Lena Szankay is an Argentinian artist with a focus on photography. She studied at the Lette Verein in Berlin where she experienced first-hand the turmoil which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and this historical event went on to become the subject of much of her work. She has a great interest in architecture and how it influences human life in unforeseeable ways and uses the black and white medium in some of her work to emphasise the underlying emotional dimension present in all of her work which may seem solely documentary nature at first glance.
American photographer Geoffrey Ansel Agrons describes his central focus as ‘the uneasy coexistence of humans and the natural world’ and when you look at his haunting photographs, this feeling of unease is more than evident. His black and white photographs are captivating and eerily beautiful and a must-see in our catalogue of black and white photography.
Norwegian photographer and photoshop professional Erik Brede takes a deep interest in surrealism, composite art, nature and landscape photography and approaches a broad variety of subject in a multi-layered way to produce a connection between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. The result is fascinating.
Black and white photography is photography in which colour is not present, be it since the photograph was taken on black and white film or since the colour was digitally removed in post-production. The result is an image with an emphasis not only on depth and texture, but additionally the absence of the distraction of colour allows for the viewer to better connect to the image emotionally.
The first camera photography was invented in the early 19th century by Frenchman Louis Daguerre – before this, people relied heavily on traditional mediums in order to capture images, such as paintings, sketches and drawings. Yet, the photograph (or ‘Daguerrotype’ as it was then known) allowed for people to capture information and detail about an object more vividly than had ever been possible with traditional media. Thus, photography became an immensely popular art form.
Black and white photography was hugely popular throughout the 19th century when most photography was in monochrome – either black and white or tones of sepia. However, this was largely due to the fact that, owing to technological limitations of photography, colour photography was rare and expensive as well as often containing inaccurate hues. As technology advanced, however, colour photography grew more popular from the mid-20th century.
Yet despite the leaps and bounds that have been made in the advances of photographic technology since the days of the monochrome Daguerrotype, black and white has remained a popular medium for art photography, with many photographers opting to produce images in this way out of choice for stylistic effect. The use of black and white in photography makes for a significant visual and emotional effect and many photographers describe the use of the medium as offering a greater connection to the soul, while the use of colour is thought of as merely visually pleasing to the eyes.
The medium is popular across photographic genres including landscape, still life and portrait photography. While some photographers shoot in black and white film, many opt to shoot digitally in colour and convert the image digitally to grayscale in post-production using editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.
Perhaps the first photographer who springs to mind when you think of black and white photography is Ansel Adams who is widely known for his black and white landscape shots. He was a landscape photographer and environmentalist whose black and white images of the American Old West, particularly Yosemite National Park, were widely celebrated. He was deeply concerned with the natural world and as well as his dedicated environmental activism whereby he encouraged people to take care of their planet, he was greatly interested in making it the subject of his photographic work. He opted for the use of black and white in much of his photography and thus captured the American West in a strikingly dramatic fashion.
Dorothea Lange is another photographer whose black and white images are well renowned. However Lange did not focus upon landscapes, rather portraits. She used the black and white medium to document the lives of people hit by the Great Depression and this creative decision certainly makes for images more striking and emotive that they might have been had she chosen to produce the images in full colour. Her extremely poignant work was well recognised and she was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship (for excellence in black and white photography) in 1941.
A final photography famous for their use of the black and white medium is Henri Cartier-Bresson, who became thought of as the ‘father of modern photojournalism’. He was one of the first photographers to start using the then new 35mm film format which is still well loved today by amateur and professional photographers alike. Cartier-Bresson lived to be almost a century old and saw for himself many an important historical moment. Witnessing them personally in his role as journalist, he was able to capture them as they unfolded before him.
Find out more in our Guide To Photography.