Let’s Talk About Black & White

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Leica M Monochrom, Summilux 35mm FLE

Tabi basa & greetings everyone! Today, I would like to share about black and white photography. It is a subset of monochrome photography, where it is a branch of photography that uses single hue of colour, in this case, shades of neutral gray of varying tones. From its various tones, it represents the form and structure of the images captured by the B&W photographer.

In the early days of photography, B&W is the main medium of expression. You can see in the early works of Magnum photography legend, Henri-Cartier Bresson, it is captured in B&W.

By eliminating colour in your images, you basically removes distraction from your image. This enables us to focus on the subject, the textures, shapes, patterns and overall composition. For me, I also can convey emotion & expression of my subject through black and white photography.

Unlike colour photography, when you are shooting in B&W, you focus more on contrast, shape & form because these elements enable your picture to tell story better. A low contrast image will not be as flattering as a high contrast image because you can’t separate it – it seems to be blending in with the background.

However, in my area, Sarawak, black and white photographs are often associated with death, sadness & sorrow. That’s why, there are not many B&W photographers are my area. Most of the peoples shoot in colour, and the preference is to make the colour vivid. In that way, it is more classy.

I deviated away from this school of thought and shot B&W during my early days. I even bought Leica M Monochrom (M9) and It is one fine camera. I used it wherever I go. I stopped shooting weddings for a while because I want to focus more on my B&W art. However, the dilemma came, where I want to focus more on colour or B&W because both equally is a good way. Except colour makes money in Sarawak. B&W is not. Then I concentrate on doing colour images for my clients.

Street photography was put into a stop for a while.

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Leica M Monochrom, Noctilux 50mm

However, as time goes by, 2022 might be the year I am actively doing B&W again. For me, it is not about gear. It is about the way I see the final image. There are some image that seems to be better in B&W than in colour and vice versa. To be balanced, I should shoot in colour, then convert it to B&W using Silver Efex. That way, I can still strike a balance between what I want to do and what actually makes money.

Leica M Monochrom, Summilux 35mm FLE

Hopefully this story gave a little bit of insight to all of you. As mentioned earlier, I will only post my stuff in my blog, not in social media anymore. Stay tuned for more. Thank you for the support and have a great week ahead!

Take care.

Your Tukang Rantek,
Claudius Weson
Follow me on Twitter & LinkedIn: claudiusweson.

Note:
1. Claudius is a freelance photographer based in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia.
2. “Tukang Rantek” means “photographer” in Bidayuh Serian language.