MAGAZINE // ARTISTS
IT'S BLACK AND WHITE...
In the early days photographers had no choice but to shoot in black and white, as it was the only available medium. Then, in 1936, the invention of kodachrome gave colour photography to the world.
Instead of this being the death of black and white photography though, it continued to flourish and both styles side by side conquered the world to become what we feel is the very art form representing our still young century. Modern Fine Art Photographers use black and white photography a great deal, and it is by many photographers regarded as the purest form of photography.
So why does black and white photography command such acclaim?
One belief is that colour is a distraction. It takes attention away from the visual building blocks of a great image: texture, tonal contrast, shape, form and light. An artists creating in black and white has to learn how to use all these elements to create a memorable image.
Photography really is all about light, the actual word de facto derives from the ancient Greek for 'painting with light', and often it is the quality of the light which will determine the quality of the photo.
Black and white gives the photographer freedom to take photos in all sorts of lighting conditions, with black and white the artist can take photos during the middle of the day and on overcast days, which are difficult lighting conditions for colour photography. The secret is to make sure the light suits the subject. Midday light, for example, can be great for architecture but poor for portraiture. An overcast day is ideal for taking portraits, but poor for landscapes.
We enjoy black-and-white photography because the images are made to feel more artificial, we have to work harder to overcome our disbelief and we will never encounter a scene in which we feel right at home. Black and white photography keeps us on our toes.
It is a piece of art in its purest definition: where colour depicts reality, black and white will only give an interpretation of reality. For us at HEIST, art never just depicts reality but always rather tells of a subjective vision and feeling which the artist is channeling towards the viewer.
We are really exited to introduce you to an absolutely inspiring collection of monochrome images. Get ready to meet artist Alan Ross, a black and white hero, to really appreciate the potential of black and white photography!
Alan Ross is an internationally respected master in the art of black-and-white photography—as an artist, printer and educator. Captivated by creative photography and its demanding confluence of concept and technique while a student at UC Berkeley, he has spent his entire career devoted to his craft, in the field and in the darkroom. Although Alan likes to photograph any number of subjects, ranging from architectural details to still lifes to panoramic landscapes, he is probably best known for his tonally exquisite black and white photographs of the American west.
Alan started his photographic career as an assistant to renowned San Francisco advertising photographer, M. Halberstadt. When the studio closed, Alan wrote to Halberstadt’s friend Ansel Adams about the possibility of a job. Ansel hired Alan to assist with the summer Yosemite workshops and by the following summer had asked Alan to move to Carmel and work full-time.
Alan spent five years as Ansel’s photographic assistant, longer than any other assistant save one, and was integrally involved with Ansel’s books, workshops and the making of fine prints. In 1975, Alan was personally selected by Ansel to be the exclusive printer of the Yosemite Special Edition negatives. In his autobiography, Ansel commented that Alan “makes the images with sensitivity…and interprets them as closely as possible to my original fine prints.” Over the 38 years he has enjoyed this assignment, Alan has made each Special Edition Print by hand from Adams’ original negatives using traditional darkroom methods.
After leaving Carmel, Alan opened a professional photography studio in San Francisco and enjoyed working on a wide range of projects, including a world-wide ad campaign for the Bank of America and a series of large-scale landscape murals for the National Park Service.
A native of Sausalito, California, Alan relocated to Santa Fe with his family in 1993 and devotes his time to teaching, printing and doing special projects for clients such as Boeing, Nike, IBM and MCI. He has led workshops in locations ranging from Yosemite to China and specializes in helping photographers at any level realize and express their photographic vision.
Alan’s photographs hang in collections and galleries around the world and are expressive of a soul captured by nature and photography.