Colour or Black & White? Yes!
“Colour Is Everything. Black and white is more.”
- Dominic Rouse, English Photographer
“To see in color is a delight for the eye,
but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”
- Andri Cauldwell, American Photographer
“The most colorful thing in the world is black and white.
It contains all colors and at the same time excludes all.”
- Vikrmn, 10 Alone
“Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretative.”
- Elliott Erwitt, American Photographer
Recently, I’ve been playing around with black and white photography. Or, more precisely, I’ve been recording photos in colour and then switching them to black and white in iPhoto or Photoshop. People who are cleverer than I refer to the resulting images as monochromatic photography.
I’ve been trying to figure out why one photo looks more dynamic in colour, while another looks more dyanmic in black and white. There used to be a pervasive assumption among the self-congratulatory crowd that colour photography was inherently vulgar, while black and white photography was, by definition, more refined and nuanced. To me, it sounded like radio journalists harrumphing about the arrival of television in the 1950s.
The texts I’ve read refer to the importance of light, form, texture, and subject when determining which photos are better suited for colour and which are better for black and white. And it comes down to – wait for it – the tastes of the individual photographer or viewer. Alas, there is no app or algorithm that can decide for you. So, as with so many other things in life, I’m left with my educated instincts.
As a little experiment, I chose a selection of colour images and rendered them in black and white. Below, you’ll find them posted together, the top in colour and the bottom in black and white, with my brief notes indicating which version I prefer.
What do you think? Which version works better for you? Or perhaps I’m framing the question as a false binary. As society, we are becoming more comfortable with fluid gender identities. (Question: male or female? Answer: yes.) Perhaps when we ask which is better for a particular photo, colour or black and white, our best answer can be: yes!
I invite you to look at the following pairs of photos and decide for yourself. Enjoy!
Doll on Main Street, Warkworth. My preference: colour.
Limestone wall, Queen's University, Kingston. My preference: colour.
CityTV outdoor studio, Toronto. My preference: colour.
Gate on Hay Bay Road. My preference: yes!
Clouds, St. Joseph, Minnesota. My preference: colour.
Frozen hostas, Belleville. My preference: colour.
Barn and field, Casey Road, Tyendinaga Township. My preference: B&W.
Barn, Casey Road, Tyendinaga Township. My preference: B&W.
Barn, Casey Road, Tyendinaga Township. My preference: colour.
Orangutan hand, Bowmanville Zoo. My preference: colour.
Tett Centre reflection, Kingston. My preference: B&W.
Manure spreader, Spring Brook Road. My preference: yes!
Way pointer, Point Petre. My preference: colour.
Anchor, Picton Harbour. My preference: yes!
Texter in fog, Victoria Harbour in Belleville. My preference: yes!
VIA Station, Belleville, in snow. My preference: yes!
VIA Station and ghost figure, Belleville, in snow. My preference: yes!