This week, Anne, author of the site, Slow Shutter Speed is leading the Lens Artists Photo Challenge with the topic, Monochrome. Love it.
For most of my photographic life, I’ve stuck with color photography. Why black and white when you can see life and things as they are. Oh, what a fool I was. A few years back, I started playing with monochrome photography, which is commonly viewed as black and white, but can include different shades of one single color.
My original inspiration was Ansel Adams but I’ve since discovered other monochrome masters such as Alexandre Manuel and Hengki Koentjoro, whose work is absolutely stunning.
Over the past year or so I’ve gone through my archives, selected some images and edited them into monochrome.
While suitable for any subject there are some subjects that almost beg for monochrome.
Time and place
Images of places and things that are from an era before the widespread use of color or, for that matter, photography.
Below, American Civil War cannons gape at an open field at Pea Ridge Battlefield in Arkansas. The preserved Civil War battlefields all look serene and bucolic. To understand the horror that took place on these now peaceful fields, requires putting to work, the imagination and some knowledge of the events of the time.
Below. A simple barn built in the early to mid-twentieth century by Thomas Alma Moulton and his sons is one of the most photographed structures in America. At the crack of a sub 30 degree morning I joined a phalanx of other photographers to capture an image of this historic barn.
Below. In 1877, the town of Bodie, California rose near the golden riches of a nearby mine. Like many mining towns, Bodie experienced a meteoric boom before cratering in a bust once the mines were played out. The town is incredibly well preserved.
Two years ago, I took my grandson on a nighttime visit to Alcatraz. The island is most infamously known as the site, between 1934 and 1963, of a federal penitentiary. I found that this place is best treated in black and white, both for its stark reputation and as a representation of the era.
Last year, my wife Cora and I visited the concentration camp at Manzanar, in the high desert east of the Sierra Nevada, where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II. I took the photo below of a basketball court, in the middle of the day. There is nothing colorful about Manzanar. After playing with the image I got the effect of a prison camp at night, lit with flood lights.
I’m drawn to old cemeteries and color never does an old cemetery it’s proper due.
The Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada is the final resting place for many of the pioneers who journeyed west to strike it rich in the silver mines.
The image below (which has appeared in previous posts) was taken in color at midday. It was drab and lacked any drama. With some editing the photo appears as a cemetery on a full moon night.
On the website Fstoppers I ran into an article about black and white portrait photography. The article begins, “There is an old quote that says, “If you want to shoot fashion, shoot in color, but if you want to shoot emotion, shoot in black and white.” I don’t know who said it, but I tend to agree. I do love myself a good black and white portrait. There is something special about black and white imagery which has the ability to cut through all the baggage and display both the inner beauty and turmoil which can be so easily hidden away by color photography.”
“ … all the baggage…” How true. Whether the subject is people or pets, I think color in a portrait distracts from the story in the face.
My most enduring friendship is with Scott. He found his calling and his passion as a librarian. In the months before COVID I wanted to take a photo of him in his environment. This isn’t a library per se, it is part of my own library. Scott and I do agree to disagree on the sport of hockey.
Chloe was my daughter’s dog but also the family’s dog. When a living situation precluded my daughter from keeping Chloe, Chloe stayed with Cora and I. Later when my daughter moved in with the grandchildren, the family was rejoined. Shortly after my daughter got her own house, Chloe passed away. This photo was taken when Chloe was eleven. I think the photo shows the vulnerability and the dignity that comes with age.
Why do I edit in monochrome? Just …
Because clouds make such good subjects.
Because the lobby in the Hotel Ottumwa (Iowa) has such a 1940s retro feel about it.
Because the Eastern Bakery sign (Chinatown, SF) is so retro 1920s.