My teacher John Diamond, M.D., whose photography assistant I have been for the last five years, recently re-examind why black & white photography has more therapeutic potential than color photography. For him, color photography whilst beautiful and instantly appealing, stays on the surface, whereas black & white photography goes beyond the superficial to a deeper truth, and allows you see the spirit which animates the subject whether it is a person, tree, or so-called inanimate object.
It reminds me that for the first couple months of all our lives, our vision, and perception of the world, is not colorful, but a dynamic relationship between light and dark, white and black. When I work with black & white photographs in Aperture (yes, we are still ardent supporters of Aperture!) I become much more aware of patterns, and shapes and how they relate to one another, rather than just seeing "the subject".
See below, for example, the colors of the reeds immediately capture your attention, yet they remain reeds, recognizable and instantly labelled, our "viewing work" done for us, so we move onto another photograph. I also notice that my eye is pulled toward the focal point in the middle of the photograph, and the outer parts of the image remain less important. Now look at the black and white version below it - my eyes are drawn into the whole photograph, instead of just the focal point. It feels to me like a more expansive way of seeing, and instead of my eyes feeling locked on one point, I feel that they are free to move. I become much more aware, not of the reeds, but of the lines and shapes and how they relate to each other.
I am also reminded of William Blake, the English poet, painter, and printmaker, when he said, "To see a World in a Grain of Sand..." Wouldn't it be wonderful if black & white photography could help us to see, and feel, this - how different our attitude to the world might be!
I took these photographs, with Dr. Diamond's research in my mind, trying not to let the color 'distract' me whilst photographing, which was actually quite easy because it was very dark, and I could hardly see what I was doing, as I only had the internal flash with me!