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  • by Dave Brosha

Dave Brosha: A case for black and white

How many times in your life have you enjoyed a colourful sunset? If you’ve lived on this earth for any amount of time and haven’t been completely hidden from nature’s beauty, chances are you’ve experienced hundreds, if not thousands, of breathtaking sunsets. As a photographer, there’s a good chance you’ve captured many of these incredible moments, with the sky exploding into any variation of red, magenta, orange, yellow, and pink magic. These images are impressive because we, as humans, love colour. In photography, colour can be intoxicating. It can seduce, wow, and grip a viewer. Colour in photography is certainly not a bad thing, but it’s not the only thing.

Stop for a minute and imagine some of the images you’ve taken of colourful sunsets or sunrises, and mentally (or physically, using a program such as Adobe Lightroom) convert them to monochrome, or black and white. Strip the image of colour and look again. Does it still hold the same appeal? Without colour, does your composition still make sense? Does it draw you in? Is your image balanced and interesting? Does it have a story, or was the story dependent on the colour?

As a younger photographer discovering and growing into photography pretty much at the start of the digital transition, I found I initially held a quiet disdain for people who had an aversion to change in photography. Take digital photography, for example. Many film photographers then (and still today, to a lesser extent) would point out all the reasons why the digital image would never match the quality of film images, which was something I didn’t accept. Equally contemptible, to me, were photographers who would go on and on about the virtues of black and white photography, expressing its strengths over colour photography, using terms such as “depth,” “power,” “emotional impact,” and “real photography.” I rolled my eyes for many years, thinking, “Give me digital and colour and just be quiet.”