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Shooting in B&W, inspired by color
Old 12-08-2018   #1
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Shooting in B&W, inspired by color

I've been shooting black and white film almost exclusively since my return to film photography. I don't put in nearly as much time creating images as I should be or would like. But this has left me freed up to also spend some time reading and learning much that's been written about photography or simply observing the work of others. While I enjoy both creating and viewing B&W images, I've found inspiration in a number of books featuring the works of various photographers who do plenty of work in color. I'm guessing others must have similar experiences: working in B&W yet inspired by the color photography of others or vice versa. I figured this might be an interesting topic for a thread.

I mentioned elsewhere here on this forum that I'm quite ignorant when it comes to the works of many well respected photographers. When I find a store featuring books of photography I simply take a look at the images in the various books on hand and make make my purchase decision based on which images I most enjoy viewing. I'm not tied into any one single style, I just like what I like although much of what I enjoy tends to be fairly candid in nature. For what it's worth I've yet to figure out what actually qualifies as street photography and what doesn't. I'm not sure that I care, I just like interesting photographs.

One book that really caught me off guard is by the photographer Langdon Clay titled "Cars - New York City, 1974-1976". (After flipping through just a couple of pages I knew that I was going to purchase a copy.) You can find a portion of these particular photos on his website located here, along with some of his other work. His website also includes a few portfolios created by his wife Maude Schuyler Clay who is also a wonderful photographer and apparently was an assistant for William Eggleston (who's work on my "to buy" list).

I searched and did not see any mention of Mr. Clay's work here on the forum so I thought maybe I'm at least adding something new to the discussion even though there are many threads on photography books already in existence here. His work likely isn't everyone's cup of tea but I sure do enjoy it. A few other books featuring more prominent photographers that I'm also fond of that feature mostly (or all) color photography are as follows.

Fred Herzog, "Modern Color"
Saul Leiter, "All About Saul Leiter"
Stephen Shore, "Uncommon Places"

I'm open to any other suggestions that others might have regarding books that I might consider.

By the way, I don't mean to imply that I'm not also on the lookout for books that focus on B&W photography. I have books by Bresson and Frank. I love the images created by Garry Winogrand and realize that there are many others I should be considering such as Diane Arbus, Walker Evans and many others. Sadly I can only spend so much on books at any given time. But that doesn't keep me from compiling my list of books to check out while I also browse what's currently available at my local bookstores (which fortunately Portland still has a good amount of).
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Old 12-08-2018   #2
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Thank you for the pointer to Langdon Clay - lot of rich work there.
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Old 12-08-2018   #3
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Thanks for pointing to Langdon Clay. I'm like you always have both B&W and color in a camera. I still feel like my color are snap shots, maybe they aren't to others but to me they feel that way. Maybe I'm conditioned by growing up with B&W being the 'real' film for photographers.

Good start for a discussion
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Old 12-08-2018   #4
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You might like "Dorthea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning" streaming on Amazon Prime right now. Dorthea Lange created the iconic depression era photograph "Migrant Mother" and many more great images. I noticed there are a lot of photographic documentaries on Prime (included in Prime membership).

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Old 12-09-2018   #5
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I'm a B&W digital shooter these days with a little color included. Probably the biggest influence on my photography has been Walker Evans. There are numerous volumes showing his work and methods. His FSA photos can be downloaded from the Library of Congress for free (also Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" and others). A great resource.

You mentioned Eggleston. You gotta study his work. It's just a requirement, IMO. Also Shore. And Sternfeld. Have a look at Ernst Haas' color abstractions and then review Aaron Siskind's abstract B&W. And for inspiration in B&W you have to look at Friedlander--any Friedlander. And, of course, Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka and Erwitt for their journalism/documentation, Ralph Gibson and Jeanloup Sieff for their sensuality. Atget.
Don't forget Atget who is probably the father of them all...so much great work has been done it's impossible to name them all.
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Old 12-09-2018   #6
Bob Michaels
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Originally Posted by Guth View Post
..... a few portfolios created by his wife Maude Schuyler Clay who is also a wonderful photographer ......
Interesting observation as I have been in some conferences with her at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss and seen a few exhibits of her work as I sometimes bum around the Mississippi Delta. I remember her work well, but simply cannot remember if it was b&w or color. That was just not important while the emotion created by her photos was.

I shoot both b&w and color, deciding at the beginning of a series which would better convey my message. But I always hope that choice will not be one of the key things a viewer remembers after seeing my work.
internet forums appear to have an abundance of anonymous midgets prancing on stilts
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Old 12-09-2018   #7
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Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
That was just not important while the emotion created by her photos was.
Thanks for that. With my interest in creating B&W images, my assumption was that I would primarily be drawn to the photography of those who worked in B&W. What I'm finding is that I've been buying more and more books featuring those who work(ed) in color. I'm guessing that part of this has to do with the fact that a black and white image generally has an easier time grabbing my attention, holding my focus and generating thought simply because I've been so bombarded by color images and color in general throughout life. I hadn't really given myself a chance to consider color photography in quite the same way.

In the end, regardless of whether an image appears as B&W or in color, I suppose it comes down to what kind of emotion it creates within me along with how much of an impact it has on me that makes the biggest difference in figuring out what I like or what I am influenced by. Whether or not I find an image interesting enough for those two things to be maximized is yet another aspect of each individual image.

I find it interesting that if one were to listen to the music I create they likely would not have a clue as to who my musical influences are. I personally have no idea where the music I create comes from. One of the reasons that photography appeals to me is that I have a very good idea of what I would like to convey, but making that happen can be a real challenge at times. Listening to the music of others, I simply enjoy myself. Some of that might sink in, but you'd never know it by listening to me. Looking at images made by other photographers is completely different. I don't want to copy what anyone else is doing, but I sure do get some great ideas by immersing myself in their work and I have an easier time when trying to apply that to the images I create.
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