All images by Varina Patel. Used with permission.
Varina Patel uses her photograhy as an escape from the real world, a chance to get away from all the stresses and distractions of our modern society. through her work, she uses her images to share these moments with others, people who may not be so fortunate to be able to get away. Black and White plays an important role for Ms. Patel, helping her to draw attention to specific elements on a scene, be it the light, a form, or a texture.
What makes black and white photography so important to you?
For me, photography is about finding the essence of a moment, and sharing that with my audience. It’s about pushing away distractions and peeling away the noise so that I can share that moment through an image. I use lots of different techniques to simplify my compositions – a wide aperture to soften the background, a long exposure to show the flow lines in moving water, getting in close to my subject to eliminate intrusive elements from the frame… and converting to black and white to remove color as a distraction. Color can really grab your attention – and in some cases, that’s great… but when I’m working with a black and white image, I am working to draw my viewers attention to something else in the image – usually texture, form, or contrast.
What inspires you to create photographs?
Photography is one of my favorite forms of meditation. When I’m shooting, I feel completely alive and focused on the moment. I am aware of and in tune with my surroundings. When I’m on location, I am not just seeking a subject – I am paying close attention to how how the place makes me feel. I want to share that feeling with my audience through my photography. It is incredibly inspiring to be so completely aware of my surroundings, and of my own person in the moment. That moment is my muse – and the challenge is to create an image that will allow me to give that moment to others so they can experience it too. I don’t always succeed – and your experience will almost certainly be different from mine no matter what I create – but the challenge is worth the effort every single time. I am communicating without words, and without a tangible connection to those who will see my work… it’s a fascinating way to share a bit of myself and my world.
Why is black and white photography so important to our future in the art world?
Shooting in black and white lets you eliminate color as a distracting element in your work – and it allows you to draw attention to details, textures, and form. It also allows the artist to focus on the contrast between shadow and highlight, and the shifting tones in between. Every artist can benefit from experimenting with monochrome – even if your personal artistic style is based in the world of color. There is so much to be gained from learning to notice tonal contrast and paying attention to subtle shifts in tone.
When you choose black and white over color, what are you looking for to make that determination?
Color grabs attention… so the question is, do you want color to get attention in the image you are creating? I shoot in black and white when I want to let something other than color take center stage. I tell my students to ask themselves what the image is about – what is their subject, and what are they trying to share with their viewer? Is the image about an object? an emotion? a color? a texture? a connection with the viewer? light? When they know what the image is about, then they can ask themselves if color is contributing to the image or taking away from it.