By Abigail Mathias, Staff Writer GULF NEWS
The appeal of black and white photographs never fades.
Life is like a good black and white photograph, there's black, there's white, and lots of shades in between. - Karl Heiner
Want to create an impression? Photograph your subject in black and white. Ever since the first film was shot and developed, black and white photos have been popular with photographers around the world because they have a classic and elegant look.
In many instances black and white photographs characterise the genre of social documentary photography, creating images that are seemingly natural, simply caught in an instant of life and, therefore, real, but stark and compelling in their absence of colour.
In spite of the invasion of sophisticated digital photography, black and white photography remains a popular choice for weddings as it portrays romance and lends a sense of timelessness to images. Its simplicity gives the subject a polished appearance. Without the distractions of colour, the picture commands the viewer to appreciate the individuality of the subject. This is why headshots of dignitaries and company presidents are often shot in black and white.
Unfortunately not many realise the true potential of black and white photography. Sue Johnston, who specialises in lifestyle photography, and has worked with the Dubai International Art Centre, is disappointed that black and white photography is under developed in the region. "Most of my friends are unhappy with the quality of black and white printing. I have worked with black and white films and developed my own photographs, but the results were never as expected. Newspaper photographs are often in colour these days and that's a huge change. Earlier newspapers had just one or two colour pages. Similarly, only a few art publications focus on black and white photography these days," says Johnston.
When learning photography, the simplicity of black and white helps students focus on the important aspects without getting distracted by colour. Black and white simplifies the scene and centres attention on form, shades, pattern, and other graphic concepts, to give them an unusual quality with tone and hue.
Mamoun Khalifa, Operations Manager, United Colour Films (UCF), says, "Black and white photography marks the birth of photography. It adds historic value to people's photographs."
Though the number of clients developing black and white photographs is comparatively few, Khalifa says, wedding photographers and corporate houses still prefer such prints.
"Black and white allows photographers more control in taking the picture and producing the print. One can more easily use shape, line, texture, form and tone to manipulate the picture and the viewer without the often-contradictory message of colour.
The graphic concepts are easier to see when shot in black and white. One can find interest in everyday objects and scenes, making them more dramatic. Black and white also works very nicely for portrait photography. Skin tones in black and white are mellowed; blotches, blemishes, and uneven shading is less noticeable than it is in colour photos. "I still get a lot of requests for black and white portraits," says Johnston. "The shadows and lighting make the images appear kinder to people of all ages. People take time to look at the photograph and notice details," says Johnston.
Sultan Roam, Laboratory Supervisor at UCF, says, "Black and white prints last longer than coloured ones. The lack of colour allows the photograph to withstand more wear and tear, whereas a colour photograph tends to fade after a while if it's exposed to direct sunlight. The intensity of a black and white photograph remains the same even after 20 years."
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