Black & White Photography back in Fashion.
Well I am pretty sure that black & white photography has never really gone out of fashion but digital photography has certainly rocked black & whites boat a bit. As far as film based photography is concerned the Black and White (B&W) process has always been a highly customisable and often a deeply personal process; can digital B&W be just as flexible?
Although I was once-upon-a-time a B&W specialist, digital lured me across to colour photography. However I did miss my B&W and like a lot of old school B&W film photographers I was not completely happy with digital B&W conversion at all times. Although I have managed to create some lovely B&W images using digital, it was just not quite the same thing. The type of control I was used having from using a combination of film & developer matched with B&W paper & paper developer, followed up on occasion with post processing toning... That's three steps each with their own variables; that's a lot of control!
The great thing about traditional B&W is the colour of the prints and the added depth that it provides the image with. Colour in B&W you say! Monochromatic would be a far better description.
About twelve months ago I set out on a location shoot with B&W shots in mind. I shot RAW, (that's digital negatives to the uninitiated) and got some very good shots. But when it came to doing the B&W digital conversion I became seduced by what I thought were the interesting muted colours I had come up with by shooting with daylight balance in open shade. I decided to keep the shots in colour! I worked on them for a couple of weeks off and on but I was never very happy with the results
Recently I picked up a retouching book called Skin which I had heard good things about. It has some very good tips and techniques for retouching skin but what I quickly realised was that some of these techniques could also be applied to B&W conversion in a way not too different from choosing Film, Developer, Paper and Toner combinations. I pulled out my archive of the shoot with Sarah that I was not happy with and got stuck back into the shots. In one evening I had the series of shots processed as they are now (top two rows above). They are now not so different from what I would expect from an afternoon in the darkroom.
It looks like Black and White Photography is back as strong as ever.