Color at Neomodern

Yes, we print color photographs at Neomodern.

Boardwalk, 2011

Boardwalk, 2011

But clearly, I have a strong bias toward black-and-white images. Why? Is it simply nostalgia? Because they look like classic photos? Is it to make them seem more like "art"—since so many masterpieces of photography have that look? Nawww... there are lots of reasons:

First, a color print almost always is post produced to make it look like the original scene, and make it a realistic reproduction of the reality shot. This is great in a documentary sense, but it is very limiting and frequently frustrating. There's no way to make a digital image (let alone a physical print) have the richness of light and color we see with our eyes. So every effort will be somewhat disappointing, no matter how beautiful the result.

Second, philosophically, it's a reminder that this image isn't mistaken for 'reality'. Whether color or b&w, a photo is a fiction created by an artist—it's cropped from time and space, it forces a point of view. So the monochromatic nature is a signifier that the entire process is surreal, a creation. The color seems to deny this sort of abstraction.

Third, emphasis. The post production of an image is furthering the work of the shooting, to highlight subject matter, to convey a feeling. When you optimize a color image you're generally trying to make it "more real." There's no such possibility once you remove the chroma. In a b&w image, you have remarkable latitude to adjust light, shade, contrast in order to better emphasize elements in the image. A red shirt on a person is strong and attracts attention, perhaps away from a face or gesture; in b&w that shirt is dark and attracts no special focus. Moreover, the printmaster can make a purposeful decision about how certain colors will look in b&w—a blue sky or green leaf become controllable shades of  grey: the artist can decide if blue or green should be almost-white or almost-black—this adds a separate layer to the creation of a photograph and is an important part of the process.

Fourth, poetic forms. For me, color tends to trump other elements in an image. It's used to make drab images 'better' (or at least 'pretty.') Take the color away and you can see just how dull the original photograph was. Harder is making the monochromatic image beautiful—the photographer is forced to create beauty through composition and content. Unless the photo is specifically 'about' the colors (a golden sunset, a warm cast from a streetlight...) it is often instructive to explore the monochromatic image. The story says Ansel Adams once criticized color by saying "Anyone can take a color photo, but it's harder to take a black-and-white..." I have yet to find this quote, but i like the sentiment: i simply enjoy the photographic constraint: it's harder to take a black and white photo that's beautiful, so it makes the taking of photos more of a game for me. Like haiku, it's a poetic form, not better or worse than others, but an enjoyable medium on its own. 

Eggs, Palm Springs, 2015

Eggs, Palm Springs, 2015

So while i aspire to taking great black and white images, and suggest it's both fun as a hobby and instructive in making all your photos better, yes... neomodern will print whatever images customers bring to us. We might show you how your image might look in greyscale, but in the end its up to you to decide what kind of prints to make.