I have rekindled my love affair with black & white. For awhile I'd been seduced by the juiciness of vibrating color. Push and pull. Chroma. Intensity. Color is a magic carpet that can transport our emotions to faraway places. It is a lifetime obsession in emotion, physics, mathematics, chemistry, and alchemy. Once smitten, color is impossible to shake off. Lately, however, it has given me a hangover.
The silky quiet of black & white has now recaptured me. It is impossible to know exactly how these shifts occur. One day, when working on some images, I simply decided I'd had enough, for awhile, of color. And black & white reappeared. I had an art teacher who once told me that it takes a lifetime to simplify. We reduce, reduce, reduce from our art until there is nothing left but the essential. Marcella Hazan, my great cooking teacher with whom I studied in Venice, once told me, "What you leave out is as important as what you put in." And so it is true in cooking and in painting and in photography. For me, black & white is the ultimate reduction.
I think I'd reached sensory overload. The meditative tonality—as expressed in shades of gray—seemed like a tonic. I am now pre-visualizing my images in black & white. I am craving it.
As a lad, I got hooked on photography when I saw my first print emerge in the developer tray. Tones emerged from nowhere. Like a first kiss, it is impossible to forget your first print in a darkroom. It lays the groundwork for all else that follows. One may galavant around the world in technicolor, but will always come home to the subtle nuance of black & white.
Today's print was found during my most recent hike to Pt. Reyes. Along the trail was this pastoral scene. I immediately saw it in shades of gray. Reflections have the quiet tonality that seems perfect for black & white. The dynamic range of the original scene made it difficult to realize my initial visualization. But, with today's marvelous digital editing tools, I was able to coax out the tones I imagined. The darkroom may have been seductive but now my computer and I have a relationship that is impossible to surpass.