Mono Por­trait Ex­pert

An­drew Far­ring­ton on tones

Practical Photography (UK) - - Mono Masterclass -

“When I first set eyes on David Bai­ley’s black & white por­traits from the late six­ties, I felt an urge to em­u­late the sim­ple yet in­tense fa­mil­iar­ity which they ex­uded. At the same time, I had no inkling of the work of Ju­lia Mar­garet Cameron from al­most 100 years prior, which would go on to in­flu­ence me even more. I quickly found that the Bai­ley ‘look’ had as much to do with peo­ple skills as it did with the tech­nique of pho­tog­ra­phy and that Mar­garet Cameron was most prob­a­bly the op­po­site of that.

“When I take a pho­to­graph of any­thing, I treat it like a por­trait – an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, or in­sight into what is in front of me. Shoot­ing in black & white can strip away the re­al­ity and ren­der form as a sim­pler vis­ual ma­trix. You can al­most view a face as a land­scape or con­versely, a view of rolling hills and clouds as the in­ter­min­gled shapes and forms of hair and skin – put colour into these two sce­nar­ios and at once, hue comes to the fore and pushes us into a dif­fer­ent realm.

“Of course, colour is im­por­tant, but the abil­ity to shape it as tone al­lows us a fur­ther di­men­sion that twist­ing colours doesn’t. The gar­ish hues of HDR, for ex­am­ple, al­ready ap­pear hack­neyed, a cheap get-out clause from poor com­po­si­tion or tech­nique.

“The joy of dig­i­tal, for me, is the abil­ity to see in black & white and to have an im­me­di­ate re­sponse to changes in colour tem­per­a­ture and the ren­der­ing in tone of what is be­fore me. I mainly use an Olym­pus PEN-F which has a ‘Creative Dial’ on the front of the body – this al­lows in­fi­nite ad­just­ment of the tone-curve and fil­ter com­bi­na­tions, not to men­tion the ad­di­tion of tex­ture via the ad­di­tion of ‘grain’ should it be felt nec­es­sary.

“It’s now pos­si­ble to go for a walk with an em­u­la­tion of vir­tu­ally any black & white film ever pro­duced, or ‘roll your own’ us­ing the fan­tas­tic soft­ware avail­able.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that dur­ing my time do­ing lec­tures and work­shops, that the ma­jor­ity of younger stu­dents and at­ten­dees pre­fer to shoot in black & white – that says a lot about the longevity of shades of grey.”

An­drew is a multi award-win­ning pro shooter with an en­vi­able client list that in­cludes the BBC. in­sta­­drew­photo

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