When I Was Young, Everything Was Black and White (Day 7 of 31)
I’m in my late fifties, which means I grew up with a black-and-white television. When I was young our TV got two channels, both of them snowy. Even shows that had been filmed in colour were, in our household and others like ours, translated into varying shades of grey.
And I loved paging through Life magazine; there, too, reality was shown in black and white. It became my default understanding of what a photo was.
Old family photos in my parents’ and grandparents’ albums, similarly, were in black and white. We had colour film, of course, and I enjoyed my father’s colour slides (shown on a big screen in the living room when we had company or at Christmas). But the basic set of beliefs I had about photos or images was that they were in black and white.
I think there’s some level at which, when I got seriously into photography in my twenties, I was working from that assumption. I still love looking at tonal variation and shades of grey—how a black-and-white photo can contain everything from deepest inky black to a pale, foggy, mist, to white and nearly silver. Black and white isn’t lacking, or second-best; it’s just different.
And it’s not better. There can be a kind of high-handedness about it, a sort of snooty, superior quality. A whiff of reading Russian novels at breakfast and watching only foreign films, an “I’m better than you” air. That’s an empty pretense, though. There doesn’t need to be any message in using it.
It’s beautiful. Colour is beautiful. Both are great—a pleasure to shoot, a pleasure to look at.
(For the month of October 2017, I’m participating in the 31 Days bloggers’ challenge. You can find out about it here, and check out the interesting work other bloggers are posting.)