Why certain series seem to work

I received a comment this evening on a much earlier post, but following it back I encountered a very interesting article on the blog Photography, Psychiatry and the Nonexistence of  Time, about the difference between how our brains might process black & white images differently from how it might process color images.

This might help with me understanding why black & white continues to maintain an important presence in photography, when you rarely find any current or contemporary black & white painting. Essentially all paintings are created in color.

Which dove tailed with my recent re-read of my book about Paul Outerbridge Jr, who sometime in the late 1920’s stated that “Black & White suggests, while color states”. hmmmm, that is not necessarily entirely true today. But that still resonates with me on a more non-technical level,  that for certain photographic series, they seem to do extremely well in Black & White. In fact I have a hard time being able to think of some of them in color, but they could only exsist in black & white, such as Fleuret’s Landmassess and Railways.

Likewise, looking at some current series, in particular like Blackmon’s Domestic Vacations, I don’t think how that would series would work in black & white. It just is in color. And the list goes on.

Which is probably why when I re-started my Insomnia series, I just could not think of doing this series in color. Nope, not at all. I thought that I had made the complete transition to color photography with my series on the urban & industrial Chinese landscape. Well, come on, that is what I thought. But egads, that did not last long, eh?

So I will have to take it series by series and just let the work and series tell me what I need to do. What else can I do, eh? But now I have a hint as to why one series may work better in color or in black & white.

Best regads, Doug

8 thoughts on “Why certain series seem to work

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  1. I am very pleased you found my blog helpful … the ideas are new but I have been thinking about the problem a long time.

    I have attempted to do a series in B&W like my “Wizardlings” series ( http://www.pbase.com/chaotos/wizardlings )but I keep coming across images which seem to “want” to be in color. I am not sure if mixing them is a good idea though.

    Wayne Phillips
    Boulder, Coloraod

  2. The mixing of color photographs with black & white photographs in the same series I believe has been a thorny issue. The more traditional viewpoint I think was to choose one or the other in terms of providing consistency.

    I see no reason not to mix them as a contemporary series or a documentary project. I also think that it probably should to be done with a lot of care & thought with regard to the pairing & sequencing of the series. As you wrote, the color and black & white images seem to work with different regions of the brain, such as mixing different types of metaphors together.

    Mixing the two could make the series better or make the intended message much harder to comprehend and understand, eh?

  3. Likewise, as another follow up, one of the questions I ask in my book workshop is to be able to state the objective and vision of your book (series); just what are you trying to accomplish by completing their book/series? Why is so important to do?

    For my “Insomnia: Hotel Noir” series, it is about the feelings of isolation, seperation, and disassociation that occur to me during trips that are independent from my family. And the idea of Hope as it might fade, become tenuous, but become palletable and viable while contemplating the return home.

    I envisioned the series (my objective) to explore my own feelings about these situations and create connections. It just felt to me that it needed to be monotone with some occasional area toning.

  4. You must do wonderful workshops, Doug. I wonder how many people stop to put into words what they are trying to convey with their images?

    Sometimes it is only after I discover I like an image, however, that I know what it is really about. But it has to be about something. I like to think that my photographs hint at something beneath the visible surface of reality.

    In my “Wizardlings” pictures I realized I was trying to capture something magical about the world of children. And, the magic is not always white. We know from our own childhoods that reality (and unreality) can have a dark side.

    PS. I shifted my Wizardlings collection (series?) to all black and white and I believe the overall impact is much stronger. I don’t think we make the transition from color to black and white easily.

    Boulder, Colorado

  5. I would agree with you, I find the Wizardling series much more interesting, as you seemed to have tapped into the more mysterious side. It is more delightful on many levels, and it needed “to suggest, not state”.

  6. You have inspired me to create another black and white series called “The Other Light.”

    We use light to perceive. Sometimes, for an instant, we perceive a second light which is beneath and within.

    Now, I wonder if I should use that as a subtitle, or leave it out to suggest more strongly? :-)

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