followed by a series of even more thought provoking responses to Jake Price’s black and white pictures on show.

Here’s just a few:


I think of all the bullshit around photography the idea that somehow a photo in black and white is a deeper more truthful representation of life is amongst the most daft. It seems to get passed on from one generation to the next as some kind of blinding truth, but can anybody actually point to some research on the matter?

  • Joe K

    I love “complain about this comment” …. *click, click, CLICK* … is there an abnormally large number of people that have an issue with how the tsunami events are being recorded or is it just me?

    • Hi Joe,

      interesting point. Why do you think that is?

  • I don’t find Jake Price’s work offending in any way.

    Price’s statement: “She told me the thing she remembered most from the day was: ‘The water that engulfed us was totally black, as if it was another substance all together.” Perhaps Price wanted to capture the overwhelming feeling of despair.

    The editor of this blog should have asked Price why he chose this style of narrative. I would as an interviewer, because the members of audience who are not trained in art would struggle to understand it.

    Disasters like this need to be documented for storytelling and information purposes. Without these visuals, we can’t decide what kind of support that’s needed to help the victims and repair the damages. People are moved by visuals.

    So for this reason, Price’s monochrome narrative cannot satisfy an audience seeking for information. A set of colour images would do the job better.

    Pain is painful to look at, whatever filter you use. At least we see some reactions. Indifference would be worse.

  • I too take issue with the idea of b&w being somehow more arty, serious, truthful, pure, emotional or any other superlative you care to throw at it. Especially so because I still load a lot of black & white film in my cameras. I don’t do it because I think it will do anything colour can’t do, I just sometimes prefer to look at the world without colour.

    I’ve thought a lot about why this is. The only reasonable argument I can come up with is that devoid of colour, pictures are simplified. The shapes and lines in an image become equalised in a way and that can make a picture easier to read. Note I said ‘can’. I love colour. Most of my photographs are in colour. But colour is complicated, difficult and hard to get ‘right’. Blue can be cold and warm. Green can be comforting and nauseating, red can be calm and aggressive. Most people respond to colour in a variety of ways depending on a variety of factors. Few people really understand how colour ‘works’. remove colour, and you simplify things. I’ve seen it a thousand times. Struggling with a photo? make it b&w and suddenly it looks amazing!

    Basically you remove a variable. I don’t say that that is better (because it’s not), but it can go some way toward explaining why people think of b&w as somehow more ‘pure’ (which is itself a simplified way of saying “easier to understand”). As for being more ‘arty’, that is just journalistic snobbery left over from the days when it was thought that serious photographers used b&w (because that’s all newspapers printed – the first colour newsprint wasn’t until the 1970’s) and only amateurs doing family snapshots and commercial photographers doing advertising really used colour. It’s an outdated idea and I have no idea why it’s still perpetrated.

    But here’s a thought, maybe if people are debating the merits of b&w and/or colour when looking at your pictures, then just maybe the photos themselves aren’t strong enough. I’m not saying this is the case with Jake’s work, the selection on the BBC is small and I’ve actually seen some really good, sensitive work from Japan done by him, and there are plenty of people out there poised waiting to take any opportunity to champion their love or hatred of a particular decision (like using b&w!). But, as with any aesthetic decision, your choice of b&w or colour should lead you to the content, not distract you from it.

  • I certainly don’t know of any such research. I’ve been photographing exclusively in B&W for quite some time. I am not color blind, and I love, love, love color photography- but with the rare exception, when I see “photographically,” I see in B&W, and that is no doubt because I’ve trained myself to do so and now it is purely second nature. There is no doubt that B&W photography is but one more step removed from reality than its color counterpart- but I don’t consider that in terms of good or bad, artsy or serious, easier or harder. God knows we’ve all seen horrid examples of each in every hue of the rainbow, in every shade of monochrome. Different photographers choose each for different reasons, and different viewers will react to and interpret each in different ways.

    It’s interesting that the “public” continues to see B&W as the “artistic” choice, while so precious little of it has hung on contemporary gallery walls the last few decades. Sometimes I wonder if B&W will ever make a comeback in contemporary art photography, other times I just ask if that question is even relevant.

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White.

We specialize in digital storytelling.

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