Black and white: the living tradition
A juried international photography exhibition
March 12 – April 1, 2015
At the dawn of photography, black and white was the only available way of capturing photographic images. The technological constraint had a profound impact on the early development of the medium as photographers had to adapt to the specific means of black and white photographic depiction. Today, however, black and white is a creative choice, and understanding that choice is part of the appreciation process. As the emergence and development of colour photography have not made black and white obsolete, we may ask ourselves why recent generations of photographers keep turning to the shades of grey, why they find renewing and reinterpreting the rich tradition of black and white photography appealing for their twenty first century creative pursuits.
Frank Verreyken: The world has changed since we last met No. 1
Arlette Jeanine Graven: Untitled No. 3
Ralph Hassenpflug: Ascent
Jeff Loope: Disruptions No. 2
Judi Altman: Nevermore
Franco Aguilar (Los Angeles, CA, USA), Judi Altman (Ocean Springs, MS, USA), Alberto Álvarez Gómez (Vigo, Spain), Filipe Bianchi (Lisbon, Portugal), Hélio Dias (Belo Horizonte, Brazil), Diane Fenster (Pacifica, CA, USA), Amanda Francoeur (San Francisco, CA, USA), Steven Goossen (Detroit, MI), Arlette Jeanine Graven (Vila Pouca da Beira, Portugal), Kip Harris (Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada), Ralph Hassenpflug (Camden, ME, USA), Charles Hézsely (Saint Paul, MN, USA), Candi Qianwen Jiang (San Francisco, CA, USA), Josiane Keller (Salzburg, Austria), Alis La Luna (Kyiv, Ukraine), Lodiza LePore (Bennington, VT, USA), Jeff Loope (Roanoke, VA, USA), Trevor Messersmith (Marlboro, NY, USA), Hayato Mizutani (Hamburg, Germany), A'shanae Monroe (Stockbridge, GA, USA), Nancy Oliveri (New York, NY, USA), Adam Reynolds (Bloomington, IN, USA), Eunika Rogers (Memphis, TN, USA), KR Scelfo (Lambertville, NJ, USA), Wil Scott (Annapolis, MD, USA), Michele Serchuk (New York, NY, USA), Aoife Shanahan (Dublin, Ireland), Steve Short (West Midlands, UK), Joshua Tann (Long Beach, CA, USA), Florian Tenk (Munich, Germany), Frank Verreyken (Antwerpen, Belgium), Kenneth Elvin Washington (Vero Beach, FL, USA), Vildan Weckbach (Cologne, Germany)
Please click on the names to see contact information (website or e-mail) where available.
Black and white: the living tradition
Black and white photography has a long tradition, and its history is divided into two significantly distinct periods. While it was the only option for several decades, using black and white has been a creative choice ever since colour photography became available.
The juror’s choice is Frank Verreyken’s The world has changed since we last met No. 1. This subtle image powerfully exemplifies how much can be achieved with how little when relying on the potentials in the myriad shades of grey. The photograph recalls pictorial memories of landscapes, cityscapes and abstract pictures alike. The strong horizontal lines and stripes in the bottom half of the image resonate with the lines and stripes of earth, water and sky in landscapes. The pronounced shapes of the buildings in the upper half of the image provide the familiar visual atmosphere of cityscapes, while the sharp geometrical character of the photograph makes the recognition and identification of objects almost as insignificant as is the case with carefully composed abstract photographs. Trees, poles as well as vertical lines and shapes are also frequently used as determining compositional elements in landscapes, cityscapes and abstract pictures. The visual barrier, most likely a curtain between the view and us adds yet another level of photographic meaning to the image. We are reminded once again that it is not the optical sharpness that helps us in our interpretive quest but the obstacles that make us reflect on the shortcomings of our perception. They also turn simple scenes into beautiful photographic compositions.
Honourable mention Untitled No. 3 by Arlette Graven surprises us with the blunt sincerity of black and white portraiture. The face is composed around the eye in the centre both in terms of location and tonal emphasis; the gradual exploration of the details of the face make her very familiar by the time we return to meet her penetrating gaze. Ralph Hassenpflug’s Ascent uniquely combines the uncertainty of blurred photographic depiction with the sharp certainty of the dynamism of the female body and her swinging bucket. The darker tones of grey at the corners of the image focus our attention on her legs in the middle, and our gaze moves in an upward zigzag with her, following the motion of the bucket, towards her back. The third honourable mention has been given to Disruptions No. 2 by Jeff Loope. In this playful geometrical composition of our built environment the blades of the fan disrupt the uneven pattern of bricked windows. This creates an engaging view of a rough scene that is well balanced, despite its unsettling lack of uniformity.
Associate’s choice Nevermore by Judi Altman captures one of those rare moments when the complex motion of a complex creature becomes part of a beautifully austere composition. Untitled No. 2 by Alberto Álvarez Gómez creatively blends and blurs elements of different traditional genres into a single unified image to tell a story. Filipe Bianchi’s Hanoi Fish Market and Kenneth Washington’s Homeless in Los Angeles tap into the rich tradition of black and white documentary photography with images that are aesthetically strong as well. NHM2 No. 1 by Hélio Dias grabs and holds our attention with its intriguing rhythm of abstract patterns. Steven Goossen’s simple geometry in his Fairhope is another excellent example of how powerful abstract photography can be when we are gently forced to give up our insistence on the portrayal of the easily recognisable. Winter Trees by Candi Qianwen Jiang presents few details and sharp contrast for a strong visual impact. Untitled No. 2 by Hayato Mizutani is a landscape photograph in the unique style of East Asian ink wash painting. A'shanae Monroe’s Smile Child surprises us with an interesting tension between the child’s facial expression and the dark and bleak background of the image.
The thoughtful images in this exhibition are excellent examples of how strong and lively the tradition of black and white photography is today, several decades after its decline was first predicted.
High quality (ProLine Pearl Photo paper) exhibition catalogue is published with Blurb Books. (Please note that for some reason Blurb's preview is low resolution. It is suitable for studying the design and layout of the catalogue, but it does not always present the photographs faithfully. The print catalogue, however, is professional high quality.)