Friday, March 09, 2007

The New Color: The Return of Black-and-White


A while ago I happened upon what looked like a promising new site for discussions on contemporary photography - Tip of the Tongue. One of the first essays is up, by Charlotte Cotton, author of the excellent little book The Photograph as Contemporary Art and it's an interesting one entitled The New Color: The Return of Black-and-White. Here's a taste:


"..But it is definitely more hit-and-miss for a photographer working in black-and-white to anticipate whether or not the full meaning and contemporary relevance of their imagery will be understood in light of color art photography’s dominance. At the beginning of this millennium, I found it difficult to keep my confidence that photography’s monochrome history continued to exert a strong influence on the way we see...


A career-oriented art photographer (and maybe this is the first generation of artists who can consider it a “career”) sticks very close to the now well-traveled path of contemporary color photography’s aesthetic homage and partial remembrance of, for example, gorgeous Kodachrome, or the beam of an enlarger. In a career-oriented era, perhaps this strategy is wiser than trying to beat a path through the resistance to presenting imagery in other ways and forms that actually respond to the potential of digitization. Of course I feel bemused at why a nascent art photographer would be so openly conservative as to adhere to apparent conventions, and at my most pessimistic, I wonder if there’s too much “trying-to-be-like” Eggleston, Shore, et al., and too little “creative-departure-from” the stellar standards that they have set...

I am sure I’m not alone in beginning to think that the more complex, messy, unfashionable, and broad territory of black-and-white photography is where we are going to find some of the grist to the mill in photography’s substantive and longer-term positioning within art..."


There is also some good discussion of the essay on the site as well. Now, whether she's correct in her prediction and justified in her enthusiasms is another matter. But it's certainly a somewhat thought provoking read. (I think many traditional analogue photographers probably won't approve of some of her contemporary black and white choices among other things). And while I like and enjoy viewing and making what you might call contemporary colour work, I'm stubborn enough to believe there are also some exciting contemporary direction to explore with black and white...

4 comments:

stanco said...

It'll be interesting to see if this new "B&W Revival" ever takes off. Actually, there were several BC (before color) era photogrphers in the early to mid 70's who were shooting less narrative, more graphic presentations very similar to Jason Evans' A New Scent (eg- Mark Cohen for one). If B&W does get off the ground again, will it also revive film, traditional darkrooms and smaller prints- or will its resurgence remain subject to the digital realm?

KB said...

okay, it's been a year.

where's the revival?

ip of the tongue is offline too

Highton-Ridley said...

heh-heh - I'm part of the revival! Slowly but surely my name is getting out and my work is becoming known. I've sold tens of canvases... well, it's a start ;-)

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