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McCurry is renowned for his use of colour in por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy. Yet when he started out as a press pho­tog­ra­pher in Philadel­phia the 1970s, he worked ex­clu­sively in black and white…

What did you think about shoot­ing in black and white? Do you find it more or less dif­fi­cult than shoot­ing in colour?

I love black and white. I think black and white makes ev­ery­thing a lit­tle bit more graphic and some­times there’s more emo­tion in black and white, and cer­tainly you don’t have the added prob­lem of the colour to solve. To me, black and white is eas­ier. With pho­tograph­ing the world in colour, that’s the way we see it so it makes far more sense to pho­to­graph the world in colour, but if you’re go­ing to make a colour pho­to­graph you need to think about it, whereas in black and white you don’t have to think about colour at all.

It’s ap­ples and or­anges. Black and white pho­tog­ra­phy is won­der­ful, colour pho­tog­ra­phy is won­der­ful. It just de­pends on how you want to spend your time in this world. Do you still shoot black and white pho­to­graphs to­day?

No. But I think the way to iden­tify a good colour pho­to­graph is to ask yourself if you con­vert it to black and white does it still have in­ter­est? Does it still have value?

That would make a good story idea: let’s look at a se­ries of colour pho­to­graphs, let’s just break it down, see how they work: the light, the de­sign, the graphic qual­ity. If it’s a good pic­ture, whether it’s been shot in colour or in black and white, then it’s suc­cess­ful.

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