Black and white art is getting some much-needed attention. William Talbott Hillman’s collection of photography is being auctioned at Christie’s in New York this week, the proceeds of which will benefit the photography collection at Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Mr. Hillman collected work by William Henry Fox Talbot, who is credited with the invention of the chemical-based, negative-positive concept from which a print is made. That process defined photography until the advent of digital technology. Through his private foundation, Mr. Hillman contributed $300,000 toward the creation of a complete catalog of Mr. Talbot’s work.”
Many of these photographs are black and white and date all the way back to 1844. Black and white photography can create beautiful, clean imagery to be enjoyed in colorful spaces or bare-boned rooms. Here are some great works from Zatista photographers using black and white to their advantage.
Mewmaw’s limited edition photo uses black and white to intensify the isolation of the barn. The Midwest can be an isolating space, and this corner of Missouri is no exception. Yet, with the whisp of the white air, the black and white palette keeps a tranquil, calming feel.
Stripped of sunburn-red and sandy beach-beige, this images focuses on the characters depicted in it. It’s a comfy relaxed photo where you can imagine the perfect temperature and sunniest of days with your favorite person.
Grand Central Station is the originator of rush hour; the bustle of the terminal can take away from its beauty, but the angle, depth and saturation of this photo bring it back out. The magnitude and importance of this building is ever present in Conley’s depiction of it.
As part of a series “Window People,” this clouded window framing a window washer is best captured with the contrast of dark and light. The mood set in his expression matches perfectly that of the dark of the bucket and brush in his hand. Artist Lerner said, “I was fascinated by the indifferent expression on his face and also by the pattern that his brush was making. This was not a set-up shot. It occurred naturally.”
Black and white can sometimes tell the story behind a image better than color. Peeling away the details in these pieces leave raw characters and scenes to imprint your own story upon. It can be a powerful medium for an artist to show us what we rarely see.