For those of you who follow me on Instagram in addition to this blog, you already know that, starting January 1 of this year, I started on a new project.
Yes, my friends– I am now shooting in all black and white.
And I am not talking about just converting select color photos to black and white, but actually shooting black and white film. When all 36 frames in the camera refuse to accept any tint or hue. Only shades of black, white, and grey. So many greys. My current films of choice are Ilford HP5 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400TX.
To be perfectly frank, I decided to plunge into all black and white because I am hoping to develop (ha, that pun) my photography skills. I don’t have formal photography training, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my skills. And improving, to me, means developing my eyes.
I want my eyes to think as much as they see.
When I started shooting film, I noticed that I was putting a lot more thought into my images– into the composition, the why and the what of a shot. Questions I began asking dealt with the ultimate, future image that was hidden within the case of my Canon AE-1. Thinking. And I saw myself gradually improving, frame by frame.
Black and white strips away all the distractions. The colors, however striking to my naked eye, are gone in the final image. What’s left behind are the bones of my photo: the subject matter that my eye managed to see. Was it worth it? Why did I take this in this fashion? Was it the texture? Was it the composition and/or placement of the subject?
Why is such a difficult question to ask.
I’m still looking for what I consider to be “my” style. I am also looking to explore and expand past the inane, generic photos that flood Instagram in millions every second. Why should others care about what I’ve chosen to spend time, effort, and money on? (Truth is, I don’t know why they should care; I certainly don’t care sometimes.)
It’s a path I walk down, slowly and somewhat uncertainly.
I’m excited, as well, to see what happens. I recently looked at photos from my very first roll of film, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was rather terrible with film (washed out, unfocused, etc.). But I’ve improved, and I am hoping that someday I will look back on my first rolls of black and white film and chuckle at my inexperience as I chase something else that will make me even better.
35mm film photos taken in Shanghai, China, during my trip out to Shanghai; January 21 and 23, 2017.