“When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and White, you photograph their souls!” ― Ted Grant

I must admit I am more inclined to default to Black & White when processing my images, but I have never really thought about why until the question was asked in a recent G+ Mentorship Program for PhotographersInterpreting Street run by my good friend and Mentor Brian Wood-Koiwa at Urban Weird Photography. Asking myself this question and the following discussion with other photographers has given me another moment of Clarity..

So how  do we see a person’s soul captured in B&W photography.. When we see a monochrome image it is clear that the artist is presenting an altered or artistic version of his world.  Everyday we see the world in colour, so for an image to transcend to Art, a colour image needs to make that leap, the colours need to combine into an intent that is not always easy to achieve. There are often distractions that are not obvious when converted to monochrome. In this image below the boy’s coat was actually bright green but in B&W the image becomes more timeless and universal, a moment captured of a Father and Son.

Father and Son. Paris 2015

B&W has always captivated me, but up to now was unsure as to why this was the case. I do blame my love of old classic B&W films that capture the perfect lighting and composition, that still translates to this day. The directors and technicians really knew their craft, and we can clearly see this influence in contemporary Street Photography. If you remember a movie by the director  Billy Wilder,  Double Indemnity (1944)  is a classic example of a movement, that was coined Film Noir by critics in a 1946 Paris retrospective of American films. There are many photographers who use this Film Noir style and it’s landmark characteristic of mystery and impact are clearly visible. You can see the influence in my processing of this image.

The Stand Off. Paris 2015

This image captures the decisive moment where the ears of the dog are back and their stance say they are sizing each other up, I enjoy very small details in my images that perhaps translate to others.. I do use my title to convey the main idea or subject in my images.  I also like my stories to ask more questions than give answers, we are unsure as to the mans role, if none, one or both dogs belong to him, the resulting conclusion is he appears unconcerned.

The Observer. Eiffel Tower. Paris 2015

This image uses line and perspective as well as value to create emphasis. In this image our eye is drawn to the figure at the glass even though it is small in comparison to the structure, our instincts have developed from our hunter and gatherer days to immediately recognise another person… Our survival once depended upon it.  B&W images use tonal values for separation of the subjects from the background. In B&W there are fewer distractions and it is much easier to focus on the subject or a face for instance. Hence we photograph their souls. So unless colour is essential to my image I will usually convert to B&W.


What are your thoughts.. do you see your world in colour or in B&W?

Leave a Comment