Answers to the number one question I’ve been asked since launching my first fine art photography collection.
I distinctly remember the first time I was asked this question. I’d gathered my parents around our dining table and was showing them the small A5 test prints of what would become my first collection, Beyond the Borders. They wordlessly sifted through them, faster and quieter than I would have liked, and gave me “sort-of” compliments.
Then my dad asked me, “So, will they all be black and white or will we have some colour?”
The Easy Way In?
I knew then that this would be a common question that I’d have to answer. At first, it was a tricky enquiry for me because it’s something I’d asked myself after editing the first few images. I was immediately blown away by the power of “A Shepherd’s Chore” when I flipped it to black and white and was similarly moved when I tested the next piece, “Gentle Rage”.
Though these images were somehow more emotive in greyscale, I couldn’t help but ask myself,
“Aren’t you being a fraud by simply flicking these to black and white and calling yourself an artist?”
Sometimes, I still have this thought. However, over the past few months of prepping this collection I’ve started to notice a synchronicity in my work for the first time ever. Finishing these images in a monochromatic palette made me see the commonlaties within my work: texture, simplicity, expansiveness.
I hadn’t known until test-printing the full collection that my work tied together. Never had I considered myself a photographer with a style. I was permanently chasing Instagram trends, rather recreating the latest fads than honing in on my own style.
Contrast & Texture
Photographers & other visual artists will know that when you prepare an image in black and white you can push the contrast of an image a lot further than with colour. Pure blacks and whites can even feature in an image, now. You’ll notice, for example, that some of the skies in my images are a clean white, such as in “Afterlife”.
The outcome of heightening a piece’s contrast is that textures can now jump out at the viewer more vividly. A great example of this are the ripples of the dune in “Desert Wave”.
To me, texture is one of the most important elements of introducing anything into one’s home – that applies to art, too.
The reason for this is that the work becomes more tangible and tactile, allowing itself to emotionally impact its chosen living space.
Timeless & Minimal
A common compliment that I gratefully received at the exhibitions was that many of my pieces seem timeless. I deliberately chose images that would carry a definite longevity, but it’s obvious that the monochromatic aesthetic helps this sense of agelessness.
On a parallel tangent, I’ve learnt to clean up around me over the course of my travels and growing out of my teenage years: bedroom, dishes, belongings, everything. I own very little clothing and other items, because I’ve realised that I personally benefit from not being surrounded by clutter.
This has manifested itself even more clearly in the loft in which I live. In the process of making it my space, I quickly discovered that simply getting rid of items was an effective way of creating a pleasant atmosphere in the room.
Similarly, I’ve found that simplifying my artistic aesthetic has leant itself to the creation of a style that I’m incredibly fond of – the first time I’ve ever felt that way about my photography. The simplest & “cleanest” image has also become the current best-seller: “Afloat”.
Intention & Emotion
Intentionality has become a big part of everything I do. I struggle to do things for the sake of doing them. My intention is to provide people who truly care about their space with emotive artwork, artwork that directly contributes to their living environment. This mission of mine has also lead me to the decision of only supplying pieces A2 in size and larger. Were they any smaller, I’d fear them losing their strength.
Back to emotion. After completing the edits for this first collection, I realised that colour often distracts from an image’s power. For me, at least, colour seems to be a facade that doesn’t do the rest of the piece enough justice.
The colours in “Caribbean Dusk” were out of this world and converting this image to black and white was a difficult decision for me. However, it has been within the three most impactful pieces at the exhibitions. Many viewers gaze it for longer than usual, and my assumption is that this is most likely due to the detail of the water and the dramatic clouds. Had this piece been in colour, I feel that the depth, and in result the true power, of the image would have been lost.
I'm a tad Colour-Blind...
This discovery publicly occurred in a high school biology class. We were learning about genetic mutations, one of which happens to be certain types of colour-blindnesses. Our teacher projected a colour-blindness test on to the board, very much in a “for the sake of it” kind of way.
The image consisted of a large circle filled with many other circles of varying shades and sizes. I turned to my friend and asked him what we’re meant to be seeing.
He asked, “Are you being serious?”
“I can see the circles and stuff,” I responded, “but I don’t understand the test.”
“Dude, can’t you see the number “8” in the middle of it?”
And that is how I, and a classroom full of people, discovered that I was red-green colour-blind. While this is already an over-exaggeration of the severity of the situation (my lovely genetic mutation doesn’t impact me at all in everyday life), I’ve often struggled with colour-correcting images and video clips. The pink hues evade my usually subtle manipulation, which has resulted in some strangely-coloured creations of mine.
So then, switching to black and white solves that problem, doesn’t it?
It's Here to Stay
While I doubt that ALL of my images in the future will be black and white, I’m very certain that most of them will be. There’s a grandness that grasps me in black and white imagery, and I’d love to elevate my creations to the point that they embody this majesty, too.
The minimal aesthetic, the myriad textures, and the beauty in the simplicity are the true reasons why I decided for Beyond the Borders to be black and white. So far, it’s been a well-received artistic decision.