What makes black and white photography so important to you?
It’s important to me as managing black and white tones takes real skill, more than just pressing “desaturate” in Photoshop.
Although it could be said that anything looks better in black and white, a carefully thought and crafted black and white photo has an effect on people I can hardly see equaled by anything in colour.
I think like in any creative pursuit there will be poor examples of course. Too often photographers don’t get that it’s not just black and white but a very subtle but extensive range of tones between black and white. So they get a bit heavy handed in Photoshop or Lightroom. Pushing the contrast too far, playing around with levels a bit excessively. The result is a loss of detail in the tonality. The shot loses its richness.
Although most people say the camera is just a tool and won’t make you a great photographer, I still have a belief that anyone who becomes great at what they do will want the best tools.
Did you ever meet a chef who wouldn’t want sharp knifes? Or a racing driver who wouldn’t want the best car to compete with? The reason I say this is that I have, like many photographers, had the opportunity to work with a range of cameras. Today I shoot my black and whites in-camera, I never convert and not all cameras produce the same quality of black and whites. I can hear many probably thinking I’m crazy but I think post-processing should be avoided as much as possible to avoid any loss.
The camera and lens combination I currently use produce results I am very satisfied with and I just don’t spend any more time in photo editing software. More time is allocated to shooting which is all for the best.
In the early years of my photography I would convert colour to black and white, I would play around with levels, contrast, highlights and shadows… But increasingly until last year I moved away from that to the point of where I am today and I think I produce better black and whites than I ever have.
It stems from the fact the shot is created with black and white in mind. I press the shutter seeing the shot in black and white. It makes no sense to me to see a shot in colour, compose it as you would a colour shot… and then convert it.
What inspires you to create photographs?
My adult life has been spent working both on my photography and in a 9 to 5 office job. Photography is freedom. It allows me to be myself and show people how I see the world. Some photographers really focus on having a message, a meaning in their photography.
For me it’s a lot simpler. I want to document our times and create something beautiful which others find beautiful too. The search for perfect aesthetics I guess is my inspiration.
Having said that, I’m sure a shrink could reveal a lot about me from what I shoot. Isn’t that the case for all photographers?
Maybe a small part of me wants something to live on after I die (in many many years), photography gives me a purpose.
Why is black and white photography so important to our future in the art world?
That’s a tricky question to answer to be honest. I may be wrong but there seems to be a slight preference from photographers and the public toward black and white as a whole.
I recently posted a survey on Twitter and of the few thousand people who took part, 62% said they preferred black and white.
It depends what your personal motif is for creating photographs I guess. I can’t see people ever not having a choice between colour or black and white, can you?
I create work in a very selfish way, I do it for me and no one else. If people like what I do it makes me very happy but equally if they don’t, well that doesn’t really bother me.