As a black and white photographer, I try to start thinking about how I want the final image to look when I am at the location. As I am shooting digital, the file is a colour file and while I know that you can preview and save JPEG’s as black and white in camera, I have never bothered to do this. It’s not that I dislike colour, and I don’t claim to be good enough to ‘see’ in black and white, but i enjoy the interpretive aspect of black and white photography. And as most of my output is black and white it helps from a consistency perspective. I don’t process all my pictures exactly the same, I don’t use presets and I just do what feels right on that particular day.
If you are familiar with my photography, you will be aware that I tend to photograph on cloudy days. While this certainly leaves more leeway for adding a bit of drama to the sky, it’s actually more to do with the fact that I live in the cloud-blessed north of England, plus I’m not really in a position to pick and choose when I photograph. Now normally, January in the north is pretty bleak which would have given me the skies I like, so I was somewhat dismayed to wake up to a beautiful, cloudless day. And being January, the sun was low in the sky and unprotected by an clouds. Consequently there was a lot of inherent contrast in the scenes.
So how could I make the most of this light?
In these photographs, I decided to take inspiration from the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher by compising tightly and making a feature of the featureless sky. This was not emulation though as they would never photograph in such contrasty conditions, they favoured overcast. But I also took inspiration when processing from Michal Cala whose high contrast style is not only closer to mine but is more extreme than mine – he wasn’t really one for the prized ‘full range of tones’ beloved of classic black and white photographers.
Of course, I’m well aware that the Becher’s presented their work as typologies as opposed to a single image, and that the point was about comparing similar images. My intent was to isolate the particular feature I found interesting in the same way they did. If I could find enough similar headgears that I could photograph in the same way, I would do, but given the scarcity of these structures I think the odds are against me! But I’m thinking of a project along those lines to photograph those that are left, even though they are visually dissimilar.