Art

Grayscale / color

As the modern era began to take shape, the question of how to depict the world around you (whether literal or figurative) started to revolve around colors. Photography and film both developed from infancy in black and white, while painting has been in shades of color since scrawlings on cave walls.

The opinions of many artists and photographers were varied and argumentative.

“Photography has always been associated with death. Reality is colorful, yet early photography always took the color out of reality and made it black-and-white. Color is life; black-and-white is death. There was a ghost hidden in the invention of photography.”- Nobuyoshi Araki

“In black and white you suggest, in color you state.” – Paul Outerbridge

Even in the digital age, where an artist is just as likely to pull out a laptop and a stylus as they are a swathe of pencils or paints, something about black and white art is enticing.

Castle Valley – Pedro Esteves

Castle Valley - Pedro Esteves

This piece from Esteves communicates a solemn foreboding, a quiet emptiness that is to be seen, rather than explored. Imagine if this were rendered in color, how different would our impression be?

The Black Thief by Alexander Stojanovic

The Black Thief by Alexander Stojanovic

Another value in black and white art is that it opens up our eyes to the various shades of darkness in a piece, and what they communicate. Here the thief’s eyes are shaded by his hair, the shadows casting reveal the light source of the piece to be somewhere above him. But then there is the darkness coloring in his cheeks, revealing an old age and a more visceral darkness shown with a thicker and stronger shade of black ink.

Torbjorn Jotunhorn2 by Even Mehl Amundsen

Torbjorn Jotunhorn2 by Even Mehl Amundsen

But then the digital revolution has given us a world of new possibilities. See how the stone on the subject’s staff seems to glow with an eerie light, much the way the moonlight is cast down on him?

Dead End by Hugh Pindur

Dead End by Hugh Pindur

Or in Pindur’s fantasty piece “Dead End,” how the glow of the firelight fills the chamber, giving us a feeling of claustrophobia, even suffocation, as the mysterious hooded figure closes in on our female protagonist? The red light seems to accentuate the danger, and makes us feel the walls of the trap.  

Space Vegas 5 by Alex Brady

Space Vegas 5 by Alex Brady

Imagine this piece in black and white. The near gaudy glow of this satellite sin city would be dampened without color.

Guild Wars 2 Environment by Ruan Jia

Guild Wars 2 Environment by Ruan Jia

In Ruan Jia’s piece the various points of shade speak more to an adventurous spirit than to a darkness, and the green light that floods the landscape highlights that.

What do you think? Why is black and white still in use today, even as color becomes more and more the norm? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author Hunter Baugh

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