in black & white
“The [gap] between photographs is filled by the beholder, first of all from himself, then from what he can read in the implications of design, the suggestions springing from treatment, and any symbolism that might grow from within the work itself.”
- Minor White, Fourth Sequence (1950)
As explained elsewhere on this site, one way to reawaken the viewer's fresh engagement with kinds of beauty that he or she has experienced many times before is to consciously alter certain aspects of the image's presentation in ways that prompt the mind to stop for an instant and ponder what makes the beauty in this image striking, unexpected, or somehow alien to its subject matter. When effectively executed, artistic alterations of this sort lead to alienated beauty.
The possible modes of beauty alienation are innumerable, but two in particular dominated photographic art during the medium's first 150 years: first, the printing of images in monotone - chiefly black-and-white; and second, the careful sequencing of prints, which can redirect meanings and suggest new narratives within and among images.
Monochromatic handling and the sequencing of images are the two principle modes of alienation at play in these three galleries. Many fine art photographers have insisted, as Walker Evans did during his early years, that natural colour is vulgar, whereas B/W is aesthetically superior. Robert Frank famously declared that the authentic colors of photography are black and white, a clever polemic but he had the facts backwards. Such classicists might be surprised to realize that, when they choose to work in monochrome, they are deploying one of the camera's most shopworn, unnatural, and predictably conventional modes of beauty alienation. As Mary Warner Marien noted in a survey of 100 Ideas That Changed Photography, "Today it is difficult to imagine the extent to which people engaged black-and-white media, and thought of them as both modern and realistic."
To make sense of them, B/W subjects generally take a bit more attention and effort for the mind to interpret, which can draw the eye in and make such images seem more engaging. Rendering in shades of grey is an abstracting device, and serves to place the subject at a certain alien, objectified distance from the viewer. At the same time, monochrome tends to set a somber tone, and can help to telegraph that this image is intended for delectation as "fine art," rather than as something less elevated. In my work, I turn to black-and-white toning, much as anyone else would, when I want to draw attention to how light molds form, and when I want to add drama, a certain gravitas, and presentational continuity or consistency within photo sets.
The galleries here gather images around three broad themes, one of these being meditative (souls) and the others (geometries, rhythms) being celebrations of pattern and movement through the kaleidoscopic advance of visual motifs.
You will find further discussion of my methods in ideas.