“The art of photography is all about directing the attention of the viewer.” -Steven Pinker
This week, I’m delighted to be writing a guest post for Paula’s Black & White Sunday Challenge.
I love black and white photography, and for many reasons. I’m a big fan of street photography; due to the brilliant works of some of the greats such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Gary Winogrand, and the recently discovered Vivian Maier, black and white and street photography go hand in hand in my mind. Going monochrome can, in my view, add anonymity for the subjects and increase atmosphere. For me the most important point about monochrome is that by removing the distraction of colour, the photographer is able to direct the viewer to the key elements of the image. Going monochrome is one of several tools we have as a photographer that allows us to provide focus.
To illustrate, here’s a couple of monochrome edits of two structures in La Defense, a business area in Paris.
Now, here is the original – the eye can’t help but look at the colours, rather than the shapes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I wanted people to take note of the curves and the juxtaposition of shapes, not the redness of the arch.
This doesn’t apply only to architecture; in the scene below, the thing that caught my eye was the way the shapes of the two men preoccupied with their phones echoed the shape of the metallic sculpture in the foreground. In the colour version the eye is dragged too quickly to the bright buses, whereas I wanted to highlight the shapes.
In the shot below, on the much-photographed Millennium Bridge over the Thames, I opted for a high contrast black and white image to highlight the balance of shapes: the lone person below and the bustle of people above.
I hope my musings have inspired you to post your own monochrome masterpiece.
“Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.” -Robert Frank
Steven Pinker – b 1954, Canada, experimental psychologist and author, specialising in visual cognition and psycho-linguistics.
Robert Frank – b. 1924, USA, photographer and documentary filmmaker – his most notable works the 1958 book, The Americans.