Part One The Photograph as document

Project 3 Reportage

Colour and the street

Exercise

Find a street that particularly interests you – it may be local or further afield. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images in a street photography style.

In your learning log, comment on the differences between the two formats.

What difference does colour make? Which set do you prefer and why?

I was passing my local town market and wasn’t planning to shoot, but as it looked interesting I quickly collected my camera from my car and shot for about 30 minutes only.

In order to make a fair comparison between the two formats I used the same images and presented them in colour and then black and white.

  1. Black and white images

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I think the most satisfying black and white images were:

  • Youths, the street sleeper and the market café with the signs at the back because of the contrast in the colours.
  • The old lady is better in black and white than colour where the colours distract from the mood.
  • The least successful image in black and white is the traffic warden image.  I took the photograph because of the contrasting yellow and red colours, which can’t be determined in black and white, where the picture falls flat.

2.  Colour images

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I think the most satisfying colour images were:

  • The street sleeper due to the colour accents (this was also successful in black and white for other reasons).
  • The market café as the burgundy at the back draws you eye in. (this was also successful in black and white for other reasons).
  • The women under the balls due to colour repetition.
  • The cyclists at the market as the mood/weather is obvious and heightened against the bright street signage.
  • The gourmet food van as the colour accents add to the happy mood.

What difference does it make?

Advantages of Colour:

  • Gives more context inferring season, time, mood, period (fashion colours)
  • Is more contemporary
  • Can draw you in especially accents or a bright hue and is important if emphasising contrasting colours like green and red which appear similar in black and white.
  • Gives a heightened sensation of things “if photography is about describing, then colour describes them more” (Meyerowitz cited in Louise, 2012)

Advantages of Black and white:

  • Colour can be distracting; giving additional unwanted context.
  • Strong colours like red can be distracting in colour images.
  • Colour can convey the wrong message for the image, for instance a sad of vunerable portrait wearing red would probably be better presented in black and white.
  • Black and white often implies it is a historical photograph
  • Can be powerful when there is a strong shapes or silhouette.
  • Can be useful for removing the distraction of an unhelpful streak of colour.

My conclusions:

My personal preference for shooting and presentation is colour as a visual language. However I recognise that there are times when a shot already captured might be best presented in colour, also that there are times when capturing and presentation might be best in black and white. It depend upon what you wish to communicate.

If I was planning to shoot in black and white I would seek out more graphical lines, good contrasts and a broad tonal range between blacks and whites, strong shapes and patterns.

Reference

Louise (2012) Joel Meyerowitz: Icon with a Leica – the Leica camera Blog. Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/04/02/joel-meyerowitz-icon-with-a-leica/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

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