When I was sixteen, my next-door neighbor introduced me to black & white photography, film processing and enlarging. I was intrigued. During my senior year in high school, I studied photography under Byron Baldwin at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, NC. The program offered an intensive study of black & white photography. I was hooked. Later, I would go on to enhance my technique in the Commercial Photography program at Randolph Technical College.
I remember loading a film spool in pitch darkness and sealing the loaded reel in a small stainless steel processing tank. Next came the chemicals; developer, stop bath and fixer. Then, using an enlarger to expose the negative on photographic paper, dodge and burn, and then watching with anticipation as the print revealed itself through a similar sequence of chemicals. Finally came cutting matts and mounting the best work.
In many cases, I find color in photography to be a distraction. Perceiving color takes a lot of mental processing overhead. Creatively, black & white offers a more heightened awareness of texture, patterns, shapes, tonality and use of dark & light space. I also feel the intensively manual process of shooting, developing and printing black & white afforded me a deep appreciation of how silver halides in a film or paper medium responded to controlled exposure to light.
I can appreciate those who currently take time to shoot with and process black & white film. For me, I’m satisfied working a digital workflow which usually completes with a software emulation of Agfa APX 100 b&w film using Alien Skin’s Exposure.
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