Black And White vs Color
You are all so lucky, today. You have digital cameras that you can shoot black and white, or color, or sepia, or you could do anything you want with an algorithm to set your camera to give you this tonality that is either like the real world or an abstraction of it but it wasn't always the case. In the past, when I began in the 1960s, black and white was considered the high art form of photography. Although, I didn't know that. When I began to make photographs, I had been an art director and a painter, and then I discovered photography, and the first thing I did was load my camera, borrowed camera, with colored film. Why? Because I thought, if the world's in color, why wouldn't I want to be photographing in color? Only later on did I feel the resistance that the fine art world had to color photography, which they thought was commercial or for weddings and family, you know, festivals. It was considered something that was too gaudy or cheap, or was good for, you know,...
repertoires for some magazines but I saw it as an incredible description of the world that I lived in, and I wanted to promote this idea of color photography against the kind of restrictions that the art world was placing on it, so I did something very personal. When I could afford two cameras, two Leicas that I loaded one with Kodochrome color and the other with Tri-X black and white, and I walked around with these two cameras, and whenever something happened that was interesting enough but slow enough for me to make one shot and another shot, I would do it. And then, I put these together as pairs so that I could then study them, so I, myself, would know which one do I like better? The one that takes the color out of the world and leaves it as a graphic solution to a photographic problem or the one that maintains the color and adds an emotional depth to the photographs? So, I'll show you. I have lots of these pictures. Hundreds of them, actually, and I put them together in a very innocent way, right at the beginning. I mean, for example. I was in the American South and I see the wind blowing a quilt on a line, and I make a photograph of it, and then, I make this other one, and of course, when you see this one, it is black and white. It's black dots on a white field but when you see the colored one, you realize it's red on a white field with green tones underneath and a storm coming in the background. The sky's gone blue-gray or slate gray and then, around the picture, there are signs for a traveling circus in yellow and red. Suddenly, this simple photograph is full of notes of color. So, I had to make that kind of distinction early on to commit myself to seeing as black and white or seeing as color. Now. You have a different situation, today, because in your camera, you can change these things or you can change them in post-production easily enough. But there should be in either case a reason for why you're using one or the other. You have to ask yourself, what is it I mean to say? And if the graphic world is more important to you, if the strengths of black shadows, and white highlights, and the forms of, you know, bridge ironwork or the way a building comes into a frame, if that graphic, you know, management of space is what really interests you, then you should do that. It is your destiny for that period to do that and do it open-heartedly so that everything you see is shaped by this belief that black and white, and gray will give you a kind of rendering of objects in space, and time, and light in a way that pleases you. But. If color and the emotional range of all of the millions of colors that the world expresses, if that's what gets to you, then open yourself up to that and see how complicated, and rich, and interesting, and musical... color shooting in digital could be. You have a... It's almost like two languages. It's almost like you're speaking French and English. That way, you've got these two things that are very different, they communicate their message with different sounds but they both are languages. So, look at it in that regard and I'm sure. Like I had in all of these pictures, you will have the same kinds of playful responses to things and more than anything else, your mind will be stimulated to think in these two forms of the media, and thinking about making photographs, thinking about yourself in the world is an advance. It lifts you up a level. You're not just somebody who's wandering around, wondering what to do. You're posing a problem for yourself, which can be solved photographically in very interesting ways. So, you become a more interesting person and isn't that what we all hope for, that anything we do with passion, or obsession, or desire ultimately teaches us more about ourselves and the medium we're using. So, you get two for the price of one. Enjoy yourself. (upbeat music)