A few weeks back, the weekly photo challenge in Ricky Tims' class was Black and White. We took photos and transformed them to black and white using Lightroom (the same effect can be created in Photoshop). I went out with the intention of taking a photo of some lion statues in downtown Bethesda, MD. Yet again, though, my vision didn't materialize. From every angle, the lions had cluttered backgrounds that I thought would be distracting.
So instead, I took a photo of the ever-patient Q. I liked the way the line of benches stretched into the distance. This photo isn't quite as clean in a black-and-white format, though -- there are a lot of medium values that make the photo look busy, and the dark lines of the window frames pull the eye away from the main subject. I think using a slightly desaturated or tinted version of the photo would probably be more visually compelling
We then walked further into the downtown area and found a nice spot in front of the bookstore. Q offered to be a model, sitting on the sidewalk with a marble block at his back. This pose, particularly in black and white, seems to speak of sadness and hopelessness. (Of course, Q at the time was neither sad nor hopeless -- though holding this position was a bit of a strain after a while.)
Then I was struck by his hands and took some close-up shots. I like this photo best. Hands tell such a powerful story. The sunlight and shadows provide beautiful contrast, further clarified by desaturating the photo.
One of the reasons I like photography is that it allows me to see the world differently. Examining the photos brings out new details and realizations. When I look at this photo, I realize afresh: Q's hands are beautiful.
What makes black and white photos so emotionally evocative? Perhaps it is that removing the color helps us focus on value. Or is it their historical appearance (calling back to the era before color film) that gives them extra weight? As someone who loves color, I am surprisingly moved by black-and-white photos.