Essay

Monochrome 4 [Flash Fiction]

All black and white photography is the world in shades of gray . . . I won’t be able to wait for the film to go away, to fade out–I am not able to talk the truth of monochrome without one or another allusion or reference to the film made–how many shades of gray are there between black and white–we are not talking about our sense of justice or our sense of right and wrong, however inclined one group might be to see these decisions as black or white and others who are inclined to see them in too many gradations of gray. In the monochrome world there is black at one end and white on the opposite, however many shades of gray between; that is, if we were inclined to set these contrasts in a linear model. Black is left and white is on the antipodal right.

I have the monochromatic scale in my head, in my eyes; I see scenes in monochrome everywhere I look, or better put, if I choose. I do see the colors any normal visioned person does. I can also easily translate color to shades of gray. I know just how a scene in color will appear in black and white photography. You can gain this through experience; better today for the use of digital photography which allows you to transfer color to black and white, even duplicate a color photo into a monochrome copy. These then can be examined for their one-to-one differences in contrast.

There are many scenes in the world that are not to be recorded in monochrome; there just isn’t the contrast for them–or am I now imposing my aesthetic preferences in monochrome? Perhaps I am. There are sets that should only be shot in black and white, I believe; there are those that should only appear in color, I am convinced.

What makes a beautiful photo in color can be the dullest and palest in contrast of all in black and white photos. I know this from experience. After shooting with black and white film long enough, I have gotten accustomed to seeing the world in shades of gray. I have one portfolio after another portfolio of black and whites–if I only had a gallery.

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