In photography, as in most things in life, I try to practice a live and let live philosophy. Some people love digital and work wizardry in post-process. For others, the physical aspects of taking an image from film to print with their own hands are what thrills. Many, like me, aren’t purists. I am mad for film, but there are plenty of instances when I’ll reach for a digital camera, and since I share digital scans and my prints are made from those digital scans, my film process is really a hybrid one anyway. I like to think that all of these different passions for so many processes make our shared discipline richer. But, in photography, as in life, there are some who seem unable to abide live and let live.
Recently a photography site I follow posted this famous quote:
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” Ted Grant
It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, and it annoys the heck out of me every single time, but in the spirit of live and let live, I usually just shake it off. This time, though, it got under my skin, and I felt compelled to use my bully pulpit here to come to the defense of color. Not because I think it’s better. I love and admire so much black and white photography. It’s not about better. It’s about recognizing and respecting the passion and skill and energy that we all bring to our work, no matter which tools we use to create our vision.
Color makes my soul sing, and without it, I doubt I’d be a photographer. I was a kid who begged for drawing lessons, but only got really excited about them when I was freed from the tonal range of charcoal and Conte crayons and given access to a full palette. Drawing in black and white was necessary medicine, and a preamble to the good stuff. The big box of Prismacolors, the two-leveled tin of Sakura pastels, it was the whole rainbow that inspired me to create, so those were the tools I needed. I’m really not much different today.
When the light intensifies color in such a way that I feel that this scene may only ever look as exquisite as it does in this exact instant, I make a photograph.
When, in the chaos of a carnival midway, I notice a harmonious and dynamic color scheme speckled throughout with the most incredible red, I make a photograph.
When a full palette shows up ready for play, I make a photograph.
And when I see an echo of the green and the light of the surrounding wood in smiling eyes, I am compelled to make a photograph.
I appreciate that for some light and dark – black and white – are all they require to tell their story. Me, I need all 64 colors to show what makes my technicolor heart beat, and it has nothing to do with clothes.
what an interesting quote, i have never thought about that before. though i may prefer bw for some portraits, i do love color in my own and all other photos.
beautiful photos, i love how you captured the sunlight in the first one with the globus on the table.
Thank you for your kind words! I think that quote comes up a lot in film photography circles where there’s more of a b&w bias.
I love the way you think! I am with you all the way with this. Totally. x
And I love love love your b&w portraits . . . and your color. xo
I’m a great lover of color too, as much as I admire black and white. And I try to pull color into my life in other aspects too: my clothing, my walls, my house. So I’m with you, and I don’t think only bw can capture somebody’s soul. Thanks for sharing!
I always love seeing the colors of your life in your photos, Holly!
First, the photos are stunning in all their technicolor glory! Second, this is so encouraging because I have been wrestling with this question in my 52 Weeks series. Should I be shooting black and white? Thank you for encouraging me to stick with what I love and know.
You should be shooting b&w if you want to or need to, but not ever because you think it’s what’s required on expected! So glad to have helped you do as you wish!
I love how you see the world.
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