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by Scott "Genghis" Wong

Photo by Genghis

BLACK & WHITE: Distilled down to the photo's essence.

Color is a crutch

If you took a majority of color photographs that people would consider interesting, and took the color away, you would find that they fall flat when suddenly desaturated. Think about some of the inane commentary that such photos often receive, such as "....beautiful color....," and it is not difficult to discern why such pictures lose their magic. Moreover, such maddening comments reveal just how ignorant viewers are, with respect to the qualities of photography that makes photography, great. When mediocre composition is bereft of the emotional draw of color, and is distilled down to the bare essence of compositional quality and subject significance, the picture in question is exposed, much like the emperor's clothes. Many photographers intentionally or unintentionally depend on color to bolster their weak photographs' appeal.

Think about the constitution of good photography: Composition, which consists of line, form, placement of elements and shades of light and dark, and you can understand why black and white photography, is infinitely more relevant and interesting than color photography. When much of the "punch" of a color photo is removed, which is the color itself, then the true nature of the picture is revealed.

Let's face it, when photographers' conception of photography's instrinsic artistic value is based on whether the color therein is "great" or not, then this showcases a group mentality in denial. What these photographers need to do is to self-examine their perceptions, and how these perceptions are holding them back from improving their compositional skill and the development of their aesthetic sense.

Photo by Genghis

EXPOSED: Bereft of color, an interesting photo depends on composition.

Whether that true nature of the photo denuded of color, is ultimately worthy photography or not, depends on the underlying composition and subject matter. When the subject matter is decisively strong, then the picture will stand on its own in black and white. Otherwise, it's just an also-ran, destined for the scrap heap of Mediocre Mountain. What's also revealed, is the motivation behind many photographers' reluctance to shoot black and white: Fear of exposure of their true talent or lack, thereof. Some photographers subconsciously avoid black and white, for this reason. Some consciously do. Black and white photography, like love, is not for the faint of heart.

Look around the internet at a sampling of the ignorant commentary regarding the worth of photos, and comments such as "....great color!" and you will realize how these uninformed (of what makes great photography, truly great) comments, reveal just how ignorant such commentary is. Color has nothing to do with the attributes that make photography worthy art. Color in the majority of cases, is a crutch.

Take photos and desaturate them, and see what's left behind. Color is a superficial adornment, to the base of a photography. The foundational components of a photograph, are line, form, light and shadow, and the aesthetic placement of a picture's elements. As the proof is in the pudding, the proof in photography, is in the distillation down to the essence of the photograph. Black and white is pure, and a true test of the photographer's talent and artistic value. Later.