Well, I don't necessarily think so, but Walker Evans did. So did many other photographers of his day, including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Paul Strand. They felt that it required a greater effort to visualize a black and white photograph from the color world around us and therefore it should be more elevated in the world of art than color photography. Cartier-Bresson, in particular, felt that color was just too much to try to control along with everything else he was working toward in his photographs.
Why do I bring this up? I've been reading a bit about these photographers—the giants on whose shoulders we stand—to see if I can delve deeper into understanding what it is I want to try to do with photography… and why. I've felt a bit flat lately because of a limited amount of time to practice, as well as a feeling that I've hit a plateau. I think there's more to explore on this particular plateau, but it also feels like I need to shake things up a little—stir the paint, as David duChemin calls it—and I think it involves subtracting color from the equation.
So here's the plan. I am embarking again on an experiment, only for a week this time, but something I think will certainly challenge me. Next week, JoEllen and I are taking her mother (and her Schnauzer!) to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a little down time. Of course, the Smokies in October is known for its varied and spectacular fall color, probably second only to Vermont as "the" place to go. A color photographer's dream.
You've probably guessed it. I'm going to shoot it entirely in black and white.
Now maybe it's the double hit of Mexican Coke talkin', but no matter how tempting it will be to try the classic fall color shot of the Primitive Baptist Church in Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road, I'll be leaving it for another trip. Of course, I'm shooting digital, so the resulting files will be color, but I will be changing my LCD to display only black and white previews. I will go through all of the motions of pre-visualization, tone placement, etc. as if I were shooting black and white film.
Why not just shoot film? Two reasons, really. One, because I value the control I have in the digital darkroom to create the image I had in mind (and because my chemical darkroom disappeared long ago). Secondly, because I no longer own a camera that uses film and I'm not inclined to buy one to use only for a week. Mostly though, and despite its real advantages in some cases, I've left film behind for now. It's just not my thing any more. (But hey, who knows, someday?)
So there it is. Fall color in black and white. I'll post here and to Flickr when I can to let you know how things are progressing. I hope you enjoy the ride.