Must it be in Black and White?

I can’t seem to get off the ‘Street Photography’ wagon right now that I’m still sitting at home, nursing my slowly healing foot… no way to get out and about with a camera.

160331 - Fuji Superia 200 - Lomo LC-A+ - 36
Lomo LC-A on Fuji Superia 200

Anyways, it’s raining cats. dogs and other strange things so I’m not too tempted today.

But while I wrote Saturday’s post, a question cropped up in my mind:

Does Street Photography have to be in black and white?

Somewhat in the same vein as asking if Street Photography must picture humans. In the former post I convinced myself that no, the human being is not essential. It’s rather about human interference in our surroundings.

170722 - Canon AE-1 - Fuji Superia 200 (16)
Olympus XA2 on Fuji Superia 200

So I’d like to make the point immediately that I do not thing is has to be in black and white. It’s just o case of preference (or tight money as b&w is much cheaper to develop…).

I love black and white, I ove the way it renders the world in stark contrast, light and shadow fighting for dominance. It suits a lot of vues perfectly. But it’s not a prerequisite. Sometimes cooler makes a photo, makes it stand out and shine.

160331 - Fuji Superia 200 - Lomo LC-A+ - 17-2
Lomo LC-A on Fuji Superia 200

Anyways, a lot of street photographers use color too! Let’s look at the wonderful color work of Sean Lotman or the great, often funny work of Matt Stuart.

I think our preconception comes from the olden times of Henry Cartier Bresson, Brassai or others who, in a  way could not shoot color. Either color film was not freely available or simply not sensitive enough to be used in the streets.

170901 - Olympus XA2 -Fuji Superia 200 (29)
Olympus XA2 on Fuji Superia 200

So black and white street photography was born to of necessity, partly. But things evolve. We have fast film, we have freely available color film, we even have those digital cameras that don’t gibe a damn if it’s color or black and white you want – though I find that a bit easy.

160331 - Fuji Superia 200 - Lomo LC-A+ - 24
Lomo LC-A on Fuji Superia 200

Some photos simply live from colour. Others don’t. And some days I see colours, some days I don’t see them. Really, I look at a scene and I imagine it in tones of gray, in shades of light.

But this should not hinder us from applying colour where it’s suited.

160331 - Fuji Superia 200 - Lomo LC-A+ - 29
Lomo LC-A on Fuji Superia 200

It can be refreshing to see the world in colour sometimes, get you a new perspective. But I found that I do have to be in the mood for colour. Simply loading a roll of Superia and going out does not work. I have to know beforehand that my mind is in colour mode. Then It can work!

170901 - Olympus XA2 -Fuji Superia 200 (28)
Olympus XA2 on Fuji Superia 200

Not always, but the chances are there. As I said there are gray days, lots of them and there are the occasional colour flashes among them. That’s why I always carry a roll or two of colour film. Who knows when they can come in handy!

A thing I try to never do though is converting a colour negative to black and white!

160331 - Fuji Superia 200 - Lomo LC-A+ - 18-2
Lomo LC-A on Fuji Superia 200

Well… mostly, as the above photo for example exists in a black and white conversion too. Guilty! But I really try hard 😉

170901 - Olympus XA2 -Fuji Superia 200 (30)
Olympus XA2 on Fuji Superia 200

OK so is this Street Photography too, is color a valid medium? What do you think? Let me know what colours you fly!

10 thoughts on “Must it be in Black and White?

Add yours

  1. Gudde Moien Här Lehnen,

    Ob Street-Photography s/w oder farweg soll sin muss jiddereen fir sech selwer entscheeden, ech perséinlech hu se léiwer am s/w. An eiser “knallbunter” Welt vun haut gin ech op enger farweger Foto zevill vun de Farwen ugezunn, a si stéieren mech beim “Liesen” vun enger Foto.(Bildopbau,Liicht a Schiet, Kontrasten, Perspektive, Déift am Bild asuweider).

    Wann d’Faarwe fehlen, gesin ech eng Foto méi kloer a méi “intensiv”…

    Wat awer nit verhënnert dass ech selwer och farweg Fotoe maachen, a wann d’Situatioun sech bidd ass och mol eng faarweg Streetphoto derbäi well ech grad e Farwfilm an der Kamera hun ;-).

    Bescht Gréiss,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, great point! I have to also admit being partial to b&w street shots, but there’s something to be said for color street shots!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If there is interesting colour in the scene and it aids the composition and you’ve got colour film in your camera or shooting digital, then colour. Everything otherwise just looks better in black and white. Why that should be so deserves longer deliberation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Both are valid depending on the subject. For example I don’t think a street carnival or technicolor light display would work in black and white. But for a more “gritty” reportage type impression black and white excels. Black and white is line, shape. contrast, textures and can yield excellent results, as your blog testifies. Colour also works as shown also on this blog. I mostly shoot colour as I struggle to see in black and white sometimes. I must work on this as I am almost always drawn to good black and white shots.
    Glad to hear you’re on the mend and congratulations for keeping up the blog despite obvious limitations at present.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No, it depends. I use both and would miss colour. That said, I have never considered that just black and white is the only appropriate medium for street photography. Our world is in colour yet sometimes pictures work nevertheless better in black and white. If I am out and about with a digital camera, I decide afterwards at home on what the result is going to be in on a photo by photo basis.

    If I am working with film, I make my pictures accordingly, i.e. I look for appropriate motifs best suited to the type of film being used.

    Liked by 1 person

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