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Friday, 11 May 2018


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Worth the wait.

I've never been a fan of critical (or critic) commentary on art of the type -- "this picture succeeds because … " It is interesting and valuable to see what people say about their own creations.

At long last - great selections so far!



Mike...so sorry to say this but I tend to disagree with the first image. There is an incredible BW image lurking there which, I must confess, may rival the color version. Personally speaking, of course.

Nice set of first photos and good to know we will see some more good picture in the future!

Regarding agreeing with having to be in color, I undoubtedly agree with the first two, not so with the last ones. I think the David Comdico photo might actually be more interesting and intriguing on B&W, I took the liberty of making a quick and crude conversion (hope the author doesn't mind):

I think it adds to the visual mystery of the image, further matching the top and bottom tones.

Great pics there. Evocative.

Nice shots. Now the pigeons and the umm salad? Absolutely has to be color

Of these photographs, I think that Jan Kwarnmark's is very strong, but personally, I think this wonderful portrait is even more beautiful in black and white. In fact, If it were my photograph, I would have submitted it your B&W Baker's Dozen.

These are each excellent choices, Mike. Jan Kwarnmark's stark portrait of Emma really hit me right between the eyes as it loudly resonates with a project / current exhibition that I am very proud to co-sponsor.

Sean Geer's image and story are terrific. I love images that take a moment to decode, particularly color. At first I thought I was seeing the remains of a pigeon who had been run-over. (And, yes, this one really had to be color!)

Mike Newton's landscape also has to be color in order to transmit the lush quietude at its foundations. If you stare at it for a few seconds you'll swear you see those cloud shadows moving.

David Comdico's image is cute in color. But I do think that Ricardo makes a good case that it could be at least equally engaging presented in b&w. I think such determination would largely depend on the context of its presentation.

Well, Mike, you've at least posted a third of the project's images. (This will teach you to stumble into color you old monochromer!)

Oh, this is going to be fun!

Great shots -- and I couldn't agree more with Ed Hawco. That portrait is nearly perfect in every way.

Opinions are going to be all over the place with these. I agree that the only one that probably absolutely has to be in color is the sidewalk pigeon feast. But I appreciate the color in all of them. Love the blue comb in the first, though it's her expression and stance that really makes the photo for me. Fun stuff. I want part II.

The top two, yes, the bottom two, no. The girl with the comb would I'm sure be a good BW photo but regardless of how good it would be, it would still be just a portrait. In colour, the comb adds a "WTF?" factor. It adds to the girl's personality, makes her seem aggressive but in a good way, like punk rock. Like she's put the comb there to make you look, then when you do she can say "what are you looking at?". Absolutely fantastic.
The birds have to be in colour because it just doesn't do anything at all in B+W.
The bottom two might be better in colour, but it isn't essential and Ricardo Silva Cordeiro's BW conversion of the bottom one I actually prefer to the colour version.

Stephen Scharf comment about the possibility of the portrait working better in B&W made me think... So I made an experiment with a quick conversion (hoping again that the author doesn't mind):

And now I'm divided, I like them both.

I think you made good choices. But, really, all are such good photos I can't say they absolutely HAVE TO be in color. While the blue comb is a great compositional contrast, Emma's eyes are the strength of Jan's photo. I think it would work well in B&W because of that. The others would work in B&W as well although the pigeon salad would lose impact (and maybe it should 'cause it is sorta over the top).

But, then again, I've become a B&W guy in the last couple of years. In my own pictures I often see color as a distraction rather than a necessary element these days.

You said some months ago that many of the submissions overlooked the concept that (to be successful) the photo just HAD to be color. My bad.
That said, WOW! These are really good and I think that color is a strongly contributing factor of their excellence. Can't wait to see the remaining selections.

Honestly don't know about the portrait- the blue is equal parts evocative, and distracting. Would have to darken and adjust tonality of comb, unlike conversion shown.

As a heretic, I think one should justify making an image black and white, not the other way around. I see the world in colour, but very occasionally an image has the tonal depth and simplicity to be more successful in B&W.

That is a rare event for me. I prefer to exercise my cones than my rods.

I certainly would not convert any of these to black and white. They lose their uniqueness.

Good images too. I particularly like the first for its slight ambiguity, and the last for its serendipity.

Photos like Jan Kwarnmark`s are why photography needed to be invented.

Continuing the trend of B&W conversion in the comments, I'm fascinated by Mike Newton's green rolling hills. It's essentially monochrome, with the "chrome" being green. So what if the chrome were black?

I find it works well both ways. Each is lush in its own way; original is lush with color while B&W is (or can be, with more care) lush with tone.

Oddly, I find the B&W one looks really nice when really small, and I imagine it would look really nice if really big (if converted with care).

Stephen Scharf's B&W conversion with a half grade higher contrast, and a kiss more burning in would do it fine!

That portrait is quite the conversation starter, to say the least- apologies for the # of comments. I've waffled and sat with it long enough, verdict finally in- (IMHO) the blue is just way too gaudy, gimmicky and ultimately distracting; it really does a disservice to the subject at hand. It's a great character adding detail... not the center of attraction. This is exactly why B&W was created!

I like all of these and think they work very well as examples of good color photography.

In judging whether another person's photo is better suited for black and white or color, I tend to allow that if the photographer understands these two types of photography and he or she decided it was better suited for color, it is.

It is that person's photo and that person's interpretation. It is not my business to second guess.

Thanks for all the interesting comments and opinions. It's very illuminating to read how different folk interpret the 4 images.

Interesting conversion, Ed, thanks for that. It actually works quite well, but as I noted above I think the relatively simple colour palatte in the colour version just helps provide a bit of separation between the various darker tones. Of course some further work in conversion might help with this.

For most of my work these days I've tended towards B&W. Quite a lot of the 'colour' images I've made in recent years now seem to work better, certainly in terms of being more cohesive bodies of work, in B&W.

It's probably just a phase...

Perhaps the rush to convert these color photographs to B&W suggests your–and apparently many others–preference for a monochromatic look. After all, these are monochromatic but have splashes of color, conveniently so.

Lets see kaleidoscope color photographs that owe little to the black & white hegemony.

PS Yes, the original photographs are really good.

I think Anthony's on to something with his comment on the combs color revealing a bit of the girl's personality.

As a viewer I think I prefer the B&W version of Emma but the color version respects the look Emma wishes to project and so is more accurate. As Mike said in his Moore link, more information is good.

Perhaps color and B&W versions of Emma should hang side by side.

I'm going to be contrarian. I think all four of them could be made to work as well in B&W as color with the possible exception of the pigeons. I grant that they would have a different feel and that is part of my reasoning, especially in the case of "Emma". As an old-time B&W photographer who has made a lot of portraits, I like that B&W can downplay the distractions of brightly colored clothing, background and props and zero in on the person's 'presence'. I really like the second B&W conversion of "Emma". I feel like the more harshly toned ones intrude on her presence. JMO

Awesome choices!

Some really great and insightful commentary by the TOP community.

@Stan B: Spoken like a true B&W printer! ;-) Your comments were in terms of paper grades and burn-in; I thought of it in terms histogram EV and micro-contrast. While I spent my fair share of time in darkrooms, digital just gives you so much more control over the entire tonal range. I used Skylum's Tonality CK to do this conversion to try to create a "glow" that highlights Emma's beauty and personality.

For me, Jan's superb portrait of Emma exemplifies the key points of portraiture that Kevin Mullins recently discussed in his recent (and excellent) YouTube video Finding Emotion in Photography: light, composition and emotion.

"I'd say, whenever you get a chance to take a brown-and-blue-themed picture, go ahead"-Mike

Okayyy, here you go... ;-)

Photographs one and two answer the assignment; photographs three and four, less so. The blue comb in an otherwise monochromatic image, the very blues's of the comb, makes the image. The success of the photograph depends on the blue comb. Take away the color and you take away the uniqueness of the photograph. Same goes for the pigeons and salad. Gotta be color.

A good friend and long time photographer has said "If you photograph a person in colour, you photograph their clothes ('or accessories' - my addition in this case) but if you photograph a person in B&W, you photograph their soul". I generally agree with this, but in the case of 'Emma' a lot of her soul comes through because of the colour.

As others have said, the pigeon salad really needs to be in colour but in any case leaves me nonplussed.

The last two could be in B&W or colour, but the variation in my response to the two versions is less than that of the two versions of Emma, without taking the different conversions into account.

Excellent choices, Mike.

Michael Newtons beautiful work is worthy of a stamp of approval from Michael Kenna both lovely, both elegant in their simplicity and yet different.
Michael a wonderful choice

When I am using black and white film, I tend to make a black and white photo that stands on its own in monochrome. When I'm using color film, only a handful of times have I come across a photo that compels me to attempt a conversion to black and white. Here is one such:

(Made on Fuji 160C 4x5 film, but it just worked better in black and white.)

I have on a number of occasions wished I had color film when I had black and white--that conversion is a little more challenging. "This photo would have worked in color, maybe." Or, maybe not.

But trying to justify doing one versus the other? That justification was already made when I put the film in the camera. The trick then becomes to find the photo that takes advantage of the medium at hand. Granted, there are times when I imagine that my digital camera has black and white film in it and go from there, but even that happens rarely.

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