Black & white or colour? Space & dimension in photography.

d300n - Black & white or colour? Space & dimension in photography.

A new exhibition in London puts Henri Cartier Bresson’s monochrome pictures against those of colour photographs. The famous man said “Photography in colour? It is something indigestible, the negation of all photography’s three-dimensional values.”
People often wonder which is better. Black & white or colour? Both are great actually. We see the world in colour yet black and white is clearly a different way of looking at things. The reason it is so powerful is because it gives a sense of existential angst. It is because we do not see the world in the same way that a different meaning arises.
Think about it for a moment, black & white is accidental but colour isnt. The black and white process was necessary because technology could not give photographers a world of colour back in the 1840’s. Yet a powerful medium was gained and there was resistance towards colour in the early 20th Century because red, yellows and greens looked so artificial.
Cartier-Bresson denigrates colour for nor being dimensional enough, implying that black and white has more dimensions. This is a fallacy reinforced by proponents of both colour and black/white genres. There is no dimension in either so the claim that 3D was better in black & white is unjustified. Some images look more ‘3D’ than others but this is due to the contrasts.
3D in black & white appears more real, but its an illusion. It’s just that we are seeing more powerful representations of the different tones, hence each layer of a picture stands out more due to being doubly contrasted. In colour this is not so apparent, but again we are mistaken to try and apply any 3D thesis to photography. Ultimately it is two dimensional – and that’s it.
In Cartier-Bresson’s time there were no such applications as holography. We can now see what the future of photography is potentially, and three dimensions work much better in colour than black & white. Holography in the latter is not as good because there isn’t sufficient information to build up the entire image – unless there are clear & definite contrasts between the different tonal ranges.
Watching 3D films or looking at 3D images (with special glasses or stereophonic viewers) is NOT the same as looking at the real world. 3D imagery is currently a cheat, a poor rendition of the real thing, because you cannot reach out towards an object as you can in real life.
There have been cameras that attempt to produce 3D images. Whilst 3D imagery is ‘getting better’ its still not 3D despite what people say. Here are a few examples of 3D cameras that have come and gone:
image   imageimage       image
The technology is still ‘ugly bug’ and it’ll be a while before we get any really decent 3D cameras, even longer before we get any real 3D images – the kind one can put a hand through! Then we can have real meetings and conferences with people who are actually thousands of miles away.
The day we surpass this pseudo-crap we currently pass off as “technology” the better!
The Cartier-Bresson exhibition is at Somerset House, Aldwych, London, from 8 November to 27 January.

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