Color Or High Light?

Jul 31, 2015

It has been said black and white photographs are a contrivance since we see in color.  But we also see in degrees of luminance – our eyes and minds are wired to keenly perceive contrasting patterns of light and shadow.  Luminance, or luminosity, is the interaction of light and shadow. It is light transferred through space as subtle or bright reflectance.

Luminosity enlivens the most mundane object.  It shines in the ocular catchlight of a portrait. It illuminates space. It brightens our mind. Luminosity is the quality of light we “see” within.

Black and white photography is a celebration of the dance of luminance in our world.  Since my earliest darkroom days I have always been drawn to the timeless poetry of black and white photography.   All of my professional work is a celebration of monochrome, and yet I photograph in color.  Why?

Photographing in color allows complete creative control over the degrees of bright and dark in the digital conversion to black and white.  The tone of any hue can be fully changed.  Occasionally color images communicate the story of a scene a better than black and white.  I call these images “purple cows.”

This Is A Purple Cow   Naralai, Rajasthan, India  July 2014 Cows are sacred in India.  One evening in a remote village in Rajasthan I came across a beautifully painted magenta bull.  There was no way to translate this hue into black and white.  It was a color image.  For years I filed my color-bound “purple cows” away for some future chromatic project.  I wondered if I’d ever do color.  As much as I love black and white, some images only coney in the full spectrum.

Every creature, every person, every computer screen, and every printer renders color differently.  Because of my deep interest in luminosity I found a way to affect the luminance of my color images.  The tones are wistful, poignant, reflective, dreamlike and yet utterly honest.  Now I no longer feel divided between color or black and white images.

The answer to the question, color or high light, is yes.

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