Think back to when you were at that event where the person who was dressed in red stood out like a sore thumb and stole the show. That’s because certain colours are incredibly powerful and they demand attention and to be looked at. But, try to imagine the same scene in black and white. Now what happens to the person dressed in red? They now become a shade of grey, a shape in the overall scene as a whole or the composition in the photographer’s eye. This opens up all kinds of possibilities in the photographer’s armoury.
When shooting a documentary wedding the key goal for any photographer is the story of the occasion and to capture the relationships between the people and the spaces in which they are gathered. That could be a domestic space in capturing the bride getting ready shots or in the pub capturing the groom with his pals preparing for the moment they step inside the church to become Mr. and Mrs.
When the colour is dropped out of the scene in favour of black and white then the images become more about the form, light and the space of the scene in front of the camera because colour of itself demands to be looked at and will compete with the central information relative to the scene. [We only need to imagine the colourful flowers of an English garden on a warm summers day].
This makes storytelling so much more powerful because the photographer is putting emphasis on these key elements that help to enhance what is going on because it highlights better the emotional state of the characters, their facial expressions and the body language without the distraction of colour.
Of course, it’s 2019 and people want the reality of colour. Colour adds an immediacy to the image, it’s very much of its time. We can tend to pinpoint the decade in which a colour photo was taken with more accuracy than black and white because black and white is so much more timeless, it is raw, and can be therefore more deceptive in how it is viewed in terms of its age.
But colour images can age very quickly as we move from one year to another, not the image itself but the peoples clothing, cars and society in general can start to feel of yesteryear and that is one reason why black and white documentary photography should be considered when ordering your wedding album and prints from the wedding because they look so good in print.
I appreciate the argument that we don’t see the world in black and white, but hey, the timeless quality of black and white is something to behold.
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