For the Love of Black and White


Sarang Naik elucidates why he has fallen in love with Black and White photography.

This story was originally published in May 2014.

“Dear colour, you know I tried. I tried very hard. But this isn’t working. I think we should just be friends.”

I started off like everyone else by shooting in colour. But that affair didn’t last long. It somehow felt superficial and I found that I couldn’t express myself clearly through colour photography. So I began shooting more and more in black and white.

I’ve always thought of photography as a long term relationship. I’ve never viewed it as a fun frolic with friends over the wekend. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. But for me, it has always been something more serious.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Maybe that is why I fell in love with black and white – you just can’t be casual with it. It lays bare the soul of the image and in the process of making the image, your soul is laid bare too. It blatantly tears away the layers of distraction until all that’s left behind is naked emotion. Is this what they mean when they say, “shoot what it feels like, not what it looks like”?

And this is where we escape the shackles of reality. Black and white becomes a way to let go of the obvious and enter the abstract world of tones and textures. I see each image as the imprint of an individual’s mind. Yes, it’s just an image, you may say. But then why do some images create a strong emotional response in us?

It’s all in our heads, after all. A picture is just a two dimensional representation of reality. But by imposing his own vision over it, a photographer turns it into a work of art.  Ansel Adams used the word ‘presence’ to describe a fine print – “The difference between a very good print and a fine print is quite subtle and difficult, if not impossible, to describe in words. There is a feeling of satisfaction in the presence of a fine print.” I think this ‘presence’ can be expressed so much more clearly and subtly in black and white images.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Maybe I’m being too romantic. But then, as I said earlier, photography is like a relationship. Be prepared to give it the time and effort it needs. Be patient, for the love of it. Allow yourself to pour your soul into it and you’ll end up with something much more than just an image. You’ll have found a lifelong muse.

So then, maybe we need to be romantic to make great images. And I’ve found that the best way to express this romanticism is through the magical language of black and white.

Tags: shapes, lines, black and white, tones, light, Black and White photography, textures, Sarang Naik, romantic, For the Love of Black and White, relationship