You have to think of black-and-white photographs in a special way.
Man saw colour from the day he learnt to stand upright, there can be no doubt of that. Pre-historic cave art attests that. It may be monochromatic, but it;s not black-and-white. Colour has been available to us right from the start. Not so, for photography. It started out as black-and-white; colour technology developed much later. So, in a way when we convert our now colourful photographs to black-and-white, it is a form of nostalgia. No doubt that black-and-white photographs look beautiful, but it’s definitely not for the lack of our ability to capture colour.
There’s a song about a colour-film brand; you can’t imagine not having colours in it. And there’s even black-and-white in that song. Which are both colours, if you think about it, but we tend to think otherwise. So most of us think of black-and-white photos as devoid of colour. [Links against quotes are to the lyrics of the songs]
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Everything looks worse
In black and white [Link]
What a dream I had
Pressed in organdy
Clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy [Link]
I try to imagine smoky burgundy, but it’s not smoky enough, as you can see. Imagination always works better than a camera and a post-processing tool. That’s a moment in time, because you see it at once in full colour, static and surrounded. Not all mention of colour is static though. There’s movement too, time that passes in moments, when, in real life it may take days or weeks:
Time hurries on
And the leaves that are green turn to brown [Link]
And you can travel with the song, watch it all like a tourist – the mega-visual of a landscape of a hill or the close-up of a bird or a soldier; your choice.
On the side of a hill in the deep forest green
Tracing of sparrow on snow-crested brown
On the side of a hill in the sprinkling of leaves
Washes the grave with silvery tears
War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions
Generals order their soldiers to kill
And to fight for a cause they have long ago forgotten [Link]
In everyday chores, there’s a palette too:
Found a rug
In an old junk shop
I brought it home to you
Along the way the colors ran
The orange bled the blue [Link]
Or you can imagine how:
He flies a silver airplane
He wears a golden cross [Link]
But these are only words. One adjective before a rainbow or an airplane or a rug, don’t mean much, if we are unable to travel with it. These are special places. The song becomes the vehicle for us, but it has to be fuelled by imagination.
And after it rains
There’s a rainbow
And all of the colors are black
It’s not that the colors aren’t there
It’s just imagination they lack [Link]
PS: All block-quoted text, extracted from the songs of Paul Simon. Copyright and such, as applicable.
PPS: This post becomes special. It is the 786th post