20 January 2014
Let me know which is your favorite in Part I and II.
When I was contemplating the images to display for this challenge, the notion of black and white as individual colors surfaced. The twinkling of an idea reappeared from the past, taking images that are mostly black or white.
I also wanted to touch on the banter that circles around each as color or non-color. There is the argument that both are the absence of color. There is also much discussion about black as the combination of the primary colors and white as the absence of coloration.
When the primaries (blue, red and yellow) are mixed the result is close to black, but is not a black black. White is seen when the spectrum of colors are reflected off a surface, and none remain.
I’ve always thought that if we cannot perceive color, then how can we see white. How do we see nothing? Is one positive and the other negative space? Is one the more dramatic and the other more pure? And when we see the dark of night, are we seeing or not seeing. Well, it’s all about light that miracle of all miracles, and the heroine that helps sustains life.
Science explains it this way: A surface which contains all colors will be seen as black, because the viewer perceives that no colors are being reflected. Whereas to realize white, the observer sees all colors reflected. This explanation is the path to: black is color and white is not.
Most of us do not contemplate this approach to color as we live among it each and every moment of our awakening and sleeping. We simple “assume” that color just is.
Technically, the creation of color pigments is a whole other area. The print industry, for example, uses four colors (CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to make its products. The primaries need help.
While in the digital darkroom I decided to experiment with some images that the human eye sees as mostly black or white. In each image we would not see anything without the other pigment to create a subject.
In the Lens section are two images that I transformed into an additional six. My purpose was to see variations on the theme. To see where the light and dark areas were arranged and rearranged. Image four is blurred to lessen the effects of the branches, seemingly bridging the two areas that define the subject. The last image reverses the colors, and renders the stairwell mostly white.
Light is a companion and key to define our color-coded existence. Variations are inherent. White is white or not. Black is black or not.
What I find most astonishing is that we have for so long been able to reproduce and manipulate colors. Now twenty-first century technology offers me the capability to produce images relatively quickly in comparison to darkroom techniques or handmade drawings or easel-based paintings. I continue to be awed by what can be accomplished at my iMac or iPhone.
Mostly, color’s velocity of inspiration pushes us to create a techicolored world that also engages monochromatic wonders. The black of black and the white of white are sparkling examples of what makes our universe masterful.
Inherently, we become barely aware of our usual surroundings. Especially in our visually-laden environment colors brushing against our external world can easily go unnoticed. Those of us who are responsive to our visual spaces are more attuned to the color chart of our lives. Still we also can be neglectful.
The camera is a perfect human invention to help us seize and steady what we see. It helps us move back and forth between the palette of monochrome and pigment. It certainly makes us constantly vigilant.
We can fill our cups with the signature of the visual in all of its contrasts, shades and tones. That mix can be serendipitous, or it can be planned.
Regardless, I am continually amazed by the near precision of the human animal to accomplish certain feats. Our ability to mimic and reproduce nature’s performance in color or monochrome is one of our greatest triumphs.
View other entries to the challenge here:
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.
If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Phoneography Challenge, please contact me.
Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature
2nd Monday: Macro
3rd Monday: Black and White
4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
You create magic with your iPhone. Extraordinary. I think the first set of photos is my favorite.
I do appreciate your kind words. Thanks.
Stunning and beautiful. Makes one very curious of what’s the story behind each picture. Love it!
Thank you so much.
Hi Sally. I really enjoyed your very thought-provoking post – and the photos. Have to say, my favourite is the first for the sheer simplicity and purity of the image. I guess I haven’t engaged with the debate in my post – it’s more a meditation on our lack of summer here!
I appreciate your response. See you soon.
What fun little games you play with the camera!! Thank you!!
Mari, thanks so much.
Each of the sets and each individual picture has its merits, telling more about the subject in a different way. The discussion about black/white or colour is really a human discussion. Most animals do not see colours I have been told once (not really sure if that is true but for the sake of the argument I put it down like that). So, humans have a luxury issue at hand; I am always drown to black and white since I started taking and printing my own pictures. Being limited in the dark room in the past, the digital dark room offers an enormous possibility of being creative. Even with scans of negatives I did never print, because they were too cumbersome or impossible to handle in the dark room. But the love for atmosphere, story telling, abstraction works for me better in a black and white photo. Mainly because it is a way of looking we are not used to in our daily life. But not going into the area of image manipulation and over photoshopping. Does this make sense?
P.S. I love the idea of white being the source of all possible colours. Scientific or not lol.
It’s a hard concept to accept, but I like the idea of the purity of it. Thanks.
Why is it that hard if you see it as a pure source indeed out of which all colours can derive?
Rationally, it seems counterintuitive.
Yes, indeed. Yesterday I had a discussion with Meghan at Firebonnet.com about the digital darkroom. I told her that I bought Photoshop a few years ago, and have never used it. I tend to do the simplest of editing and processing. I also am enamored with the possibilities of black-and-white photography, and how it stretches our perception and vision of our universe. I appreciate your response to the post. Thanks.
Your topic, black and white, and the abstract nature of your photographs in this post, reminded me of the many black and white optical illusions that people have found or created, some of which can be seen at:
Steve, reminds me of Escher’s work too.
Yes, a great illusionist. I couldn’t remember how far into our lives Escher lived, but from an online biography at
I found out that he died in 1972. Even so, I’m not sure I knew any of his work until after he was already dead.
His influence continues to span the decades.
These are nice sets to think about. I prefer the first picture in each set. This is probably because the subjects for both sets seem very angular and simple in their lines and (partly) in their colour borders. To me this makes the stronger clear cut versions of the pictures more appropriate. On the other hand maybe all that really amounts to is that I just like photographs that are strong and clear cut 🙂
As usual you weave a thoughtful response. Thanks.
I like the first picture black on white, rather than the second or third. More natural somehow. Great post again this week, Sally. Here is mine:
I enjoyed your beach scene. Our day has a forecast for almost a foot and a half of snow. Would love to be walking your beaches now. See you soon. Thanks.
It sounds like a harsh winter. Take comfort in the fact that it is too hot to walk on the beach until early evening.
Strangely, I’d be happy to arise and enjoy the beach in wee hours of the cool morning air.
As usual, I enjoyed your thought process, Sally. I liked the second shot from part I, and the first in part II….just going from gut reaction, I think. All of them are wonderful!
Elisa, I enjoy your responses. Thanks.
Number 3 turns branches into lightning! How thrilling. I love the whimsy of the shoe on the stair way becoming a totally abstract piece of art work. I like # 6 for its line drawing like texture.
Through the use of filters unseen clouds revealed themselves to me today http://piecesofstarlight.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/phoneoghaphy-black-and-white-cloud-capture/
Carol, I enjoyed your interpretation. Thanks.
I like the first versions of both. What’s amazing is how the camera becomes and behaves like a graphic art instrument. This is what’s so amazing and what’s so difficult to accept, at least in the traditional sense of photography. Some people still struggle with the fact that photography is a graphic art; what do you think?
Most assuredly, it depends on the definition of graphic arts. Traditionally, it meant the printed arts. Those images engraved, and then produced in 2-D format (a quick definition). But if one were to stretch its meaning, photography certainly fits. thanks so much for your comment and visit.
The “engraving” part would be the light and the placement of the camera; yet traditionally “engraving” is done by hand; do you think they should be separated in definition?
Certainly, with the invention of digital technology photographic arts are evolving. Still, the distinctions seems clear. A photograph is taken with a camera. While we may apply different digital darkroom techniques, the lens is the creator, so to speak. While in graphic arts different media are used to create it. That does not mean that graphic quality are separate, they are inherent in photographs.
Thanks for your opinion, it’s probably best to keep them apart. Yet, I still feel I’m dealing with lines and forms even when it’s done through the lens.
You’re very welcome.
Beautiful pics! I can’t select just one.
I appreciate the comment and the visit. Thanks.
Wow, I love the discussion of black and white vs color and how our eyes perceive them! Really well written! My favorites are 4 and 8. I love the dominant whiteness in each! Most of what I photograph is either correctly or underexposed, but I love the white radiance in these. Great work! 🙂
Polly, that’s very kind. Thanks.
Sally — I like the clarity and simplicity of frame #1 of Part I, and the neon white outline effect on frame #3 of Part II. Great job on the B&W theme. Here’s my take on this week’s phone lens caper: http://thepalladiantraveler.com/2014/01/20/travel-italy-trentino-alto-adige-ski-the-dolomites-phoneography-challenge-black-and-white/
Tom, thanks so much.
Great post today Sally, I really like the discussion about color. I’m always drawn to bright, vibrant colors but surprisingly find black and white images to be more relaxing. Now I’m wondering if that is because of the contrasts between all colors and the absence of color…Your first branch image is my favorite today. 🙂
I appreciate your thoughtful response. see you soon. Thanks.
The branches had a spooky and menacing quality that I don’t think they would have had in color. Very interesting, as always!
Thanks so much for your comment.
Excellent post Sally. My favorite is the first image. I love the minimalist quality of it. Beautifully done.
Edith, I really appreciate your response. Thanks.
i love the different sets. it makes me realize that there so much to experiment in black & white. And no doubt B & W photography is an interesting area provided you get a right subject & some good skills.
Amar, I agree. When you study the master of early photography, you understand the range of possibilities. With the Smartphones we can have a digital darkroom handily available. Thanks.
I like the original of the branches shot, but the final of the stairwell shot. I enjoy the color reverse. It’s interesting to have a conversation about color from the perspective of black and white.
“I’ve always thought that if we cannot perceive color, then how can we see white. How do we see nothing?” I’m going to be pondering that all day!
Meghan, let me know your thoughts on the quote that you selected from my short essay. Thanks so much.
Steve, that’s very kind. Thanks so much.
I particularly like the first photo, the stark black branches against the white backdrop seems classically elegant to me. The shoes look like x-rays (there’s that nurse in me). Great thoughts on color or lack there of. It had me scratching my head for so early in the morning, which is what my photo entry looks like
Angeline, I was just talking with a friend about how they used to x-ray feet. See you soon. Thanks.
This B/W post is absolutely inspiring, Sally! I agree… camera is a great invention; the interface of the computer makes it even more powerful.
Amy, your response is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
We are so fortunate in this world to have a camera in our hands…just imagine how dull the world would be without it?
Laurie, absolutely, and how it opens us to see in old and new ways. Thanks.
First I want to say I appreciate the time you take not only with your photos, but with your thoughts and teaching. I’m going to take time when I get back to the land of all-day internet to re-read your post and try some new techniques. As I said once before, I also appreciate that you get your post out promptly in the morning, a boon for morning people and those of us who usually post automatically during the wee hours of the day.
In the first set, I like the first photo best. In the second set, I like the original and the first edit. That’s not to say I don’t like the others in either set, but these are my favorites. Why is much less easy to define. 🙂
Janet, I do appreciate your response. Your comments touch me deeply. Thanks.
These are all superb images Sally-but I must confess that I am most drawn to the very top one of the branches as well as the last one of the branches-Your exercise is a wonderful reminder that b/w is not always the absence of color per se, nor a boring recording of life, but it can be a wonderful celebration of light and dark, shape and form-
I’m humbled by your response. Thank you so much.
Interesting set of images that illustrates your text when one compares them to one another. I can’t help but wonder what the original looked like though, particularly for the 2nd set. 🙂
On the second set the first is the original. Thanks.
I really like the originals of both examples. As for the edited, I prefer the second of the dried branches. To me it was almost like a night and day shot. As for the stairwell, the second photo made me think of a printed fabric remnant for some reason even though it was like an ink sketch. I, too, was one who was taught (and it stuck) that black is all colors combined and white is the complete absence of color. I appreciate the scientific explanation! I guess I never thought about it enough to research it myself. 🙂
Linda, most of us seem to take color for granted. We just know its there, being made possible by natural and artificial light. See you soon.Thanks so much.