I seem to be having something of a “fling” with black and white conversions. I’ve always liked monochrome, but never – as far as I can remember – better than I liked color. Until now. Now I seem to be in a mode where my first thought is black and white when I look at an image. For whatever reason, the picture looks more “real” to me when the color is removed. The very idea of the image has been simplified, made less complex. With the color gone, it’s as if it’s easier to “see” what’s actually in the frame – which components have the most visual weight.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. More and more people in the photographic blogosphere are putting up black and white images. Many are doing it with film, and processing their own stuff. That part I don’t get. I mean, if they want to shoot film, be my guest. But why would anyone want to play with those nasty chemicals? In another lifetime, when I had to deal not only with processing chemicals, but with all kinds of raw materials that went into the manufacture of the photographic film itself, I was part of all that. Breathing in vapors and particulates that were never intended for human consumption. I’d come home at night smelling like photographic emulsion or a processing lab. I suppose I should be happy I’m still breathing at all. A number of my former colleagues and friends were less fortunate, some dying before their time of very hard to pronounce cancers. While there’s no proof, I suspect, that cause and effect exists, you’d still have to put a gun to my head to get me to mess with that stuff again.
The good news, of course, is that we don’t have to. It can all be done digitally, on the computer. And in a lot of respects, better than Ansel himself could do. So my advice, guys, is to forget that “retro” stuff, throw away the film, and return to your digital cameras if, like me, you want that monochrome effect. It has to be safer. Inhaling that crap won’t make your work any more “artsy”. And who knows – you just might live longer.