Traveling through time: appreciating black & white photography

The Atlantic Magazine published a photo piece earlier this week entitled: “50 Years Ago: The World in 1962”. It’s a collection of mostly black and white photos taken in 1962, that captures the essence of life in that long gone era.

Having been a child of the sixties, I was curious, and so spent a few minutes traveling back in time. Several things struck me as I did so.

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One was the amount of turmoil the world was in. We sometimes think of the past in terms of “the good old days”, but this period in our history was overly burdened with racial, political and global challenges of significant proportion.

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In many respects it was a simpler time, as evidenced by this early “portable computer”. This engineer predicted that housewives would be using handheld devices to assist with their shopping in a decade. He was off by a few years.

But I was also reminded of the power and the beauty of black and white photography.

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A lot has been written about why black and white photos are so effective. A few thoughts of my own:

Before the advent of color film, all photography (and movies) were black and white, so I think there’s a nostalgic appeal, which might be one reason that B&W images posses a timeless quality.

Black and white photos have a simplicity to them. Without the distraction of a busy color palette competing for the attention of our eyes and brain, we see shapes and lines, expressions and emotions more easily. We can really feel a black and white photo.

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And the light; after all, it’s all about the light.

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Black, white and all the shades of gray in between allow the light to play off surfaces and highlights delicately.

All of the images in this post are from the Atlantic Magazine article, which I recommend is worth a few minutes of your time.

For some more thoughts and a few of my own black and whites, please check out this earlier 2 Guys post: “Seeing in black and white”.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on shooting in B&W, and what makes them interesting to you (or not). If you’d like to share your best black and whites, email them to us at 2guysphoto@gmail.com and we’ll post some of them here.

Thanks for visiting 2 Guys Photo.

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About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Images, Inspiration and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Traveling through time: appreciating black & white photography

  1. Frank Villafane says:

    I also grew up in the sixties (born 1956). Yes, I agree with you…B&W images have a timeless quality that force the viewer to see the textures…lines & perspective…patterns and composition. All of this trumps the oh-so-typical color images of today.
    Maybe it was the primitive quality (by today’s standards) of yesterday’s cameras that forced the photographer to employ real photographic/artistic principles that are STILL relevant today – as opposed to the “point ‘n shoot, instant, throw-away” mentality that permeates our present post-whatever world. I don’t know…but I hope whatever “it” is that makes B&W relevant and appealing will continue. At the very least, THIS is one photographer who will continue to shoot in B&W.

  2. Ed Spadoni says:

    Well said Frank. I think you’re right about the “throw away mentality” today. Everyone has a camera now, in one form or another, and there is no cost differential whether you take 1 or 1,000 photos. Hence, photos are a commodity. On the plus side, virtually everything is documented, and on the downside, virtually everything is documented, and not very well. So it falls to those of us who are interested in the actual image to do it right. Thanks Frank.

  3. Rodney says:

    I LOVE black and white. Don’t know why I don’t shoot it more often, especially since I am technically color blind :0). I think I will spend this summer shooting mostly black and white. Thanks Ed and Rey for coming back

  4. johnjroberts says:

    I’m very glad to see that you guys are back.

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