The Black and White Renaissance by Lee Nutter
A guest piece today, that is sure to get a few a few people talking, not least because it is aimed at the digital photographer. But I wasn’t about to avoid sharing this piece just because of that. Film, Digital, it is all welcome here, especially when the photographs are this good. And healthy debate is important for photography.
Fuji’s new X-Pro2 looks to be a near perfect camera, but of all its new features, by far the most significant is the Acros film simulation.
To some this might seem like a small thing. Most established photographers shoot raw, and treat their files later in a raw editor like Lightroom. Why does a film emulation mode matter in the slightest?
It doesn’t matter so much to the photographers who have an established work flow, or an already established style, but it does matter to newer photographers, who are surrounded by the ubiquitous Kinfolk inspired hipster aesthetic, who might never seen a carefully crafted black and white image, or have much of an understanding of the nuance and potential that a beautiful black and white film emulsion offers.
They don’t understand tonal range or separation, they don’t understand luminosity, or contrast, or the various interpretations that coloured filters offer a black and white image. Why? Because their experience with black and white imagery is currently limited to Instagram filters, or desaturated snapshots passed off as black and white photographs.
And the Acros film simulation will change that.
A film emulation mode will never be an end point for anyone that knows anything about the subtleties of black and white, but it can be a great starting point for someone who doesn’t. The Acros film simulation mode brings black and white images with a degree of depth and richness to within easy reach of even the most casual photographer, and because of this we’re going to start to see a lot more black and white photography. More black and white photography means a greater understanding of it, and in time, people will learn to speak black and white, just like they learned to speak the low contrast Kinfolk aesthetic.
What will that mean for established black and white, or predominantly black and white photographers? What will that mean for Daido Moriyama, or Nobuyoshi Araki? What will that mean for Bernard Plossu, Jacob Aue Sobol, or Anders Petersen? And what will that mean for Josh White/jtinseoul, Hugues Erre/interieurbleu, or Brent Williamson/Teknari?
Hopefully what it doesn’t mean is that they will get lost in the deluge. Instead, I hope it will mean a greater appreciation for the people who speak the black and white language more eloquently than most people speak their native tongue.
Black and white film emulation, no matter how good it is, is not going to make anyone a great photographer. But perhaps, as the technology filters down to more affordable cameras from Fuji and other manufacturers, and more and more people start using black and white film simulation modes, photographers will get a taste for what’s possible, and start to look towards the people who do it best for inspiration.
And perhaps the black and white photograph, out of mainstream favour since the proliferation of affordable colour film, will make something of a comeback. All but ignored for decades by everyone except learned photographers and those of exceptional taste, they will once again enjoy widespread appeal, and the artists responsible will finally get the appreciation they deserve.
All above images courtesy of Josh White. Images below courtesy of Lee Nutter.
It will be the black and white renaissance.
Hugues Erre/interieurbleu: https://www.flickr.com/photos/interieurbleu/
Brent Williamson/Teknari: http://teknari.tumblr.com/ or http://teknari.com/
Josh White/jtinseoul: https://jtinseoul.wordpress.com/ or
and I’m http://leenutter.com/ or http://instagram.com/leenutter
Thoughts and comments below. Please keep it civilised, many thanks.