Lunchtime Photo

I have a love-hate relationship with black-and-white photography. I want to note up front that I’m not talking about people who enjoy darkroom work as a hobby and therefore shoot black-and white. I’ve done plenty of that in my life, and it’s a lot of fun.

I’m talking about everyone else. Virtually all photographers shoot digital these days, which means they shoot in color. If you see a black-and-white image, it’s almost always a color image that’s been converted. This bugs me for a few reasons. First, shooting black-and-white is different. It’s not just color but without the color. Second, there’s often a bit of pretentiousness to it. Shooting black-and-white because that’s what’s available is one thing, but doing it even though you have an original color image is sort of annoying. Third, most photographers don’t really know how to shoot black-and-white these days. (I emphatically include myself in that.) Fourth, shooting in black-and-white seems to encourage a fascination with abstract shapes and shadows. This is occasionally interesting when done by someone really talented, but hardly ever when the rest of us do it.

On the other hand, nothing beats black-and-white for that gritty urban look. If that’s what you’re after, I’m all for it. It’s also magnificent in the hands of someone truly talented—both artistically and technically. I do still sometimes see some really good black-and-white photography, and it’s hard to beat.

But judge for yourself. Here’s a picture of a deserted country road at night. Below it is the same picture converted to black-and-white. I deliberately did nothing to try to enhance it. I just did the best I could to match the tone and levels of the original. Everyone has their own taste in these things, but I’ll take the color version.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.