Saturday, August 16, 2008

Colour or monochrome?

click photo to enlarge
When colour photography was invented most people thought that it would totally eclipse its monochrome predecessor. After all, we see the real world in colour not shades of grey, and photography, on the whole, records what our eyes see. But it never quite worked out that way.

Perhaps people were seduced by the analogy with fine art. The "best" paintings were done in oil colours. Monochrome was, by and large, confined to sketches, inks and washes, preparatory works and the odd painting by the even odder artist - usually German or Russian - working under the "modernist" banner. However, surprisingly, black and white photography continued, supported by those who couldn't afford the higher cost of colour, or who wanted the control that comes from processing your own negatives and prints, and by those working in the field of "fine art photography". The latter development is quite ironic, since in a sense it was the reverse of what was happening in painting. But, many of this kind of photographer refused to be seduced by upstart colour, felt no restriction in limiting themselves to monochrome, and were happy to continue the tradition of black and white work that was, by the middle of the twentieth century, very well established. Perhaps too there was an element of not wanting to use the medium that was being embraced by the masses - artists like to be select!

These thoughts came to mind as I was thinking that I must do some sketching, and was wondering whether to take up my crayons or do some pencil work instead. In a quandary I looked at the crayons and the idea for this photograph popped into my head. I'm not a great fan of computer enhanced images that mix colour and black and white - you know the sort, a black and white scene with a single object rendered in its original colour. In my judgement there are few circumstances where this technique says anything more or better than a straight colour or black and white image could. That's maybe true of this image, but I made it nonetheless!

photograph & text (c) T.Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f16
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On