I have spent a lot of time, money and materials photographing in black and white and still make a lot of black and white images; mostly with my digital camera.
One of my favorite films, now discontinued, was Kodachrome 25. It was beautiful. It was very, very slow but when the slides came back from the lab I was always captivated by the colors. Fujichrome Velvia came in a close second at ASA 50 back in the olden days.
I’ve also created a lot of color photographs and have been making more since digital technology and printing materials supported the effort. The long-held advantage of black and white’s archival permanence is disappearing in the face of competition from inkjet technology. The choice of papers available in today’s digital imaging marketplace is astounding and the watercolor papers are wonderful to work with. I have been able to print color images in my own “darkroom” that rival and exceed the results I was getting from professional photo labs.
On the inspirational side, I follow a few photographers whose color work always motivates me to do better. Cape Light, a photographic project by American Joel Meyerowitz is a remarkable series of photographs taken on Cape Cod. They have a soft, airy look to them and depict the sky and the water in marvelous detail and subtle tones and colors. To me, it is as if you can feel the air and the light. William Albert Allard is one of my favorite overall photographers. His attention to light is always present in his images and all of the work I am familiar with is produced in color. He has a simple approach to photography that yields beautiful results. I get the feeling from looking at his pictures that he walks around casually, always observing, always creating. One of my favorite images is of a baseball player at bat taken through a cyclone fence!
I was fortunate enough to assist Ernst Haas for one week during my employment at the Maine Photographic Workshops in 1985. I had always enjoyed his photography and it was refreshing to work directly and interact with a photographer who I had always admired. While his photographs are very strong and emphasize hard colors, I found a gentle, quiet man who kept to himself and taught other photographers to follow their own instincts, not his, when photographing. A good teacher.
Another 20th Century photographer, Elliot Porter is more in the traditional vein but his images are also very remarkable to look at first hand. I have held his original dye transfer prints in my hands and the detail, color and beauty just astounded me. Take a look at Poplars and Hillside, Newfound Gap Road; make a trip to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas to see the image first hand; it makes a world of difference. You can see the fine detail and the vivid color created by an 8×10 camera; in the end, it’s as if you can feel the leaves shaking in the breeze.
Last note. John Szarkowski died July 7, he was 81. As many in the photography world know, he was one of the most influential people involved in photography during our time. At the Museum of Modern Art in New York he served as Director of Photography from 1962 to 1991 and essentially made photography what it is today; having supported its position as a legitimate art form. Slate has a wonderful article on his contributions and his book “Looking at Photographs” should be in every photographer’s library.
By the way…I always post my pictures and not those of the photographers I mention. I am not a copyright lawyer so don’t want to post a copyrighted image on my weblog that I have no right to.