Masthead header

{Personal} Exploring Black & White

My husband showed me a website the other day – he thought I would find it interesting and he wasn’t wrong! It completely inspired me to look into black & white images a lot deeper than I ever have done before. It featured photographs taken by the incredible photojournalist, Sebastião Salgado. And since coming across his work, I just can’t stop looking at it! But why!? I will try and explain my thoughts below…

by Sebastiao Salgado

by Salgado Sebastiao

by Salgado Sebastiao

by Sebastiao Salgado

by Salgado Sebastiao

by Sebastiao Salgado

I think it’s obvious to say that Salgado has incredible photographic vision and that he works his camera perfectly to show us how he sees. His subjects are vast and his photos take you to so many different areas and times. But what I find myself doing when looking at his photos, as well as many other black and white photographs from other photographers, is that I look into them. I find myself searching for more within the photo; the details, the story, the surroundings, the why’s, who’s and when’s … I want more! And I feel that with all the images being black & white, a lot of the immediate information is tucked away behind a colourless mask, forcing us to look a little deeper…

As we all naturally see in colour, I feel we take for granted the amount of information that colour immediately feeds to our brains. Think of a banana for instance; we expect them to be yellow or green because we already know that that’s the colour they naturally are. But if we were to walk past the banana stand in the supermarket, and there was a red banana, we would immediately question it. Suddenly everything we know about bananas is taken away from us – Is it edible? Can we touch it? What’s wrong with it?!

When looking at black and white photographs, our brains help us identify the subjects within the image as we already know key facts about the subjects – I see a black and white photo of an oak tree, I know that the leaves are green, an orang-utan is ‘orange’, the gaps between the white fluffy clouds are blue. But in black and white images, the confirmation of this information has been taken away. Meaning our brains are unnoticeably working a teeny bit harder on gathering the information about a black & white image.

If we were to see a photograph of a crowded street scene, and someone was wearing a bright red coat in a sea of brown coats, our eyes would be drawn in around that coat. It would distract our gaze. If the same photo was in black and white, the red coat would be ‘lost’ and our eyes would wonder around the image more. We would be less distracted and work out more information for ourselves.

And this is what I LOVE about studying black and white images, and even whilst watching an old black & white film…

I let my eyes do the walking, and I keep my brain chasing my ideas and thoughts around before it stomps down on the facts and leads me into believing how it is! There is so much to see in black and white, you have to work at it and discover it for yourself.

I took some experimental photos the other day to explore all of this a little further. I don’t really know what I’m doing with it all yet, but the most important thing is that I’m enjoying it!

BWComp03.14WEB-2
BWComp03.14WEB-1
BWComp03.14WEB-7
BWComp03.14WEB-6
BWComp03.14WEB-8
BWComp03.14WEB-11
BWComp03.14WEB-13
BWComp03.14WEB-3
BWComp03.14WEB-5
BWComp03.14WEB-4

21/03/2014 - 4:47 pm

C - Rachel, you never cease to amaze me, well said and done!

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*

F a c e b o o k
T w i t t e r