ESR Portraits : Analog Photography

What Is Color

I have often puzzled over the choice between black-and-white and color. Learning to make prints in the darkroom and developing my own film has led to many technical and artistic insights into photography, but did not seem to solve this question. Rather than observing a convergence, I now think each occupies a distinct space.

I have heard it said that artists have occasionally tried to map colors to musical instruments. What if B&W has the effect that it does because it is limited and powerful because it is like a vocal performance? Similarly, a color photograph has the character that it does because it is composed of musical instruments. This is a strange comparison, but it does start to explain why one is not a subset of the other.

Scale and Splendor

Eric Whitacre has observed that human voices scale—dozens or even hundreds can sing together and they only seem to become better in a way that combining too many instruments does not. The grandeur of instruments is not the same as the grandeur of human voices. It is also challenging to replicate the effect of B&W film using a digital camera: the response of a material to light provides a visible texture.

When shooting digital, B&W still does not amount to an effect. The intent of the photographer is different since B&W scales in a different direction.


Ilford FP4+ pushed 1⅔ stops
Kino Flo 4' 2-bank and a 55W halogen spot

Last updated on August 22, 2020