A Love Affair with Black and White


This article was originally published in October 2014.

A few photographers still prefer black and white film photography because of the control the medium offers. Exposure, processing, printing… these are the three levels of control that are available to those who are keen on making the perfect image.

The thing that attracts me most about black and white photography is the romance of it all. It was the medium of legendary artists, playboy journalists and reckless documentary photographers. It added that final touch of glamour to the lives of silver screen divas of the past and shocked a complacent world into wakefulness with scenes of tortured humanity set against war mangled vistas.

The very act of making an exposure on black and white film feels distinctly different. Then comes processing the film using spirals and tanks, printing within a darkroom in the glow of a red safety light, and watching the tones emerge and darken into black on a sheet of thick, white paper during developing. Once the prints are washed, you hang them up to dry, almost as a sort of a personal gallery. It is a medium that accedes complete control and is yet unforgiving to errors. It can be delicate or rough, austere or rich, eloquent or subtle. Just like a torrid love affair.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, black and white, exposure, processing, printing, Better Photography magazine, july 2008, Darkroom, Black and white digital