Hannah's Critical Studies

Black and White VS Colour

Again this is another blog post; but one I am a fan of. It discusses the process of making the vital decision of creating an image with the purpose of being in colour or black and white. Picking the right image to convert to black and white can be difficult but this page gives the reader tips on getting just the right amount of contrast between the shadows and highlights without need to do this in post-editing. The post then follows this with thinking about how the image would look printed; the scale and quality needs to be taken into account. It then moves on to how the image tells a story, intentional or not. This is one important factor in deciding whether the image needs to be in colour or left without as these could impact the narrative greatly.

The next page I looked at is

This page discusses similar topics to the previous one but in the process discusses and compares the benefits and right time to use black and white or colour. I believe so far this is the best blog post I have looked at. It is brief but not too short in the sense it gets straight to the point but gives you enough material to read and think about during the photographic process.


Black and White Photography Quotes

For some inspiration I decided to look into quotes that may help with my essay.

“One sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.” – Ansel Adams

This quote from Ansel Adams particularly stood out. It covers the topics of using colour in photography and how the use of colour is distracting, or has the potential to alter the overall narrative of the piece. As a black and white photographer I believe this quote sums up his practice perfectly. He allows the image to speak in black and white. He does not need to get his point across of natures beauty by using colour.



Black And White Photography

I found this blog to be very brief in the sense it only discussed the use of black and white using four key terms: versatility, no distractions, subtlety of tones and variety. I did not find this very useful for factual information as it was primarily biased opinions from people who read the blog. There also only seems to be one opinion for each area of monochrome imagery. I would have preferred the post if there was more than one opinion to create a more diverse view as it has the potential to be a more critical analysis. I do however agree with some of the opinions.

BBC: Thailands Tropical Paradise

20 minutes and 35 seconds into the video the documentary begins talking about Siamese fighting fish. It talks about the history of the fish and why they are so popular but then moves on to talk about photographer Visarute Angkatavanich. Typically a commercial photographer he began taking photos of the fish and reminiscing about his childhood.

Richard Avedon


This is my favourite photo of Marilyn Monroe, taken by Richard Avedon in 1957. It shows her with a rather natural and almost sad expression and as Norma Jean instead of that as her star of an alter ego Marilyn Monroe. The black and white film adds to the honesty of the emotions within the image.

Below are 2 more photos taken within the same shoot.

Margaret Bourke-White


Breadline, is an incredibly powerful image. Taken on film in 1937, the use of black and white differentiates the black subjects in the line waiting their rations and the white family in the background on the mural. This also emphasises the racial divide in the US during this tough period. People of colour where often positioned lower in the hierarchy of race than whites. The family in the mural are shown to be living The American Dream; they seem to be well off, happy and fortunate whereas the those in the line do not appear to be in poverty but are not as fortunate or happy.

The tones of the black and white intensify the moody nature of the scenario.

John Baldessari

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This piece, Six Colourful Gags (Male) 1991, intrigued me as I believe the piece challenges the idea of masculinity. Each of the subjects are in a vulnerable situation as they have their mouths either covered by the hand of another or are in the process of having something placed into the mouth almost as if to prevent them from talking. This idea of being prevented from speaking has the potential for several meanings. It could be a feminism piece, created to demonstrated the rising justice and equality for women in the modern world. Or could have the narrative of keeping secrets and maybe the effect the media has on the truth from coming out.

The use of colour is very linear in this. Each frame has a separate colour. Each shade could be seen as masculine but if we were to refer to gender norms, yellow may be the most feminine out of the shades.

Black and White Photography – Les McLean


I found that this book discussed more of the technical processes of black and white photography. These technical processes being that of digital post production. I did however find some interesting black white photos within the book.


For an unknown reason I found myself being drawn towards this image of a man. I feel as though his sad expression also links to the use of black and white Typically if the weather outside was grey and gloomy we link these tones to feeling down and sad and I believe this is portrayed clearly through the image. I also love the depth of field within the image.


This was another image I found to be drawn towards. The set up and tones are extremely simple. The use of lighting emphasises that the face is meant to be the focal point of the piece; not her headwear or surroundings which is something we typically find ourselves doing in present day and judging others appearances.

Art Photography Now – Susan Bright

Looking through the book there are a wide range of photographers with different areas of expertise from fashion to location, documentary to studio.

Sam Taylor Wood stood out to me through her collection of self portraits. The images have been shot in colour but they appear to be in their simplest form with the only colour being that of the wooden slats on the floor and the colour of her skin. I found this to be a rather unusual choice when it came to photographing but one I find interesting.

Bill Henson was another photographer who stood out in the book. I just love the way he has shot the subject on the bonnet of a car against the lights of the city; whereas the lighting on the model has a strange green and blue hue to it. I also find this image to appear rather intimate with the lack of clothing and her positions and facial expressions suggesting a narrative to the piece of being on a date or needing an escape due to her vulnerable nature?


Tracey Moffatt’s work caught my attention due to the bright surrealist impression. I found the images to look rather bizarre and I could not personally identify a meaning behind them making them part of the post-modern art world. I did however find them appealing to look art due to the bright nature of colours within the images linking to the idea of pop art which is a sub-genre of the post-modern movement.

Corrine Day; like the work of Bill Henson I found intimate. I love the documentary style of photography within these images. They look as though they provide and insight into the photographers personal life which makes the images strong again with narrative.


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