I´m surrounded at my day job by people who are not really into photography, however they enjoy the photography books I bring in every so often. The point is they all seem to engage with the B/W images at a different level than the colour ones. Their response is the B/W images seem to have more elegance and a sense of timelessness and a visual distance which give them a richer experience. One of them said B/W was more "arty" and had more visual power than colour which is in some ways was too explicit. (The books I take into work revolve around the works of Brett Weston, Ansel Adams, Michael kenna, Jame Nachtwey. The colour work can be anything from Steve McCurry, Jack Dakynga, Joe Cornish, John Claridge and many more).
Does anyone else feel that B/W has more strength and importance in the artworld than colour?
Interesting proposition: is b/w more 'artistic' a medium than colour?
Well, for my money, it is. This is largely derived from personal experience over many years of darkroom (b/w) work where the ability to get a desired effect from the negative and chemicals was paramount. Yes, this was all professional, and there might be reason to consider this sort of work somehow less artistic than self-induced photography but not in my book. In essence, the validation for considering b/w more artistic, then, is that in my personal experience it was little to do with accident and a hell of a lot to do with skill and 'eye' in achieving a predetermined result, the very qualities which, for me, define the artist.
Colour. Well, early in my training I had the chance to spend a lot of time in a colour darkroom (back in the early/mid 60s) processing transparencies, colour negs and making 4 x 5 colour negs from a variety of sources including 16mm film and, finally, printing the results. I learned there that chemistry and temperature control and strict adherence to instruction was essential if one wanted to be roughly? certain of the result. Somehow, that did not gel with my ideas of the freedom of art. The medium (remember the epoch) was, for me, too restrictive for anything beyond technical photography.
Today, with digital, I find that those early impressions have hardly been altered and that, if anything, colour printing today is even further removed from what I consider art than in days of yore. Why so? Perhaps because it has reached a point where the mechanic is now more important than the visionary. Someone with a very thorough grounding in PShop will certainly be able to produce very cleverly constructed pictures from combinations of cloud originals, landscapes, whatever. But, again on the personal front, none of this interests me. The person who can get it all together in a single frame is, in my judgement, the real photographer.
(I hope I offend no one on this forum with this heretical view - it's just my mind and how it works.)
But, back to the original question of b/w v. colour, yes, even in the new digital era I am happier with getting a really pleasing b/w than achieving the same with a digital colour print . In fact, I might even prefer working b/w digitally now than I did doing it in the wet! Some things in the printing process are easier now, some not so. I find that the shading/burning in that could be done by hand was often faster and more convincing than the same operation by computer. Obviously, personal experience only, others will disagree.
Black and white still rules!
Ciao - Rob C