The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?
There is a gigantic question, sometimes, that comes into a photographer's life; should I do this shot in color, or should I do this shot in black and white? And I get that question a lot; how did you know to do it in black and white, and how did you know to do it in color? And somehow, with a lot of my pictures that are well-known, they're in black and white, which is saying, I would say that 75 percent of the pictures I've done in my life are in color, and only 25 percent are in black and white, and a lot of the more well-known images that I've done are in black and white; if you really delve into a lot of what I've done, you'll find that there's tons of color there, and I actually love color just as much as I love black and white, and I have a great love of black and white, but I have a great love of color; partially, the black and white thing came from my deep love of printing, which I'll speak about later, and being in the darkroom printing; of course, you...
can print in color, but I just had this great love of silver-gelatin printing black and white; I just absolutely adored it. And I love silver-gelatin and platinum; these days, you sometimes don't have to, sometimes don't have to worry about whether your shot is in black and white, and having said that, there was many times when I'm working in film, and I would shoot things in black and white and color, that I would notice from a black and white Polaroid to a color Polaroid, that you would look at it and say, well, this doesn't quite work in color, but it worked in black and white, but sometimes I noticed that the reason for that was, especially in the studio, was that the lighting was different, so it's not quite as simple as shooting it in color and transposing it in black and white; it's not that simple. Now, sometimes it works, and we actually developed systems where we used a black and white style lighting, and I shot color film on it, and sometimes the black and white lighting was sensational in film, and sometimes it wasn't, so very often, it depended of course, what was I shooting, what was the subject matter? Was it a man or a woman? And sometimes, a raw light on a man is looking wonderful; a raw light on a woman can look good, it can also look terrible, so there's endless combinations of decisions that have to be made in this, so lighting is a crucial issue when it comes to deciding color or black and white; sometimes you get lucky, and one lighting system works for both; sometimes it doesn't work, somebody once said to me that black and white works better artistically, because it's surreal; in other words, we see in color, but in fact, we don't see in black and white, so therefore, when you look at a black and white image, it's more artistic; it's more like art, because it's removed from reality. And you can argue that, but also, you can argue the other side of that coin, where you say, we see in color, so therefore, why not shoot in color? So I think these are decisions that the individual has to decide as they go along the path; am I a black and white photographer, or color? Am I both? I love both, so for me personally, I love both, and I think color, sometimes it's superb, and wonderful, and sometimes black and white, and the beauty of things, is you don't really have to choose; you have to choose at the point where you hit the shutter, but later in life, you can show some of your work in black and white, and also you can show some of your work in color, and say, I'm hopefully quite accomplished in color, and you can say; I'm accomplished in black and white. So as long as you're aware of all of these questions, and that you question the shots as you take them, and sometimes you can change your mind, sometimes not. (upbeat instrumental)
The decision, sometimes with color or black and white, sometimes I don't have a choice; sometimes I'm doing a job, where they expect it to be in color; of course, you can always cover it in black and white for yourself, and consider it a black and white for yourself, but for example, this shot of Denzel Wahsington, I was working on the set of a movie, the movie Deja Vu, where I met an old classmate of mine, Tony Scott, and he was directing that film, and I was photographing Denzel, who I'd photographed several times before, and actually got on very well with, and I'm actually a big fan of his; I think he's a tremendous actor, and here, I wanted to introduce; I didn't want to photograph his skin in a warm, brown tone, and I was more interested in a cold tone, something that was almost like he was getting light from a neon sign or something, and something that was slightly surreal in it's look, and I worked with him a little bit on expression, and what I thought the shot was, and of course, he's very good at that, so he's very good that you explain something to him once, and he gets it immediately. So that shot was for the movie Deja Vu, and was used in several of the international posters for it, and blue was really the dominant color that I chose for that, and why was it blue? I don't quite know, it was just what I felt like at the moment; I guess I was feeling blue, so I chose it, and it was a shot that he loved; as for the technique on the Denzel Washington shot, it was done by strobe; I had some gels on the lights themselves, and also some backlight, so it's a strobe shot; it's also not a four by five shot, which I was shooting a lot of at the time, but it's actually a Hasselblad shot, so it's two and a quarter, and the lens is a 150 lens, so it's a fairly traditional portrait, but the approach to his attitude and the color is not so traditional. When you do a shot like that, once again, you should have some of this prepared, planning, planning, planning; of course, you can do blue filters the correct way, unless you bring the blue filters with you, so if you don't have blue filters, you're not gonna be doing blue filters, and for those photographers that think, well, I can do it in Photoshop later, it's a different kettle of fish when you're adding blue later, as apposed to blue on the lights; there's all kinds of different magic happen when you begin to put blue on lights, green, red, pink, whatever on lights, than is opposed to putting that in in Photoshop, so I would recommend always to consider filtering the lights if you want some color in there, not absolutely necessary, but I would recommend it. (dramatic instrumental)