I love black and white photography – the rich lushness of gelatin silver prints. One simply cannot capture the depth and compassion that illuminates so many images captured on film developed in a dark room using chemicals. My heart tends to lead me to the photojournalists of the ’40s and ’50s: Helen Levitt and her street photography of little boys playing in fire hydrants on a hot summer night before there was air conditioning; Robert Capa documenting men fighting in war, and the utter naked brazenness of Weegee and his blood-threaded images of homicide victims. Be it nobility or sensationalism, the photographs were more than pages in a magazine – they ultimately pushed forward an underused medium in art. They were powerful and iconic.
A few weeks ago, while wandering through The Museum of Modern Art, I discovered a photojournalist I had not heard of before. Bill Brandt, was British,and the show ranged from photos of coal miners in England to the bombed out streets of London during World War II to abstract nudes. For me, he nailed the picture from subject matter to composition, and “Shadow and Light”, as the show was called. I believe all images were gelatin silver prints.
Technology has evolved to such a degree that black-and-white film is nearly extinct.The modern digital camera is embedded with a setting that allows you to turn off color, and, aha, one can shoot in black and white. So there are times when I see shadows happening, and on goes, “COLOR OFF.” The art form may have been reduced to a button, and the quality may pale, but the fascination of the image holds. Here is my homage to a shadow and the sensual: