All images and words by Manuel Pombo. Used with permission.
I discovered black and white photography relatively late in my photography. Living in Ireland it is hard not to be in love with the colours of this island so I initially did a lot of colour landscape photography. As I progressed as a photographer, I got interested in street and travel photography which lead me to start playing around with black and white. The more I used black and white and the more I studied the classics (Winogrand and HCB are huge inspirations for me) the more I fell in love with the simplicity and complexity of the medium.
I feel that black and white allows me to focus on the essence of an image. Often colour distracts from the lines and shapes of an image and draws the eye away from the focal points of the photograph. I find that the role of photography is to convey a message and generate an experience for the viewer. Black and white allows me to better direct the eye of the viewer and allows them to better see all the details and feelings I want to convey.
Photography for me is a form of meditation that also allows me to produce art. It allows me to be extremely present in the world while also having a zen-like detachment to my current situation. Through it I can place my focus fully on the world around me and become a seamless component of the complicated machinery of everyday life.
Creating photographs also allows me to bring my viewer into the world I experience. It allows me to share my stories and the places I travel to and show where my mind went when I was in that moment. Photography is not a passive art, it is highly active and creative. Every time I take a photograph I feel what I want to convey.
It is hard to explain why I take any given photo but it is a mixture of gut and intellect, conscious and subconscious, spontaneity and technique. Some photos are taken in the spur of the moment, others require long waiting times until you get what you had in your mind’s eye but at the end of the day they all come from the same place.
A well taken black and white photo has the capacity to strip away the unnecessary and leave behind only the essence. In our modern world I feel that flash and bling have overloaded our senses and people get easily distracted by the next shiny thing. Black and white is an opportunity to stop and take a minute to enjoy something beautiful and simple.
For me it is like the difference between a cocktail and a glass of wine. Both have their places in our lives. Cocktails are great and necessary for socialising and partying but when you want to slow down and enjoy the moment, a simple wine is the best way to go.
As I mentioned, photography for me is a sort of meditation, it allows me to go into a state of heightened awareness and zen-like detachment. Nowhere do I enjoy this more than when I am shooting on the street. I find it priceless to be able to look around at your everyday surroundings with new eyes and experience a city you’ve seen hundreds of times before as something new.
I enjoy street photography the most when I travel as it breaks down my barriers and allows me to dive head-first into my new surroundings. I also find it helps me interact more with people around me and create a connection with total strangers I never would have met otherwise. That’s also another reason why I love Fujifilm’s rangefinder style of cameras. As they only cover a small part of my face when shooting, I feel people are less intimidated as they can see me smiling and not being a sneaky photographer.
Street and documentary photography allows me to convey the moment better than any other type of photography and I think that’s why it also goes so well with black and white photography.