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  • Michelle Levy

It's Never Black and White

We've got HDR photographs that capture cityscapes with crisp clarity in their neon glory. We've got tilt-shift photographs that transform larger than life locales into what looks like miniature-scale models. We've even got pictures composed of 365 gigapixels, clear enough to print out an image the size of a soccer field.

Now, more than ever, it's almost never black and white.

Just as our problems in life rarely seem black and white-or even the events on the evening news, our photographs are now capturing colors and details with such great intricacy that their captivating nature often surpasses their real-life counterparts.

Still, there are times when black and white is best.

Musician Jack Antonoff was quoted as saying, "Black and white creates a strange dreamscape that color never can." While renowned color photographer, Joel Sternfeld stated, "Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world."

These quotes may hint at the reason I feel sometimes a picture is screaming to be taken in black and white. For instance, the picture I took below looked like an authentic homage to the past.

I imagined the photo in black and white as I took it.

As I walked through the streets of Ravenna, Italy one quiet morning, I spotted these two friends walking their bikes home in high heels after attending Sunday Mass.

This image looked like it could have been taken today-or 100 years ago. I imagined the ladies in front of me taking the same journey together bike-side for the past forty years-their heels rising up from flats over cobblestones, and their hemlines rising and falling with age.

Other times, the idea to transform a color image to black and white comes to me far after the picture was snapped.

This was the case when my husband took the picture of me below.

The colors in the original photo were muted, distracting, and conflicting. However, when the photo was transformed to black and white it became clear how complimentary the tones and textures truly are.

The varying sheen, contrast, and light in my dog Mousse's fur is so rich that it practically looks like the photo was taken in color. His face and shadow hugs the curve of the pillow as my face embraces the curve of his noggin.

While black and white is now overlooked by many photographers when they set up a shot, don't let it be forgotten.

When an ordinary photo could look surreal in black and white bring it back. When the textures and contrast take life on their own bring it back. When you feel it in your bones go back... to black and white.

#blackandwhitephotography #photography

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