Who Does Not Prefer Snow to Rain? Or, How Black and White Photography Helped Me Form a Renewed Idea about Truth

Black and White Film


Who wouldn’t prefer snow to rain? I ask rhetorically, secure in the notion that snow must be universally preferable to rain. I know it is for me in December. I prefer 28 degrees Fahrenheit with snow to 38 degrees Fahrenheit with rain. Yes, I would prefer 30F with snow to 34F with rain. Who would not? Everyone would, no? Preferences for weather are often determined by mood, mood determined sometimes by weather; there are times when these are not mutual, nor reciprocal. There are times when it is exactly this mutually, a mood determined by weather and the preference for weather in my mood.

Gray, gray and more gray for several days is always interminable–terminal gray I said when we were in Paris one February for ten of the most charcoal drawn days of my life. Who goes to Paris in February? I did–we did–it was still beautiful. I was impressed by Saint Denis as much as I was by Notre Dame.

Weather reflects my mood, I used to be sure and oftentimes said. Yes, my mood, the weather–I am the storm that blows, the sun that shines, the rain that falls, the night that comes, the waves and the wind and the clouds, the salt spray, the sea gulls squawking at each other over a barely together crab, and so on and so on . . .

Yes, there are many, many things–happenings–that are and so on, but what this has to do with the world in monochrome–it does not, does it? No! Of course it doesn’t.

I am certain that shooting the human body naked or nude in color is more pornographic than if it were done in black and white, in monochrome. You do not agree? I cannot for the life of me figure why. Monochrome and color–yes, pornography is in technicolor, no? It certainly is.

I do impose my preferences on my judgements of the world. But snow would make the graying of the day less intense, less grayed. Night photos with snow around are always clearer than when there is no snow and thus no intensifying of whatever light is around the scene shot. I remember having learned how long ago I cannot tell that black and white photography is an arrangement of shades of gray–yes, we will not be able to escape the movie for a while–but this monochrome scale does and does not have everything to do with the film by the title inferred by Monochrome. Is there no real black and no real white? I’m asking.

Waiting for a response–En Attendant Pour Une Response–could be the title here. I have not examined very closely why I prefer black and white photography more than I  do color photography–I did watch an awful lot of black and white cinema when I was a boy–Toland’s work in Wuthering Heights, in Welles’s Citizen Cane, and his work with Lang in and Metropolis would have been enough, but I had so much, much more to impress me. Yes, that is Greg Toland–you should Google his name and examnie his body of work. There are others who will come up. There are other photographers whose work will be referenced in these posts. Look for other entries entitled Monochrome. I will continue them, simply enumerating them.

Nonetheless, I have been told that in any black and white movie there is no black and there is no white–for sure. There are how many shades of gray in our optics? How many in the black and white films I watched when I was a boy. What is it that I do see on the borders of the film in Fritz Lang’s M? The same circumambient dark I see in De La Tour’s “Penitent Magdalene” at the Met, surrounded in her room by the dark, a pitch black perimeter? Baroque chiaroscuro? Certainly. I have you examined the cinematography in Ford’s The Grape’s of Wrath?

The baroque use of light was in the contrasts of light and dark; they were the first to truly master the painting of light, but this meant the painting of shadow and not merely the suggestion of shadow–theirs was also low-light representation. German Expressionism in film was the height of art photography in early black and white cinema–examine representative examples.

Monochrome film handles low light photography better than color? I am not always so sure,  but I have a great number of representative shots in low light on monochrome film that I adore. Any photographer has to love something in his work–something worthy of loving should be loved even if it is in one’s self.

Again, look for more on Monochrome upcoming.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.