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The Black & White Work Ethic
I don’t dream in black & white. I dream in color. But to see in black & white, to see the details and colors transformed to shapes and shadows and textures – that takes work. With my photography, I listen to Max Weber and try to adopt that strict Puritan Work Ethic, I listen to Zen Buddhists and realize that repetition and practice are what bring about satori. And with black & white photography, that cannot be more true.
When you approach b&w, at least as far as I have found, you must endeavor to think through what will happen as the colors you see translate to the shades of gray, how the shapes and lines and textures will be emphasized rather than, relatively speaking, the emotions and feelings that color bring. It is hard work seeing the world in b&w. When I shoot I look for lines and textures and, due to my emphasis on exploited shallow depth-of-field, I tend to place a focused foreground object upon the a soft billow of bokeh-induced impressionism. And, to this point, my emphasis has been on using color in these backgrounds.
Now, however, I’m working to challenge some of my thinking, to push what I look for when I shoot, to try to imagine what will happen to the light when the mode is b&w. The above photograph I think is one that really captures the kind of thing I want to achieve with b&w – the foreground with the strong lines and shapes and textures, the background capturing shapes and light that are out of focus, yet still complex and rich, a texture all unto itself. To me, and hopefully to some of you, a marvel to stare at and examine and wonder at what and why everything has happened in the image…
That is all for now… Until next time…