Generally speaking, we divide photographs into two groups: color and black-and-white. As far as public nomenclature goes, those two terms sufficiently label the majority of all photography. The distinction is rather simple, either a photo has color or it doesn’t.
As a photographer, though, I have difficulty with the term black-and-white. Depending on the processing method, especially when we’re discussing digital imagery, there may actually be a tint of blue if we’re attempting to emulate a gelatin silver print. Emulations of more antique processing pull in shades of yellow and magenta. I have a preference for LAB processing and that can pull from both the cyan and magenta colors.
If we were to get picky about the verbiage then we would do better to refer to many of these images as greyscale rather than black-and-white. The desaturation caused in pure black-and-white imagery too often comes off flat due to a lack of contrast in the original image. When that doesn’t happen, the distance between highlights and shadows may create a valley in the mid-tones that is unattractive.
I’ve seen numerous approaches to this problem and one of the most popular, especially with images of older people or redheads with plenty of freckles, is to really push the depth of field, working with as high an f-stop as possible, to create a near-HDR image that captures every wrinkle and piece of character in a subject’s face. We’re mesmerized by the detail and the stories those faces seem to hold.
I rarely find myself in that camp, though. Instead, I look back at the images of Horst and Newton and I see a softness, a sense of capturing something delicate, that feels rare amidst much of what I see on a daily basis. The photographers of the late 40s allowed things to be lost or at the very least minimized in the shadows so that the subject received greater attention.
That’s where we are in this set of images and probably where I’m going to stay largely for the remainder of this shooting season. I’m not feeling attracted to strict edges and hard lines. Rather, I prefer soft gradients that gently ease between shades of gray, stoking one’s imagination as to what might be just out of sight.
We’re also excited to have Chelsea back in front of the camera after an extended absence. This shoot was fun not just for the chance to catch up on life’s adventures but because this was her last set of photos before taking the scissors to her long hair and dying it all a vivid red. When we see her again it will produce a quite different look.
I do hope you’ll take your time. Click on a thumbnail and view the images as the maximum size your device allows. Consider the shadows and relax in the softness of gray.