i did the film photographer’s curse thing again where four months passed without taking a single shot & thus i forgot what type of film was loaded in the camera. the iso was set for 200, so i assumed the roll was color—twenty-something frames had been exposed & i figured, what the hell, live dangerously. it was the wrong choice.
i’m currently helping my friend josh learn film photography, which is bringing me back to basics a lot in my own practice. he’s a big fan of color & all i said to that was, it’s a completely different mindset than black & white, you will develop an instinct to look differently at the same exact scenes. this roll that had been in my camera for six months turned out to be exact proof as to why.
black & white photos tend to be defined by their contrast, the inherent binary. it can be passive or aggressive in approach. with color, it helps to see scenes through soft eyes, understanding relationships of hue rather than shade. the subtleties of these differences make shooting color more complicated—this, of course, all concerning settings outside of studios or controlled environments—as the end result will be closer to the ‘real world’ of the viewer than a photo in grayscale.
so when i finished the mystery roll & it revealed itself to be black & white instead of color, i could immediately think of a number of photos i’d shot specifically for the color elements—the bright-blue bench behind a yellow flower at pan-pacific park; a variety of multi-colored tents at a farmer’s market in fairfax; an american flag fabric among rolls of arabic patterns in santee alley—and how now they’d be completely fucked up. though maybe not all would be bad, something intentionally made to be seen with the more nuanced, subtle details of color will not be realized in grayscale.
we don’t naturally see in shades of gray, so the black & white photograph immediately becomes an object with less of an intrinsic relationship to life. like painting, scales of realism adjust how an audience will or will not relate to the work. it doesn’t make one superior, nor does either escape criticism. but they do require being assessed & critiqued in specifically different ways because of this.
the same can be said about people.
there are no easy endings in life. i’d imagine half the pain that comes with a finale are cumulative efforts to stop it from happening. i’m currently trying to cope with the loss of a long-time friend whose reasons for ending contact make little-to-no sense to me. over & over i review exchanges or reasons—all i can come up with is that it’s similar to a critique of a photo. people are all color prints, with plenty of tints & shades of our respective colors in the spectrum. but we are often critiqued by others as if what was presented is in black & white.
it’s the only way i can make sense of anything right now. people do this sort of thing all the time with one another; ignore the dynamic aspects of a person—or entire groups of people—and judge based instead in grayscale—a single point of reference meant to definitively state what is happening. a representation one more step removed from reality. observation from a vantage point of control—the photograph may have a certain depth being overlooked, revealing more than it shows, but it needn’t be minded if the point-of-view holds a different set of standards.
& like any creation, we are oft left to a path of these passive judgments. seen in one light, a consideration can be a condemnation. in another, it’s a form of praise. we all just sit here, hanging on a wall as the world outside passes by in sirens & exhaustion. so i will remain, hoping at some point the light will hit from just right outside, and more than my darkness can be seen—that it may affect someone in a better way. that this aging print of fuck-ups would offer something more than a window-dressing—that somewhere there is a space on a wall i fit in & that somebody would take me there.