Color vs monochrome

I had originally drafted a post that referenced a particular well-known street photographer and that individual’s comments concerning why monochrome photography is no longer appropriate for street photography due to modern digital cameras’ color capabilities. I decided, after some thought, to change this post to a more subdued commentary on the debate concerning color versus monochrome.

First of all, let me say that I prefer the term “monochrome” over “black and white.” Monochrome is, after all, shades of gray, and it is not really “black and white.” I also think we have enough things in the world causing division between us as human beings. Therefore, monochrome it is.

As of the writing of this post, you will not find any monochrome photographs on Hyperfocal. It’s not because I don’t like monochrome, or do not want to shoot in monochrome, but because I just haven’t shot much monochrome lately and haven’t published any yet. I do have ideas about a monochrome-only project that I would like to explore. If I choose to do so, then you will probably see at least some of the photographs here on the site, probably in a special section. You can find out more about that in a later post, if I decide to go for it.

For now, let me just say that I understand and, for the most part, agree that monochrome photography is no longer very relevant for street photography. I agree with what the unnamed photographer I mentioned above had to say about it, referencing the rich color-saturated world we live in. If we choose to shoot in monochrome, then we are deleting one of the most important aspects of our world and the way we see it — namely, color, in all of its shades, hues, intensity, contrast and moods.

On the other hand (because, let’s face it, there is always another hand), there is something about monochrome photographs that draw us in. When they are done well, they strip down a certain slice of frozen life to it’s barest essentials. To me, monochrome is not just timeless, it is useful for documentation under the right circumstances.

I also must reference my own photographic philosophy which asserts, among other things, that a photographer should be the sole decision maker concerning what she wants to photograph in what manner she wants to photograph it. In other words, if you love monochrome and want to shoot in monochrome, then shoot in monochrome. Do not let anyone dictate to you that you should not.

I believe, when all is said and done, the photographer’s own mindset and worldview play the major role in how that photographer’s work should be made and presented. We take pictures first for ourselves and, hopefully, they will speak to others as well.

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