Black and white images are special. When you strip away the colour from something, you can get right to its soul. It doesn't matter whether it's a portrait, a landscape, a street scene or anything else, when it's reduced to textures, tones and lines, you see it in a different way.
It's a sad truth that in the age of easy Instagram filters some people feel that converting an image to black and white is enough to make it "arty" and "cool". The best black and white images are carefully crafted; they aren't just desaturated versions of normal colour images. Creating a powerful black and white image is a skill unto itself!
In this article I've gathered 100 awesome black and white
images. There are portraits, landscapes, street scenes and everything
in between in the mix. The one thing they have in common is that they
are all monochrome images. Around half of them were taken before 1950 by
masters of the craft like Ansel Adams. The other half are more modern
images, the majority taken with digital cameras.
Things to Consider
Rather than just scrolling through this collection going, "Oh, that's cool!", when you see an image you like, you should spend an hour slowly browsing through all the images considering them carefully. You should look at each image as an individual work of art but also consider how it relates to the other images in the collection. You might want to think about things like:
- How has a particular style of photography (for example, portraiture) changed in the past 100 years? Take a photo from two photographers, maybe one from Ansel Adams and another from Rod Waddington; what are the similarities and differences between them?
- Take your favourite image from the collection. Why do you think the photographer converted it to black and white? Was it driven by the film stock available such as in the case of the news images or was it a deliberate choice?
- As you look through, consider what would each image look like in colour? Would it be stronger or weaker? Why?
- Some photographers have multiple images in the collection while others have only one. Without looking at the captions can you identify which photos come from the same photographers? What is it that gives it away? How are they creating a style even without colour?
- What emotion does each image you feel? Is the black and white heightening that emotion or reducing it? Would you feel a different emotion if it was in colour?
There are plenty more things to consider with each image. Don't feel my list of ideas is exhaustive. Use it as a jumping off point. The only important thing is that you actively think as you view each image.
100 images is a huge number. If you've made it to this point, you're probably slightly overwhelmed by what you've just viewed. Hopefully, you're also inspired. It's a fairly eclectic mix of images so whatever style of photography you prefer there should have been something for you.
Black and white photography is a wonderful area of photography to explore. Rather than dying out with the rise of colour film, it's an even more vibrant and interesting area of the art form than ever before. We'd love to see the black and white shots you're most proud of. Please post them in the comments below.
I hope you've enjoyed browsing through our collection of images. Leave a link in the comments below to your own black and white shots, and feel free to tell us which of the photos above is your favourite!
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