Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Black and White (and Neon Lights)

15 December 2014


1. Neon Lights, UD Campus; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Neon Lights, UD Campus; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Neon Lights, UD Campus; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Neon Lights, UD Campus; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why. Click on an image to enlarge.


Black-and-white photography is a time-honored visual art form. It’s humble beginnings are well documented and its history recorded. Along with art critics (amateur and professional), there are many ways to learn about this medium. In our global mobile society we can spend an inordinate amount of our days and nights searching for examples of the best, of the traditional, of the modern, of the innovative, of the abstract, of the real, of the surreal.

Recently, I was contemplating entering the Monochrome Awards (due date yesterday; click here). In my procrastination I realized how helpful it is to peruse these kinds of sites to view the winners: the photographs that catch and hold a judge’s eye.

One of the early photo contests was sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company. The company promoted the picture-perfect snapshot. As host to camera clubs, contests, and salons, they encouraged the public and their employees to take a “Kodak moment.”

The company’s first national photo contest was held in 1929. Since it was the start of the Great Depression, Kodak created a marketing campaign that sought to encourage sales of cameras and film to amateurs. The contest had a grand prize worth $2,500.The first-place winner from the company’s first-ever photo contest was L.L. Martin and his work titled “Toddler.”

Toddler, L.L. Martin, Kodak's First Photo Contest, 1929

Toddler, L.L. Martin, Kodak’s First Photo Contest, 1929

These early black-and-white photographs take us back to the ambience and lifestyle of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and long before color photography became affordable and the rage. But those Kodak moments also inspire us to search each image for its universal meaning.

Those annual photo contests became platforms that inspired photographic moments, and the two words that became a familiar everyday phrase. They also encouraged scores of people to purchase, for example, a Brownie camera and take that first shot.

For additional information read The New York Times’ online column, Lens, where you can view the article, “An Amateur Snapshot of Kodak’s Early Days.” Click here to see more prize-winning photographs.

Tip of the Week: This weekly tip is the first in a series about women who are known or not-so-well-known as master photographers. Tina Modotti’s (1896-1942, Italian-born, immigrated to United States as a child) strengths were her ability to weave a powerful narrative into every frame. Regardless of her subject (e.g., interior and exterior architecture, flowers, Mexican leftist revolution, street photography, and the Mexican people) her monochromatic images give the viewer much to contemplate. She produced most of her artwork between 1923-1932. Then political activism became her life’s work, replacing photography. Read a full biography at The Library of Congress’ website (click here) and a website devoted to her life and work(click here.)

Modotti’s fame is relatively new, only over the last twenty-five years. Her photographic oeuvre usually was in the shadows of her mentor, American photographer Edward Weston. In the 1990s a substantial collection of her prints were discovered in Oregon, which provided the opportunity for art historians and critics to reassess her body of work. Then Modotti’s renown was secured.

Woman with Flag, Mexico, 1928, Tina Modotti

Woman with Flag, Mexico, 1928, Tina Modotti

View other entries for this week’s challenge:


As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.

If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature.

2nd Monday: Macro.

3rd Monday: Black and White.

4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.


This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Design, Mobile Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Black and White (and Neon Lights)

  1. I prefer the first because of the leading lines but both are beautiful.

  2. elisa ruland says:

    The first one draws you in, but both lovely.

  3. Jane Lurie says:

    Interesting post, thank you Sally. I like both images– I prefer the first one for it simplicity and how it leads my eye.

  4. This time I prefer the first one of the pair, simply because I think it’s stronger graphically. I wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas holiday.

  5. Su Leslie says:

    Great photos: I love the way subtle changes of composition alter the whole mood of the image. Here’s my contribution:

  6. ulli says:

    Both are great, but I prefer the first one. It’s more calm.

  7. Maria F. says:

    I like them both, and thanks for introducing Tina Modotti, Sally, I didn’t know about her.

  8. You have the black and white artistry down to a fine art my friend. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  9. DG MARYOGA says:

    Both are great,but I loved the first one more for its fabulous perspective all the way through and its incredible vanishing point ! Also,so interesting your references to the mono photography!

  10. Amy says:

    These two photos are remarkable. the arch lighting is beautifully capture. I like the first one.
    Here is my entry:

  11. I choose the first one this week, Sally. I like your point of view and the tunnel effect of light and shadow leading my eye back to the windows. Also, the L.L. Martin photo is absolutely wonderful, thanks for sharing this piece of history. 🙂

  12. Both are great, Sally. I like the straight shot drawing you in in the first one but I like the illumination of the second one. Have a great week! 🙂

  13. I like the lighting on #2 best. it’s still monochrome but the illumination is awesome

  14. They are both great photos but I like the second one best as the people give some perspective to the height of the ceilings. Interesting info about the history of photography. 😀

  15. cindy knoke says:

    The second I think, there is more light~

  16. pattimoed says:

    Wow! Your b/w shots are great! Best of luck in the contest. I especially like the second one with the silhouettes. They really anchor the piece and are intriguing. Thanks for the information too on the b/w contest. That looks like a great site. Tina Medoti’s work looks inspirational as well. Happy Monday!–Patti

  17. Nato says:

    I think I prefer the first photo. The focus is on the lights and the hall. The second makes me notice the people more (which is not a bad thing-just a preference thing). I haven’t uploaded my pic for this week, but maybe later when I get to my laptop. This weekend just slipped by me!

  18. Gracie says:

    Very nice, Sally. I also like the first one better, and I think it’s because it reminds me of the end of a busy day, with the figures walking towards the door.

  19. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Hi, Sally. I like your second photo the most. The way it trails off down and to the side makes for a nice composition.

    Here is my entry for the week:

  20. I like both images today they work together almost a before and after sequence.
    I have been searching photo contest for examples for my class.Thanks for the new one. The iPhone Photography contest is inspirational…Makes me think…I can do that!
    Do you enter contests?
    Happy Black and White Monday!

    • Carol, I agree that the gallery of images that are displayed with the results of a contest are inspiring. I have not plunged into the world of contests. It’s an area of the medium that I’d like to pursue. See you soon. Thanks.

  21. Angeline M says:

    I also love that first one, I think for its depth of field with that archway of neon overhead and full window seen at the end of the hallway; my eyes are filled as they move along the path.
    I just discovered Tina Modotti at an exhibit I went to at the Nevada Museum of Art last year (I’m taking so long to discover great photographers); but she was part of the Frida Kahlo exhibit of Kahlo’s photography. It was an incredible display of black and white photos by Kahlo, Modotti, Weston, and Kahlo’s father, a photographer. If this should ever come to a gallery near you, don’t miss it.

  22. The first one is what holds my attention too-it may be in part people are more a part of the background, allowing one to take in the symmetry of the arches, the letters and the architectural details-and while I always enjoy your thoughtful essays, this one really resonated with me today–maybe because I am trying to do more b/w in my own work-Thank you!

  23. Sally, something about the first one appeals to me. I’m not sure if it’s the emptiness with the long corridor or the inclusion of the sign on the right, but as I go back and forth between the two, it’s the one that seems to catch my eye the most.

    These last few days, in Philly, on the way back, and now at home, are filled with natural black and white (and greys!), making me realize that although I like B&W photos, I love living in a world filled with color!

    Have a wonderful week.


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