Has black & white photography made a resurgence?

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(Photograph by Heather Gordon courtesy of Serramento Galleries)

Walk into any modern public venue or tastefully decorated home you’ll notice a new trend in fine art: black & white photography.  Whether it’s a forest in the morning mist, or the beautiful architecture of a window or door, one feels a strong sense of nostalgia from black and white photography and longing for the past that is not possible with colour print photography.

 A history of black and white photography

ST1998_0282

(Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Tractored Out, Childress County, Texas, 1938; gelatin silver print, 9 15/16 in. x 13 in. (25.24 cm x 33.02 cm);Source: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/48332#ixzz4ATcLD1Al San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

Black and white photography is not new; the world’s first black and white photograph was taken in the late 1820s and became popularized with the upper and middle classes into the 1850’s as a way to record daily life. Black and white photography was the norm for over 100 years until technological advances introduced colour photography where it has remained a staple in our modern world.

Popularization of colour photography

01 Rural Night(Photograph by Heather Gordon)

There is no arguing that colour photography adds a dimension to print photographs that cannot be accomplished in black and white. Advancements in technology and the advent of digital cameras and post-processing software give the professional and amateur shutterbug a creative latitude that couldn’t have been imagined only 25 years ago.

 Re-popularization of black and white print photography

Why then, has black & white photography and more specifically black & white fine art print photography made a resurgence and is a now a popular design choice for today’s personal and public spaces? Perhaps it’s a need to return to the past. Black and white photography certainly gives our modern world a nostalgic feel. Or gives a hint into what our modern world would have looked like 50 years ago.

The lack of colour in black and white photography certainly forces us to see textures and patterns that are over-shadowed by colour. Tones are more easily expressed  and a very different mood is articulated.

What are your thoughts on black & white photography? Do you prefer it over colour?  What feelings does one style leave you with over the other?

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3 thoughts on “Has black & white photography made a resurgence?

  1. I find black and white photography much more compelling than its colour counterpart. In particular, when black and white is used in portrait photography, it brings out the strength and character of the subject in way that colour photography, no matter how good, simply does not. If you ever have cause to be killing time at CHEO, seek out Yousuf Karsh collection on the main level; his use of light and shadow is incredibly evocative and timeless.

  2. Sometimes I wonder if black and white helps us relax in a world where we are bombarded by colorful ads and objects every day. Like you mentioned in your post, it does create a different mood and can emphasize different parts of a picture. For me, I find black and white photography very soothing. It helps me feel more at piece and really focus on the details of the picture. I also see a lot more of a minimalist home style in my friends and family’s houses; less stuff, less clutter, less color. Maybe black and white is considered not as overwhelming as a lot of what we see on TV and in the stores these days?

  3. Your posting made me step away from the computer and to start to look through boxes for old pictures and classic cameras. There is definitely an attention getting aspect of black and white pictures. They allow you to capture various textures and soft tones. Even professional photographers (according to a book I was reading) prefer black and white pictures of models in order to capture a hidden detail of a model.
    The pictures you shared within your post reminded me of the times I used to ride around the Greek Islands on a motorcycle to capture the perfect picture. One such picture was an elderly long bearded man (fully clothed) lying on the beach. Another picture was that of a brass sign that told clients not to spit outside the restaurant or they will receive a fine. The black and white exposure of the above pictures gave them new depths, emotion and a sense of authority. Thank you for re-creating these “hidden away” images from the past.

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