Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Monochromatic Rainbow

with 3 comments

I shot quite a few rolls of B&W film over the weekend which is a bit of a change for me. Funny really since I used to shoot nothing but, and now it’s colour, colour, colour! Anyway, I processed some of them this morning and quite fancy the portrait below of my lovely niece and nephews (I just love their postures):

Liam, Molly and Rory, from the ‘Siblings’ series

Must’ve been the inspired reaction from looking at Diane Arbus‘ work! I miss the monochrome – it’s simpler somehow, less complicated and I suppose a touch nostalgic. Colour for me makes the image more real, hyper-real even. I do love this aspect of colour photography though. I mean really, life is kinda odd when you think about it for a bit, so colour – well used – reflects this well. For example, take a look at the grand master, William Eggleston, the man who legitimatized colour photography with pictures of subjects that he claims are the very stuff of life. Banal for some, extraordinary for others (including me).

Woman on a swing. Photo by William Eggleston

In the book, “William Eggleston” published by Scalo , Gunilla Knape, director of the Hasselblad Center, wrote: “Eggleston introduced a new aesthetic, a new ‘democratic’ way of seeing through which the ordinary and banal became extraordinary and engrossing.”

Surely then, the punctum in Eggleston’s work is the colour? Then again, as Charlotte Cotton pointed out recently on her now defunct site Tip of the Tongue, could B&W photography be the new colour? (I have attached a PDF of this article on my Academic Stuff page if you’re interested). Take a look at this marvelous image from New York photographer Alison Grippo (yep, another NY wunderkind!) and I think it might answer her question:

Untitled, Mott Street, New York, New York — featured in 20×200
Photo © Alison Grippo

Anyway, suffice to say that I love both. They are certainly two very different artforms, a little like comparing digital to film or apples to oranges….. You get the gist.

Enough from me…. I’m off to watch Jordan (Australia’s favourite next top model) take on LA – gotta love shite TV.

Written by Lee Grant

November 28, 2007 at 6:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Two different artforms, indeed, and I do hope we will see more black and white in galleries and books; for example, flipping through a recent anthology of young/up and coming photographers (don’t remember the title), almost all work was colour.

    Thanks for putting up the pdf of Cotton’s essay, have been missing it since it disappeared from the net.


    May 28, 2008 at 6:18 am

  2. Your welcome Gustav! It’s a shame that Cotton didn’t keep up the website. Could have been interesting.
    I must point out however, that despite the ‘concerns’ of many photographers from previous generations (where our photographic baptism of fires were lit in the darkroom), there are thankfully, still many young photographers who shoot in B&W. Yes, colour is the choice du jour (I am also guilty of this pleasure) however I do believe that those who can master B&W will also have a deeper appreciation of colour. It’s a different way of seeing, but one then begins to thinks more about HOW to see as well. Something in the digital age, which I’m afraid we’re beginning to lose – particularly as one can shoot a zillion images, select one and dump the rest. But that is a topic for another post!

    Lee Grant

    May 28, 2008 at 8:18 am

  3. Hope you are right about the new generations of b&w photographers.

    I agree with you about the different way of seeing if you’re raised on digital. The question is if we’re losing ‘it’. Perhaps the case is similar as your positive take on b&w: an influx of young photographers to film-based photography.

    I think film will live on as a niche technology. Of course not used by press photographers; not by most portrait photographers or by most ‘art’ photographers, but by a significant number wanting to do the opposite of what many are doing. And they are not only old folk, but young talent as well.

    A bit like in music. When the digital synths came on the scene in the 1980’s, one would have been tempted to spell the death of the Prophet 5, the Moog, the TR 606 and all their analogue brethren. They lived on and had quite a following in recording studios during the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s.


    May 29, 2008 at 5:06 am

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