All images and words by Duncan Hopewell. Used with permission.
Black and White photography to me lessens distraction so a subject can be more clearly understood and felt. By removing color, an image has a layer of abstraction from the real world that allows me to work toward something more meaningful and simple. It also forces me to think more clearly about the structure of a photo, or the expression contained within, which can often be lost or overshadowed in color images. This is doubly true when I add in shooting black and white film. There is a very real, calculable, “cost” to creating an image that makes me think more deeply about what I am attempting to convey in each frame. The combo of both has forced me to become a more present, thoughtful photographer.
I’m enamored with the natural beauty that is around me, particularly details and textures and the way light falls on objects. I’ve been an avid hiker for a couple decades, which allows me a chance to delight in those. I get to bring some of that feeling home with me through my photos. Additionally, though, photography is often about the process and problem-solving for me. I like working on a crossword or a puzzle, and photography satisfies the same urge. I have a set of constraints (I only have a 50mm, the sun is in the wrong spot, it is dark out and I’m loaded with ISO 100 film, etc) and I have to work my way through them to produce an image I like. Overcoming those kinds of obstacles is deeply satisfying, and the failures make the successes that much sweeter.
I believe that black and white will continue to be a place that Photographers can differentiate themselves from the faux-cross-process/Instagram-famous crowd. Not everyone is working in monochrome, but the barrier to entry is still low. You are far less worried about things like chromatic aberration or color noise in a black and white image, so the technology you are working with matters less. It is also a lower barrier to entry on the analog side, you can set yourself up to develop at home with little more than $100 investment and a decent film body is $200-400. It is an artist friendly medium that creates impactful images that have a unique look from what we are saturated with. I think in that environment we will start to see more and more new talent emerging. At least that is my hope for myself and my fellow black and white shooters.