

This application of simplicity and minimal design with keeping a truth to materials gave everything a sense of timelessness. – (Miles, 2012)

Black and white photographs make it easier for us to see other qualities such as line, texture and tone, ‘Less is more. Sometimes the color distracts from the essential subject. Sometimes, just light, line and form is enough, and it allows you to explore the sculptural qualities of that third dimension, that illusional dimension of depth.’ – (Baquet, 2007) This idea of colour being distracting is a well noted argument, ‘Carol Guzy, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for the Washington post says, ‘I love black and white, and I’ve been with black and white all my life. Colour can be distracting.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000)

This deems colour photography to only be useful for advertising, product and fashion photography, but Joel Meyerowitz, a street photographer, simply states why colour has a place within documentary photography, ‘Photography is about description, and so if the camera describes things, then don’t you want an instrument that describes more things?’ – (Meyerowitz, J., 2010) This description is particularly important in photojournalism and documentary photography, since these two genres are focused around capturing scenes and events as they are and as they happen, with no interference from the photographer.

‘While editors should not use photos just because they are a multi-hued as Joseph’s proverbial coat, neither should they forget that colour carries a great deal of information that would be lost on black and white film. Journalists are in the information business. Giving readers more information usually adds to their understanding of a story.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000) Kobré recognizes that colour is important in photography, but not when it is abused by photographers and editors who take or use photographs simply because a scene is full of colour.

I disagree with this if an image takes on an artistic role and aims to inspire (for example, a richly multi-coloured landscape with the aurora borealis in the skies above). I think that if a subject or scene displays many rich and vivid natural, unedited or unexaggerated colours which could be seen as awe-inspiring, but lacks in other forms of content such as line or texture, or lacks a contextual meaning then this is just as valid as a black a white photograph that has more detailed and meaningful content. However, I would agree with Kobré’s statement if the photograph is full of overly vivid colours that are not a product of nature or not a cause of coincidence (for example, a scene with two or three people who do not know each other and do not realize each other’s presence but have the same coloured item of clothing on) and therefore can be deemed as not impressive, or if the photograph is meant for a serious article.

Arbitrarily introducing colour into a photograph simply for the sake of trying to make a scene more interesting is more of a novelty photo, and cannot be taken as serious photography, ‘When the Florida Times and Independent began using colour in the 60’s, editors would often send a photographer to the beach to photograph a pretty woman with a brightly coloured beach ball for the Monday morning project. In the past, supposedly some National Geographic photographers would make sure that someone in their picture had a red shirt or skirt on to add a little colour to the scene and provide a central point of interest.‘ – (ibid.) I find this childlike, and unprofessional; with this kind of practice, I find myself siding with black and white. This use of colour would be more suited to advertisements, not for documentary photography or photojournalism. On the other hand, the use of colour plays a particularly important role within nature and wildlife photography, as Nancy Newdhall, an early twentieth century photography critic notes, ‘Eliot Porter’s experimentations in the genre of nature photography persuaded numerous museums to view colour photography as a legitimate artistic medium…’In a black and white photograph, the young medowlark would be lost in flickering shadows. In colour, they wait in the grasses like winged demons.’ – (Newdhall, 1943) Although black and white may help textures to be more distinct, colour helps us to see and differentiate between two subjects within close proximity of each other that share similar textural qualities, or if one is more discretely textured than the other. Colour in this sense gives a heightened level of detail.

For some, this heightened level of detail and understanding can prove too much, ‘Barry Fitzsimmons, a San Diego Union Tribune says, ‘It’s with news that editors and readers have a hard time with colour. It shows the reality…. While black and white covers it up. In black and white, blood can just blend in with the street. In colour, the blood jumps out, and the editors are left to deal with it more than ever before. Same goes for fires. In colour, they’re unbelievable, but in black and white they’re practically non-existent.’ – (ibid.)

Perhaps Fitzsimmons is trying to put forward the notion that generally, the public prefer black and white, and that documentary photographers prefer colour, which corresponds with this specific example, ‘Readers were furious that the paper ran the graphic picture, particularly with the horse’s gushing red blood, on the front page’ – (ibid.) This attitude of colour being distasteful for viewers is shared by many and that, ’the monochrome in photography is linked to truth, stylisation and a tonal language peculiar to photography and self expressivity, while colour is associated with pleasure, vulgarity, distraction, emotion and accessibility.’ – (La Grange, 2005). Yet the important fact remains that the act of documenting something is the act of capturing an event as it happens in as most detail as possible. I believe that an image should not need explaining, as it should speak for itself, ‘Even though black and white photos record the world in almost infinite deal, one visual element is left out: Colour. When colour is an important aspect of the scene, the cutline must supply this missing dimension’ – (Kobré et al., 2000)

Despite this, there is still a stronger association between black and white and truth than there is with colour. It is why ‘some news organizations have all assignments shot in colour, which they convert to black and white.’ – (ibid.) This method allows for editors to control exactly which components of the photograph they want to make more apparent, ‘Shooting in the black and white mode on a digital camera is not recommended as it reduces the amount of control we would ultimately have in creating our final image.’ – (Macleod, 2008) This method does have its flaws, as ‘Photographers faced with this, usually choose to shoot for one medium or the other. They try to ‘think in colour’ or ‘think in black and white’ and hope that the editors in the office don’t seconds guess the decision.’ – (Kobré et al., 2000)  It could mean that a shot intended for colour, could become black and white (or vice versa) and would ruin the very reason why the photographer was drawn to taking the photograph.

After years of experience though, this would become easier for photographers and editors to deal with, ‘Thinking in colour requires photographers to develop a special eye. ‘Colour is a different language,’ points out Steve Raymer, the former National Geographic staffer. ‘I pass up pictures when the colour gets in the way. It’s a matter of learning to read colour, light and subject in a new way. New photographers often make pictures filled with bold primary colours that can detract from the photograph’s editorial content. Photographers are drawn to anything bright red in the scene they are photographing.’’ – (ibid.) This denotes that there has to be a flowing form of colour, rather than abrupt and sudden or misplaced colours in order for a photograph to work, ‘Raymer recommends searching for colours that complement one another, that create a mood, ‘start with the concept of harmony… less is usually more.’’ – (ibid.)

I like this connection between colour and language, because almost every language has its own concepts or ideas that cannot be translated accurately into other languages; it points out that some things look better in colour, or in black and white, yet different people can still have their own ideas and ways of how they use language to best portray a concept, ‘Some pictures are inherently monochrome while others are all about colour. A colourless, wintery scene is inevitably black and white, while a sunset’s glory is all about the sheer beauty of warm colours. But the vast majority of scenes and almost all subject matter lie between those points.’ – (Beardsworth, 2007)

Factors that change the way we use colour do not solely revolve around the seasons of a year, but also the time of day, ‘From 5am to 5pm, colour changes, intensity changes and mood changes. A routine shot of a building taken at noon becomes an Architectural Digest photo at 6pm… The selection of time to photograph is as important as the choice of lens or film. A painter picks oils from a palette… Likewise a photographer picks the time of day.’ (Kobre et al., 2000) When working with film, this decision making process of which language to use has to take place before the photograph is taken rather than after, ‘Despite being factual and convincing, the photographs were also different from reality. Reality was filtered, reduced in size, rendered in monochrome, clarified and/or exaggerated. Photographers had to both see the reality and the photograph he had not yet taken and make his choices in terms of this unseen photograph.’ – (La Grange, 2005)

Sontag makes the same relation between photography and art, but only to prove that colour should not be used for photography, ‘The desire to be seen as art is still left in parts of photography; Sontag feels Cartier-Bresson’s continued use of black and white and failure to embrace colour photography is part of a tradition in which colour is reserved for painting. Photographers regard black and white images as ‘…more tactful, more decorous… less voyeuristic and less sentimental or crudely lifelike.’ – (ibid.) Colour can be manipulated in order for a photographer to possess more of a personal style. The lack of colour brings less personal style, meaning that black and white creates a level playing field, ‘Photojournalism is successful because the work of good photojournalists is so similar, they are powerful images because they copy the world and do not express (…) an individual artist’s consciousness.’ In the vast majority of photographs this consciousness (…) interferes with the primary demand on the photograph: that it record, diagnose and inform.’ – (ibid.) Black and white is more clinical and objective; it helps us concentrate on the subject itself, rather than the photographer’s own feelings and thoughts, it brings less of a personal connection than colour.

I have come to disagree with my own original opinion of believing that colour is better than black and white, since it seemed logical and less pretentious. I now understand the importance and relevance of black and white, even in the modern world of colour, as it can add to the context of a scene when used in the right circumstances such as, displaying the seriousness or showing the modernity of a subject. It can transform a flat image to one with more depth, as the contrasting lines, tones and textures become more apparent than they would have been in colour. Seeing the world in such a different way, gives an artistic effect, and can make a photograph more interesting. There are still some reasons why I prefer colour depending on the subject, but I will address this through the practice of others in the next chapter, and my own creative response in the third chapter.

Chapter 2 Creative responses

Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore are commonly known as the godfathers, or masters of colour documentary photography – (, 2010) ‘Color was identified with commerce, with manipulative advertising and crowd-pleasing stories about the stars in popular magazines. The color picture was too close to reality. Where were the personal vision, the transformation, and the art? Serious photographers shot and interpreted the world in black and white. According to the well-worn narrative, all this began to change in the 1970s with the “new colour photography” of American photographers like William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz’ – (Poynor, R., 2012)

Meyerowitz is an award winning street photographer and, ‘was instrumental in changing the attitude toward the use of color photography from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance.’ – (Meyerowitz, J. (2014).

In the presentation of these two photographs, he makes apparent his deliberation between black and white, and colour, ‘In the middle ‘60s, around 66, I started carrying two Leicas – black and white and color. Whenever I had the opportunity to make an interesting photograph, if there was enough time in what was happening, I would make a second picture similar to it in black and white or color so that I could then compare them.’ – (Meyerowitz, J. 2012)

A Question of Colour. Florida. 1967. Joel Meyerowitz

A Question of Colour. Florida. 1967. Joel Meyerowitz

In this scene, a middle aged overweight gentleman is stood hunched in an isolated area enjoying the view and the weather, he seems to have no awareness or regard towards the blimp, as he could possibly in a meditative state, in deep thought, or is simply accustomed to the sight of it. The fact that Meyerowitz has chosen to frame the blimp and the gentleman in the same image could be taken as a symbolic cue towards the possible accumulation of thoughts, perhaps it has indeed been a ‘good year’ for this vacationing man.

A more discreet symbolic cue could be the positioning of his contradictory slim shadow which is cast over a parasol pole stand in a suggestively phallic way, yet his expression is quite serious and oblivious to this, telling us that he could be thinking about when he was in his prime, and the hard work that he has gone through in order to get to this moment in his life, and that he feels young and invigorated. We don’t lose these contextual interpretations in either the colour or the black and white images; however, the tone changes.

In colour, the atmosphere is more suited towards a summer holiday, but in black and white, I feel that the gentleman takes on a more elite role, as though he owns a large business and the space he is standing in, which could possibly be a part of his house or apartment. It is components like this that at first seem minor, but could affect a photograph’s meaning entirely.

St. Louis, Missouri. 1978. Joel Meyerowitz

St. Louis, Missouri. 1978. Joel Meyerowitz

This photograph doesn’t have a monochromatic counterpart, but it does conjure mixed thoughts regarding how I feel about the use of colour. I like this photograph mainly for its composition: the game of baseball taking place with spectators forgetting about the outside world which we can see peaking over the top of the stadium, carrying on with everyday life.

I like the horizontal structure of the slightly muted blue, red and green, as they give depth and make the layers of foreground, midground and background more apparent, yet from this photograph, I can understand criticisms of less muted colour, ‘Color film’s exaggeration of subject hue and the concurrent difficulty of formally organizing the visible world’s raucous color combinations gave the medium an aura of vulgarity.’ – (Eauclaire, S. 1981) If this image were more saturated, I would agree with black and white photographer, Walker Evans, who, ‘deemed color a “vulgar” medium and stated that many ‘color photographers confuse color with noise’ and that they ‘blow you down with screeching hues alone…a bebop of electric blues, furious reds and poison greens.’ – (ibid.)

I have come to disagree with my own original opinion of believing that colour is better than black and white, since it seemed logical and less pretentious. I now understand the importance and relevance of black and white, even in the modern world of colour, as it can add to the context of a scene when used in the right circumstances such as, displaying the seriousness or showing the modernity of a subject. It can transform a flat image to one with more depth, as the contrasting lines, tones and textures become more apparent than they would have been in colour. Seeing the world in such a different way, gives an artistic effect, and can make a photograph more interesting. There are still some reasons why I prefer colour depending on the subject, but I will address this through the practice of others in the next chapter, and my own creative response in the third chapter.

Main things learnt from live briefs/commissions

These are lessons I have learnt solely from taking on live briefs and commissions, are placed in chronological order:

- Learn copyright laws. Basically - if you’re a freelancer, you’re the copyright owner as soon as you create the piece. If you work for an organization (eg, a staff photographer in a newspaper or magazine) then the organization owns the copyright. However, further research such as ‘assigning a copyright’ is needed.

- Dress well when meeting up with a client first time, unless you’re both going on the photo-shoot, and you’ve already met each other. First impressions count and if positive, make sure they last!

- Always bring a pen and paper with whenever meeting up with a client. A phone may be a great note taker, but not whilst trying to look professional. Also make sure it is set to silent without vibrate, your client deserves your undivided attention.

- Set your agreements on copyright and usage. Have this in writing with signatures from both parties, and photocopy this. Doesn’t matter how friendly you both are, or how much you trust them – business is business. Keep it like that and a lot less could go wrong

- Make a list of must-have’s. Make suggestions to get the ball rolling and to keep ideas flowing, but allow them ultimately to make the list of shots they definitely want. keep a copy of this list – it will be your bible whilst working with them. Once you have these down, then take your own creative photos.

- Set an agreement that all costs will be paid by the client (such as parking). Apart from hiring equipment or buying food/drink. However, if they offer to pay for these, let them, but make sure they know that this is not part of the payment.

- Let them give you their ideas, advise them about how they would work out (or not work out) and why, let them make the final decisions and stick to it. It’s best that they’re unhappy from their own faults (despite your constant advice) rather than your’s.

- Place a watermark over all photos, send to the client and let them decide which ones they want. Set your price not just by time spent photographing and editing, but also by how many photos they want.

- Should they want more shoots, be constant with pricing. Do not apply discounts (unless previously arranged) as this will undermine your skill.

Last but certainly not least…

- Treat every meeting or interaction you have with them as though it’s your first. Never take a client for granted, as any slip of enthusiasm could lose them to someone else (which hasn’t happened to me because I do this).

Background reading

These are more quotes that I have found useful, but have not used in the essay…

Beardsworth, J. (2007). Advanced digital black and white photography. Lewes: Ilex

‘black and shadow tones ‘anchor’ the image and give it ‘body’. The eye lands on the picture s shadows, but it is then drawn straight to brighter tones, as this is where one expects to find what is interesting about the photograph.’ (P. 26)

Bussard, K. and Hostetler, L. (2013). Color rush. New York: Aperture.

Throughout the course of history, colour photography played many roles; it was an artist’s medium, a commercial publisher’s enticement to consumption; an amateur photographer’s pursuit; and the public’s choice for recording moments in time.’ (P. Viii)

‘Between what Kodachrome and Technicolour made possible, colour photography’s multifaceted mass consumption was completely assured at the dawn of World War II. During the war, colour photography’s presence only expanded.’ (P.5)

‘Photographically orientated magazines such as National Geographic, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar capitalised on the notion that a colour snapshot provided even greater domestic and emotional comfort to those in foreign combat zones.’ (P.5)

‘In a 1971 column for the N Times, A.D. Coleman (…) felt unable to comment critically on colour photography. He listed 3 possible examinations he had discovered in contemplating this quandary: too many pretty colour pictures, too much complexity in the psychological/emotional/aesthetic factors as applied to colour imagery, and too little abstraction of the kind so long associated with black and white photographs, thereby making colour photography ‘too damn realistic for its own good’… Coleman invited his readers to respond… One reader positioned that… ‘The home picture taker is the first to accept colour photography as simply photography as they simply want a photo of their house, family, swimming pool or dog.’ (P. 10 – 11)

‘A more accurate and less defensive summation of 1970’s colour photography can thus be found in the concluding sentence of a Newsweek column, ‘Colour now, is simply a means to an artistic end.’ (P. 14 )

‘In the visual rhetoric of documentary photography, monochrome photography’s distortion of reality – its removal of the colour of everyday life – was not perceived as a falsification. Instead it ‘produced a levelling effect, creating great sense of parity between disparate phenomenon… documentary fostered the impression that colour was of little consequence to 30’s culture, that colour had faded with other reckless illusion that characterized an earlier era of prosperity.’ (Ibid., pp.191 – 92.)’ (P.21)

‘The head of the FSA, Roy Stryker was ambivalent about the use of colour for serious documentary imagery. He thought that photographers of the time had a tendency to ‘lose their heads’ when shooting in colour film’ (P. 94)

‘The prejudice many photographers have against colour photography comes from not thinking of colour as form. You can say things with colour that can’t be said in black and white.’ Edward Weston, ‘Colour as form’, Modern Photography December 1953, P. 54. (P. 122)

‘There are 4 simple words for the matter, which much be whispered: Colour photography is vulgar.’ Walker Evans, ‘Photography’ In quality: Its image in the Arts, ed. Louis Kronenberger (New York: Atheneum) 1969. P. 208. (P. 132)

‘As you photograph colours, your entire seeing will begin to change. You will begin to see small colour difference that never existed before. You may become colour conscious to the point where your non-photographic life begins to change.’ Siegel, ‘Creative Colour Photography P. 45’ (P. 142)

Hedgecoe, J. (1998). John Hedgecoe’s the art of colour photography. London: Mitchell Beazley

‘We respond more readily to colours than shades. The first step in understanding colour is the realisation that everything in the world changes hue according to the quality of the light by which we view it.’ (Intro P. 8)

Kobre, K. and Brill, B. (2000). Photojournalism. Boston: Focal Press

‘Today’s photojournalists are borrowing the techniques of the advertising photographer to illustrate stories based on issues and abstract ideas.’ (P.171)

‘Thane McIntosh, a long time shooter for the San Diego Union Tribune, says he thinks editors are still in the ‘comic book era’ of picking bright colours. He observed, ‘White paper on colour. I still hear editors picking pictures for colours not content. I find myself adding colour to make the scene more ‘complete’. (P.241)

Pastoureau, M. (2010). Chroma. London: Thames & Hudson

‘Colour is not easy to define. Not only have definitions varied greatly over the centuries, from period to period and society to society, but even in the modern era, colour is not perceived in the same way in every continent of the world. Every culture conceives and defines colours according to their own environment, history, knowledge and traditions.’ (P. 9)

‘Red = Power, Love, Masculine, Feminine

Green = Nature

Black = Mysterious, Luxury, Elegance, Sadness, Death

Yellow = Light, Wealth, Bitter, Honey, Poison, Sun

Blue = Bad Luck in China, Loyalty, Wisdom, Melancholy

White = Pure, Peace, Cold, Silent, Death’

Yorkshire Visual Arts Network: Making a Living From Art

This was my first time at a real networking event, which lasted the whole day. I didn’t get a chance to find new collaborators or clients, but I did speak to some interesting people and learnt some useful hints and tips from talks throughout the day delivered by; artists Relton Marine, art fair director and university lecturer Stephanie Dieckvoss, gallery founder and director Karen Sherwood and the Leeds Art gallery curator Sarah Brown.

Introduction into being an entrepreneur workshop

I have signed up to a number of workshops that are based around helping us in life after college. They run until early May next year.

In this session, we learnt about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, a freelancer or an employee in a chosen career.

An entrepreneur is someone who has new ideas, makes them happen and then moves on to making more ideas to carry out.

An intrapreneur is an entrepreneur, but within an organization.

A social enterprise is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are reinvested for the business or its cause.

Freelance is working for different people or organizations rather than a full time job. It includes a variety of jobs, but the roles remain the same.

We also learnt about what skills are needed to be an entrepreneur or a successful employee candidate and the process of starting a business.


The title of this essay is ‘The dichotomy between black and white, and colour photography’. It focuses on exploring the different opinions towards each black and white, and colour to gain more of an insight into their various uses and reasons of use.

It describes a brief history of black and white and colour photography by relating to and explaining key points in time; the first ever permanent black and white photo, the invention of the Daguerreotype process, the quickly followed Talbotype process, the original and developed additive and subtractive 3 colour processes of applying colour to a photo, or removing colour from a pre-dyed film and the processes of how engineers went about digitizing photography, which eventually changed the world we live in today with the rise of accessible photographic equipment for the masses.

The opinions of photographers, critics and audiences are presented; some who have been interviewed especially for this essay. These, along with photographs that help demonstrate each point, educate my own opinions which are also presented throughout.

I chose to write about this subject in order to develop the reader’s and my own deeper understanding of photography, and to give a clear definitive answer to the question of; which is better, black and white or colour? Or; For what purposes are each of these best suited to?