Is black and white photography timeless?

Quite fascinatingly, when people look at my photos, they often seem to be more drawn to the ones that are black and white. Which made me wonder: “Why is that?”

Is it nostalgia? Memories of the good old times? Which by the way were not that good. Back when photos were black and white, the US went through the civil war and the rest of the world soon after experienced the horrors of World Ware I and II. So much about the good old times.

Is it cool, because it’s different? Maybe. But actually I think, we are drawn to it, because they are so much easier to read. There is only shape, light, shadow and contrast our brain needs to digest in order to make up a story. No distracting colors trying to tell their story, often resulting in a chaotic mixed message.

And yet, having only so few instruments to tell the story, black and white can be incredibly powerful, as the objects in the scene are not the only tools to tell the story. Depending on the way you process the picture, it can look very modern, with stark blacks, strong contrasts. Or it looks like a blast from the past, taken from your grand fathers attic.

And that’s what makes me think black and white photography is timeless. We still understand the language in these old pictures, as well as we soak in the message in a modern one. And we have all the freedom in the world to play with that language 🙂

And of course, having a wicked camera that has a built in time machine helps as well. I swear, the scene looked much different when I pressed the shutter!


11 thoughts on “Is black and white photography timeless?”

  1. I must agree, Black and White Photos are timeless. The detail the have can never be matched. I just posted some on WP of negatives from my family taken in the 20’s-30’s. except for chipping from wear and tear they still produce wonderful prints. I also have some negative taken in the late 1800’s of family that still will produce prints. This cannot be said of digital as far as being archival for over a 100 years or even color photos. Film will always be king.
    Also, I like your work.


    1. Thanks a lot Marks!

      I think Black and White in Digital can be great too, but I agree, who knows if we still know how to read that data in 100… who am I kidding, 20 years from now

  2. There is something about black & white, and perhaps the taking away of colour from a scene helps us focus on the detail more as you say. I have re-blogged this to my page to see what others think.

  3. Absolutely, I agree with you here. I think black and white focuses your image on the essentials so the viewer isn’t distracted by color and sees what you have captured. The details and especially your subject and focus dictate how I experience your work.

  4. There IS a timeless quality to the bw photograph. The focus is on the design elements rather than distracting colour and when well done, it stands on its composition without distraction – it’s line and shape and form – all timeless qualities.

  5. With black and white photography, we see the contrast and the detail in the composition. We are more drawn to B+W because we see in colour and can be very often be distracted in looking at an image properly by the fact that it is in colour and we become drawn to a certain colour within the image. Where as in B+W I feel we often have a stronger balance in tonal range.

  6. …..and a deep melancholy as well…like this image. It’s strange, I do lots of mono images and I really love them but I rarely post them as b/w because I’ve got into the habit of toning them…..don’t know why, …..your b/w photos Philipp are perfect as they are.

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