In Black and White: ABN Zooms in on the Captivating Appeal of Black-and-White Photography

By Mullen, Daniel | Art Business News, October 2009 | Go to article overview

In Black and White: ABN Zooms in on the Captivating Appeal of Black-and-White Photography


Mullen, Daniel, Art Business News


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With a history dating back more than 150 years, photography is one of the art world's most collected genres that has maintained steady popularity with new and seasoned collectors alike. Although many fine-art photographers still take a classical approach when working in black and white, others are stretching the boundaries of the genre, experimenting with digital techniques, creative subject matters and alternative substrates that are taking black-and-white photography to a whole new level.

Some photographers, such as Kirill Poliakov of ArtPhoto New York, say the staying power of black-and-white photography is a result of the special skills required to convey a full range of emotions without the help of color.

"With black-and-white photography, you can concentrate your point of view without the interference of color," Poliakov says. "Color creates richness that subdues the senses, but it takes special craftsmanship to create that same feeling with black-and-white photographs."

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Black-and-white photography has also been able to adapt to the art trends of every passing generation since its inception, according to Alex Novak, co-director of Contemporary Works in Chalfont, Pa.

"Black-and-white photography has been involved with virtually every art movement, from Impressionism to Dadaism to Surrealism to Art Nouveau to Expressionism," Novak says. "It continues this trend today, following Postmodernism and other relevant contemporary movements."

Time, technology and demand have all changed the ways in which black-and-white photography is created, but the medium's history and accessibility continue to ensure interest from collectors worldwide.

HISTORY & PROGRESSION

With humble beginnings in the 19th century, black-and-white photography started as a niche collectible that enjoyed a few surges of interest, according to Stephen Bulger, president of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) and owner of Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto. However, photography had become well-recognized by the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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"From that time, it has grown significantly to the point that it holds an important position in our culture and is perceived to be every bit as valuable as other fine-art objects," Bulger says.

Photographer Thomas Barbey, owner of Thomas Barbey Gallery in Lahaina, Hawaii, says contemporary black-and-white photography is attracting much interest from younger generations because it is somewhat unfamiliar.

"In this age, almost everyone has experienced taking a photograph with a cell phone or a camera, but they are usually in color," Barbey says. "This makes black-and-white photographs all the more intriguing to people. It also increases their appreciation of photography because it makes them realize how difficult it is to consistently make great images."

Black-and-white photography continues to be the medium of choice for Barbey and other artists because of its straightforward nature. Novak says such contemporary artists as Ed Ruscha, Abelardo Morrell and Mitch Dobrowner use black-and-white prints to convey their complex ideas more directly, which further adds to the widespread appeal it has maintained for so many years.

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TECHNICAL ADVANCES

In the past, it was difficult for photographers to create high-quality black-and-white photographs with digital printers. …

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In Black and White: ABN Zooms in on the Captivating Appeal of Black-and-White Photography
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