top of page

B&W to colour

one of my favourite photo books is Vietnam, by Larry Burrows.

So many things to say about this book - and this photographer; much better just to see the pictures for yourself.

I will say one thing though: Burrows, quite unusually, photographed both in B&W and in colour, and more importantly was a master at chosing between the two.

Seems rather odd, but as I look at my fairly large collection of photo books, there aren't very many (at least not many by a single photographer) featuring both B&W and colour. And not too many photographers equally prolific or talented in both.

Cartier-Bresson did some colour, but that was essentially commercial work, and not what he's known for; a book recently came out of Burri's colour photos (Impossible Reminicences), and of Depardon's (Un moment si doux) - but both were marketed precisely as something unusual.

The point is, you don't photograph the same stuff, or in the same way, in B&W and in colour. Appreciating this is a mark of a certain depth of understanding as a photographer - appreciating this and shooting both B&W and colour with power and incisiveness like Burrows is the mark of huge talent.

When I started off as a real photo "enthusiast" some years ago, I first did mostly, then only B&W. No doubt this helps to work on your skills at composing a photo, since you can't simply hide a dull photo behind great colours.

I now enjoy doing colour, and sometimes have this feeling of a great chasm opening up in front of me, with colour an added level of great complexity waiting to be mastered. I'm in awe of master colourists such as Harry Gruyaert and Saul Leiter.

There's in fact a special feature on colours in the last issue of Réponses Photo, mostly illustrating this great big, fascinating universe to explore - that is until I got near the end of the feature, with a so-called chomatic circle suggesting which colours are most contrasted with one-another. Apparently, this is the case, among other combinations, of red and green, which I often find very hard to tell apart on account of my colour-blindness...

haven't quite decided yet whether I'll keep mostly with B&W, or bravely forge ahead into colour, perhaps creating my very own style of colour-blind colour photography, with wild, zany colour associations.

have your vote !

Recent Posts
bottom of page