Why Black and White?

Stephen Foote - Photographer & Cameraman

A few people have asked me – Why Black and White?

I suppose it goes back to my childhood, in the good old days when we had Kodak instamatic film cameras (1960’s), we had little choice to use anything other than black and white film.  Colour was available as an option, but it was considered a luxury because it was expensive.  Colour was reserved for special occasions.

Shooting in black and white, creatively, is not necessarily that easy because our eyes see in colour.  You need an understanding of how the image will translate into black and white when you take it.  This is a lot less of a problem in the digital world since you shoot everything in colour then convert it to black and white afterwards. Within this portfolio of prints, there are quite a few images which were taken on film – can you spot them?  The majority, however are digital images converted to Black and White from colour originals.  Remember also that these pictures aren’t really just black and white, they have multiple shades of grey also.  So technically they are monochromatic – a single colour

When shooting on film, you get dramatic black skies by using a red filter on the lens, the filter prevents the blue of the sky from recording on the film, thus rendering it black – or grey, depending on how blue the blue is.  In digital post production I do exactly the same thing.  So these images are not massively post produced, but treated the same way as they would be treated if they were shot on film and then manipulated in the darkroom.

My motto is “seeing the unusual in the usual”, and this is one of the advantages of black and white.  You don’t expect to see black and white!  But it is so powerful, evocative, dynamic, dramatic and creative to see black and white images.  Look at the great photographers:  Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Cartier Bresson – even David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Don McCullin, to name but a few, are famed for their black and white images. Colour film barely existed before the 1940’s.  So my generation were brought up in black and white – all the newspapers had black and white photography in them, and colour was reserved for the colour supplements and magazines.

I do, of course shoot in colour too.  In due course I will be opening up a colour section.  However  there are a few technical hurdles to overcome first, and that is getting the colour to print correctly on the prints, so they match my expectations.  So if you are disappointed not to see any colour images here, then visit again, and you may find that some have landed!