I am at heart a black and white photographer. Mostly, I see in shades of gray. I believe this is largely the result of being so overly sensory sensitive, where too much visual stimulation can overwhelm me. But really, I just prefer it. Things were simple when I shot black and white film, and the clients who booked with me expected only that. Occasionally they’d ask if I’d shoot a roll of color, and while I’d accommodate the request I’d secretly hope that nothing meaningful would happen in those 36 frames that might be “wasted” on color.
I initially planned to remain a black and white photographer when making the switch to digital, but since this coincided with an economy quickly heading towards recession, I didn’t feel I could afford to alienate any potential clients wanting color as well as black and white. I also knew from experience that grandparents for the most part prefer color. So I slowly began to include a few color images in the proof selections.
I recently received an order of only color portraits. Not a single black and white image was purchased. I was so taken aback by this that I had to double check with the client to be sure they hadn’t made some sort of mistake. They hadn’t, they simply couldn’t resist the vibrant color images.
While I was grateful for the good sale, for days I was undeniably bothered, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this was affecting me so deeply. But as I was preparing the order for the lab and revisiting the images again it hit me. I finally was able to identify the troublesome feeling…..I’ve had the bad taste of this in my mouth before and know what’s it called: rejection. No matter that the sale was large, that it didn’t include a single black and white stung like rejection.
I have a strange tendency to view color images as the over-confident loud mouth variety, screaming “pick me, pick me”. All flashy and full of themselves, they’re the ones who get noticed when entering a room. And while I can’t deny their technicolor appeal, and sometimes am magnetically pulled into their charismatic field, as I get closer I often find them to be more style than substance.
And then there are the black and white images, quietly skulking in the back of the room, nervously glancing at the tops of their shoes to avoid eye contact. Their diminutive stature often causes them to be overlooked. They don’t demand attention, they don’t raise their voice to be included. But still, there is the ever-present desire to be somehow seen and accepted. Come closer and you’ll discover that beneath the monochrome exterior is a beating feeling heart, and a mind forever contemplating the subtle nuances of life.