Thinking About the Black & White Portrait ~

I'm mainly a people and portrait kind of guy. It's what initially drew me to photography and sustains my fascination even today. The studio I apprenticed at back in '73 had, among many other cameras, a big and beautiful 5 x 7 view camera with a delicious Carl Zeiss lens. As a newbie I certainly didn't appreciate it then as much as I do now in retrospect, but boy, the portraits it made (and which was my job initially to print) were stunning, as you can imagine. It was a more static, classical style which I still view as timelessly beautiful.

Over the years, portrait styles evolved as tastes changed and new equipment and technologies came along. Back in the day, a hand-help camera in the studio was considered as taboo as drinking on the job (although, now as I think about it....) My influences then were the likes of Yousef Karsh, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and so many others, their books at my side.

And these days I'm more than likely, as I rely on my digital cameras, to step away from the studio and shoot in color. What, then, continues to be the fascination with the black & white portrait? It's hardly an anachronism. It remains a relevant art form, capable still of producing penetrating and personal images. Maybe it's just me, but I sometimes see a great deal more texture, tonal values, and intimacy in them. And maybe we don't see it just as we did with the great films and the high-silver papers, but it's there nonetheless. My studio mate Whitney often shoots in black and white, forsaking even an original color file, and consistently produces timeless and beautiful portraits of children as well as adults.
So I'll keep at it, and hope you do too. Even though, without a darkroom to lock yourself in, it's tougher to drink on the job.

I'm just saying.