Is color a distraction? You be the judge.

Color photography, after over 50 years of being readily available to professionals and amateurs, seems to continue being relegated to a second class status in the art world.  Only Black and White images showing a wide tonal range portraying a static landscape or abstract people scenes and printed with some esoteric media on dried buffalo hides makes the cut for serious consideration as art.  Yeah, that’s probably an overblown and gross generalization but all you have to do is look through museums and “serious” galleries to see the paucity of color photographic images.  Which is ironic, odd and shortsighted all at the same time – how many of the painting masters through the ages chose to render their vision of reality in inks of black, white, and a blend of the two?  I’m only marginally cultivated but pretty sure the numbers of paintings in B&W I’ve seen can be counted on one hand.

The serious photographers say that color gets in the way of the presentation of reality as they interpret it, that only by stripping color out of the equation can they present the gradations of the world as a tool to focus attention to specific elements in the photograph and enhance the viewers appreciation of the image.  Really?  Could it also be because traditional B&W film could be processed with only three steps, two of which used common household ingredients whereas color film requires much more in the way of processing chemicals, steps, and attention to time & temperature?  Is our infatuation with photographic art in the B&W mode simply because it was the most cost effective way for those famous photographers to work?  Or the easiest manner to get their images developed so they could adjust the next roll’s exposure and development?

Is art just a matter of convenience?  I certainly hope not.  Think of all the time and effort put into great paintings of the ages, finding the right pigments and blending them to get just the desired result, and then applying them precisely where desired and building each small detail into a finished materpiece.  Couldn’t the same attention and effort be applied to mastering color photography to deliver the same quality as expected with B&W?

For your consideration, the following.

Sunset over Wierspahn

Sunset over Wierspahn - with color


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