Why Black and White?

I approach photography with a sense of ritual and reverence. This goes back to when I developed my first roll of film so many years ago. The entire process felt like magic to me, like alchemy: turning plastic into image into print into art. Looking at the negative and then the print left me in awe. I still have that feeling about black and white photography.

 Olympic Hotel - Reno, Nevada

Olympic Hotel - Reno, Nevada

Color photography always felt impersonal, because back in the day the only way I got my negatives and prints was when somebody else processed and printed the film. I never felt connected to the process, which meant I never felt a connection with the images.

Today, with digital cameras and software, I feel very connected with the entire process, and while that would include color images at this point, that ship has sailed. Old dog and new tricks, right?

And there is another, more personal reason I shoot only black and white: Black and white is an abstract representation of the world, so it helps us see things anew. As photographer Ted Grant said, "When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes." Most color photos show what people look like; black and white gives us a fighting chance of seeing who they are. (Grant also said when you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls, but I'm not willing to go that far.)

I love all kinds of photography. It's just that black and white resonates more deeply for me.