Often in the past and mostly when I was studying photography, I’d proudly show off my black and white prints, still smelling of fixative and be met with such comments,
“Can’t you afford colour then?” or “Ooh, they’re black and white”. I would then try to explain sometimes to no avail, the whole point of the black and white photographs.
The absence of colour forces me to focus (excuse the pun) on other elements of the photograph; the shadows, the light, the sense of space and drama, amongst other things. Sometimes when we view colour photographs, we overlook such aspects whilst perhaps admiring a pretty red hat that someone is wearing. Of course some photographs do not work in black and white and colour actually accentuates the sense of scale, for example the work of Eliot Porter would not be the same in monochrome conversely, the few colour photographs that Ansel Adams produced have nowhere near the dramatic effect of his black and white studies.
From time to time, I like to use black and white photography to convey a mood or an emotion rather than to show a tangible subject, especially when looking at landscape abstracts.
As to whether black and white or colour photography is best – this is a discussion that could go on forever; there is some merit in both styles of photography and each suits a different subject and audience. I show some of my black and white photographs and some people prefer the colour versions, the reverse also happens so to coin a cliche, at-the-end-of-the-day, it’s all subjective, as most things are I guess 🙂