I am a huge fan of black and white photography. Most of the photographs that are not mine and that hang on my walls at home are black and white. My favorite photographs of my father’s are his black and whites. I consider Ansel Adams a hero, along with Vivian Maier and Dorothea Lange. And yet I rarely create a black and white image myself.
On my recent trip to New York I set about to change all that. It was a clear intention of mine to come back with some images that looked good in black and white.
It really isn’t that difficult in this city. Many New York images cry out for black and white treatment, since so much available subject matter is architecture, cityscapes and street photography. Remember Woody Allen’s Manhattan? Iconic New York. Shot all in black and white.
I love how black and white photography strips things down to the essentials. Colours can often be distracting and may even make a photo look messy and disjointed. In black and white images, the subject is much easier to zero in on.
Black and white is also superb for revealing great composition and texture. It allows you to focus on shapes, light and shadows, lines and perspective. Some images that look positively banal in colour take on a new life and importance in black and white.
Black and white images can be more dramatic and authoritative looking, especially if combined with great lighting. Think of Karsh’s portrait of Churchill.
And you can’t ignore the classy and exquisite feel of black and white images. They are often more timeless looking. My parents’ wedding photos were done in black and white and they still look classic and fabulous to this day.
In all my times in New York, I had never seen the Manhattan Skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge Park or shot the Brooklyn Bridge itself. So those shots went on the shot list, and that trip went on the agenda. The day I went to Brooklyn was quite grey and dreary so the resulting images had little or no colour to begin with. They worked perfectly in black and white.
I have only begun to process the keepers from my trip to New York City, but I’m hopeful there are a few more that will lend themselves to a black and white treatment — and some that may even make it to my walls!