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Yuka Nojima
Black and White Photography
Dissertation, MA in Communications Studies
1 September 2003
Black and White Photography
Table of Contents
!I Introduction
!II Review of the Literature
!III Examination of Black-and-White Photography
! 12 Colour Photography

! 3 Semiotics and Psychology

Documentary Photography
! 4 Art Photography
! 5 Advertising
!IV Conclusion Photography
I Introduction
This dissertation will examine the use of black and white photography, its significance, and its
difference from colour photography. Why is black-and-white photography still popular? What do we
see in black-and-white photographs? What is the difference between black-and-white photography
and colour photography? This dissertation intends to answer these questions.
Since the invention of photography, people have been seeking for the way to capture the natural
colours. Joseph Nicphore Nipce, the inventor of heliography, told his brother Claude about his
desire to fix the colours, and Daguerreotypists would colour the plates by hand.1 Since then, there

have been remarkable progress in the techniques of colour photography, and today, colour
photographs are prevalent. However, even with all the technologies for colour photography, we still
use black and white photography. Most digital cameras have black and white effect and black and
white films are still sold a long time since the invention of practical (both in price and usability)
colour photography. For instance, the sales of black and white films in Japan were 8800 million yen
in 1970, 6700 million yen in 1975, 9500 million yen in 1980 and 7700 million yen in 1985.2 Even

disposable cameras have black-and-white or monochrome versions.3

An article from Wall Street Journal of the 17th of October in 1989 tells us the reviving popularity
of black-and-white photography: stylish magazine advertisements in black-and-white photography,

Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography: from 1839 to the present (New York: The
Museum of Modern Art, 5th edn, 1986), p. 269.
2! Photo Market 2002 (Tokyo: Photo Market, 2002).
3!Disposable cameras for black-and-white photography from Konica were marketed only from
September 1995 to July 1999 due to the poor sales, but from September 2001, disposable cameras
for monotone photography have been successfully marketed.Personal correspondence with Isao
Takatori (Konica Japan) on the 18th June 2003.
portrait orders in black-and-white and black-and-white photography classes full of students. The
article says that sales of black-and-white film had been declining steadily since the 1960s until 1988,
when the sales increased 5 percent for increased use in advertising and other commercial
applications (processing of black-and-white commercial film raised 24 percent to 18.7 million rolls
in 1988), and that nearly 15 percent of the Kodak sales are of black-and-white film in 1989.4

AGFA holds a black-and-white photo contest each year, and also in general photo contests held
my AGFA, almost 40 percent of winning photographs are black-and-white, except the contests with
the themes Colour, and Landscape, where 3 out of 20 were in black-and-white.
This dissertation will investigate the significance of black-and-white photography and examine
why people still use monochrome images.
First it will describe the development of colour photography, and how photographers have
considered colour photography.
Then we will examine the semiotics of colours: what black-and-white photography connotates.
Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwens theories on the grammar of visual design and the grammar of
colour5 will be utilised, and it will be argued that black and white, as colours themselves, have been

used in formal occasions, and thus culturally connotate authority and seriousness. It will also
examine how the absence of colour can contribute to the focus on shapes and forms mainly applying
Rudolf Arnheims theories based on Gestalt psychology.6

Then we will look at three types of photography where black-and-white seems to be often
employed with differentiation from colour photography. Those three genres are documentary
photography, art photography and advertising photography.
The section of documentary photography examines why we tend to connect documentary
photography with black-and-white. Most pictures in newspapers and text books are in black-and-
white. This is partly due to its low price, but it is also because of its connotation. Black-and-white
photography seems more suitable to depict war or natural disaster because of its connotation of
history, while vivid colour photography conveys immediacy of the events. Those documentary
photographs which could reveal our demonic curiosity, as Jonathan Friday argues,7 look less crude in

black-and-white photography. There is a need to report wars and publicise famines and other
problems, as in the case of Farm Security Administration, in order to gain more concern from
people, and in some cases naturalistic colour photographs may be considered too sanguine. Black-
and-white photography, because of its absence of sensory colour, seems more suitable for earnest
documentary. Also, while naturalistic colour photography suggests immediacy and particularity,
black-and-white photography tends to generalise and conceptualise the subject-matter because of its
detachment from reality due to its absence of colour, and thus is more suitable for documentary
Art photography is another genre where we often see black-and-white photographs. There are a
lot of amateur photographers who prefer black-and-white photography, partly because the
development process is simpler than the colour process, but mostly because of their belief in
aesthetic value of black-and-white photography. Here we will look at Pierre Bourdieus argument on
the distinction of aesthetics among different socio-cultural classes,8 and also Kress and Leeuwens

coding orientations theory.9 In modern society, higher education, which has been the privilege of

higher socio-cultural classes, stresses on abstraction. Black-and-white photography is less realistic

Peter Pae, Black-and-White Photos Develop Fans Use in Ads Lifts Snaps Appeal After Long
Fall, in Wall Street Journal (New York: October 17, 1989, Eastern edn), p. 1.
Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, Reading Images: The grammar of Visual Design (London:
Routeledge, 1996) and Colour as a Semiotic Mode: Notes for a Grammar of Colour, in Visual
Communication, vol. 1, no. 3 (2002), pp. 343-368.
Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception (London: Faber and Faber, 1969) and Film as Art
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957).
Jonathan Friday, Demonic Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Documentary Photography, in British
Journal of Aesthetics, vol. 40, no. 3 (2000), pp. 356-375.
Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routeledge &
Kegan Paul, 1979) and Photography: A Middle-brow Art (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996).
9! Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen (1996).
and naturalistic, and, as Arnheim argues, it emphasises shapes and forms, thus can be considered as
more abstract than colour photography. Therefore, black-and-white photography can be regarded
more intellectual and more demanding in terms of aesthetic than colour photography, which can be
considered to give gratification for popular taste. Nature photographs, for instance, are often in
colour for travel guides, while renowned photographers such as Ansel Adams often employ black-
and-white photographs for their aesthetic expression of scenery. Also portraits exhibited in museums
are often in black-and-white while portraits in family albums after the marketing of low-priced
colour photographs are more often in colour.
Then in the section of advertising photography, the argument will focus on the advertisement for
fashion, especially for perfumes. As Judith Williamson contests, there is practically no difference
between brands of product and the advertisements role is to differentiate particular product from
others by creating image around it.10 Black-and-white photography, with its connotation of high art,

enhances this differentiation.

The conclusion will be that black-and-white photography, because of its absence of colour, have
more disparity from reality, which adds the abstractness and sense of history and authority, leading
to conceptualisation and aestheticisation of the subject-matter.
As regard to the method applied, the inquiry will be essentially theoretical, using references from
literature and examples of photographs.
II Review of the Literature
! In this chapter, first we will review theories on photography focusing on functions and intentions
that will be linked to the differentiated roles of colour and black-and-white photography, and then we
will look at arguments on black-and-white photography.
There are various approaches to study photography: historical, sociological, aesthetical,
technological, and so on. Here, the review will focus on the functions of photography.
Roland Barthes, in La Chambre Claire, observes that photography can be the object of three
practices, and he names these three lOperator, le Spectator, and le Spectrum.11 LOperator is a

photographer, le Spectator is those who look at photographs, and le Spectrum is what is

photographed, the referent. Here, after Barthess division of photographic intentions, we will look at
the functions of photography in three practices: the functions as we take photographs, the functions
as we look at photographs, and functions that photography compels us.
The first functions are related to the intentions we have when we photograph some objects, and
we will examine Pierre Bourdieus theory on social function of photography,12 and Susan Sontags

argument.13 The second is related to aesthetic appreciation of photography. It is what we do when we

look at photographs, as Bourdieu examines functions within each genre and distinction of aesthetic
judgement according to socio-cultural strata.14 The third is connected to the specificity of

photographys relation to reality. The objects in photographs are often considered to have special
quality different from the objects in other visual representational arts such as paintings, and this
quality changes our perceptions of reality. Walter Benjamin examines mechanical reproduction and

!Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising (London:
Marion Boyars, 1978).
!Roland Barthes, La Chambre Claire: Note sur la Photographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1980), p. 22.
My translation.
! Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-brow Art, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Cambridge: Polity
Press, paperback edn, 1996).
! Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin Books, 1979).
! 14
Bourdieu (1996), and Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice
(London, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979).
art,15 Susan Sontag contests that photography gives us visual guidance,16 and Barthes analyses the

characteristics of photographic message.17 Barthess arguments are related to how we perceive, or

decode (his preferred term), photographic messages. Therefore, we will look at Barthess arguments
in relation to le Spectator as well as to the specificity of photographic referent.
What is important to us in those arguments is the possibility of black-and-white photography
playing different roles than colour photography in some functions or intentions: it may reinforce the
function, emphasise the distinctions or reduce the effect.
Pierre Bourdieu, in Photography: A Middle-brow Art,18 emphasises the social function of

photography and sees the significant correspondence between introduction of photograph into the
ritual of the grand ceremonies of family life and the rise of the social importance of those
ceremonies. Photographic practices internalise the social function and it solemnises and
immortalises the high points of family life, thus reinforces the integration of the family group.
Therefore, even though there is a difference of photographic activities between rural areas and urban
areas, the function conferred upon the photographic image remains the same: the emphasis is on the
picture produced rather than on the means of producing it, and the photographic images are not of
individuals but of their social roles. Photography captures the moment and symbolises it: it
transforms the good moments into good memories.19

Terence Wright also argues the significance of theory of representation in practicing photography,
saying all photographers will most likely have expectations that the camera will produce a certain
sort of image that will fulfil their expectations to a greater or lesser degree.20 He cites an instance of

the parent taking a snapshot of a child on holiday and contests that he will have certain expectations
with regard to the outcome of the image, and an idea of the intended audience, and try to make a
photograph that will express the socially acceptable image of a happy holiday.21 As he argues, the

criteria of the evaluation of photographs are derived from an underlying theoretical standpoint and it
determines the anticipated outcome that will be subject to certain traditions, codes and conventions
of visual representation.
Susan Sontag, on the other hand, examines the psychology in the process of producing
photographs as well as the intention of capturing the moment to serve social roles. She says that
photography is mainly practiced as a social rite, a defence against anxiety, and a tool of power. She
examines why people tend to take more photographs in travelling, and contests that taking
photographs is a way of certifying experience offering evidence that the trip was made, but also a
way of refusing it at the same time, by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by
converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Taking photographs also eases the feelings of
disorientation experienced during travels by giving shape to experience. Photography gives tourists
something to do like a friendly imitation of work.22 Thus having a camera transforms one person

into something active while the others remain passive in front of events. The photographer both
looks and preserves, and use camera to take possession of the places they visit.
Daniel J. Boorstin argues the intention of lOperator in his book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-
Events in America, in relation with our confusion of what is original and what is a copy of
experience. He says that photography enables mechanically adept amateur to produce a kind of

!Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in Illuminations, ed.
Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Jonathan Cape, 1970), pp. 219-253.
! Sontag (1979).
!Roland Barthes, The Photographic Message (1961) and Rhetoric of the Image (1964) in Image
Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977).
! Bourdieu (1996).
! Bourdieu (1996), p. 27.
! Terence Wright, The Photography Handbook (London and New York: Routeledge, 1999), p. 9.
! Wright (1999), p. 10.
! Sontag (1979), p. 10.
original. Using a camera, every man can feel somehow that what he has made is his image,
even though it has almost nothing of him in it.23 Halla Beloff also argues that, as social life becomes

more fragmented and anonymous and the more fragile our identity, the more we need to express
ourselves in photographs and reinforce our identity to show that we exist and to show that we can
create something in photograph.24

Beloff also says that photography come in three kinds: art photography, documentary
photography, personal photography,25 and argues that photographs are about information, aesthetics

or emotion and that a good photographs have all these three qualities.26 He contends that the

photographer is an agent who looks at the world and captures some residue of their looking and
that their look depends on their temperament and personal experience, but more importantly on the
purpose for which they take the picture.27

Hence, the functions of photography as we take photographs can be divided into two: the one
affecting practitioners psychology, and the other, namely intended function for later use or for
manifestation of his or her artistic ability. The act itself of photographing confers calamity on the
practitioners by alienating then from their transitory surrounding and by giving them familiar
activities. The intention of photographing is to capture the moment, event or scene in order to show
it later, to remind oneself of ones conquest, to serve social expectations.
!Le Spectator
Pierre Bourdieu examines the significance of genres in evaluating photographs. When we look at
photography, we expect photography to give a narrative symbolism, and as a sign or, more
precisely, an allegory.28 The main standard to judge the value of photography is the fulfillment of

the social function and this social function is directed by the genres of each photograph: as Bourdieu
says, the purpose and raison dtre of photographs derive from its participation within a genre.29 In

other words, we have different criteria of value judgement in respective genres.

However, Bourdieu believes that the system of aesthetic judgement varies according to socio-
cultural strata.30 The value judgement described above is that of the popular aesthetic, the festive

aesthetic, that is, the aesthetic of communication with others and communication with the world.31

Opposed to this, the aesthetic judgement of upper class is not bound to the function of photography.
In his book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Bourdieu analyses a survey on
what kind of subject-matters people from each socio-cultural classes find beautiful and says, a
relatively large proportion of the highest-qualified subjects assert their aesthetic disposition by
declaring that any object can be perceived aesthetically, and people who have completed several
years of higher education tend to consider that anything is suitable for beautiful photography32

while people from lower socio-cultural classes evaluate beauty of photography according to the
social function it fulfils.
We also perceive photography as message, as in documentary photography and advertisements.
This process involves the functions of le Spectrum, the referent of photographs. As Terence Wright
argues photographic reality, photographs are products of particular culture and are only perceived

! Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York: Vintage Book,
25th Anniversary edn, 1992), pp. 170-171.
! Halla Beloff, Camera Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 22.
! Beloff (1985), p. 1.
! Beloff (1985), p. 1.
! Beloff (1985), p. 45.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 91.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 89.
! Bourdieu (1979).
! Bourdieu (1996), p. 94.
! Bourdieu (1979), p. 39.
as real by cultural convention: they only appear realistic because we have been taught to see them as
such.33 Thus way we perceive and decode photographs is closely related to the function of le

Spectrum. Therefore, before we study the process of our photographic reading, we will examine the
functions of le Spectrum.
!Le Spectrum
Roland Barthes calls the object photographed le Spectrum, because it has its linguistic origin
related to spectacle and also it adds what all the photographs have: the return of the dead.34 Susan

Sontag also says that photography is the inventory of mortality: it shows the vulnerability of lives
heading toward their own destruction, and this link between photography and death haunts all
photographs of people.35

Sontag also notes the relation between the past and photography. Like Bourdieu says photography
transforms good moments into good memories,36 Sontag says it offers instant romanticism about the

present. The photographer does not only record the past but also invents it. Photography is a
reminder of death and also an invitation to sentimentality. Photographs turn the past into an object
of tender regard, scrambling moral distinctions and disarming historical judgements by the
generalized pathos of looking at time past.37

The characteristic of photographic referent is, Barthes says, that the object was necessarily real
and it was in front of the camera: the object was there. This characteristic of the photographic
referent bears double position conjoint: of reality and of past: it was there for sure, but it is not there
anymore.38 Photography, Andr Bazin says, does not create eternity, as art does, it embalms time,

rescuing it simply from its proper corruption.39

Walter Benjamin also examines the power of le Spectrum. He studies photographic portraits
including a photograph of a fishwife by David Octavius Hill and says: something remains that does
not testify merely to the art of the photographer something demanding the name of the person
who had lived then, who even now is still real and will never entirely perish into art.40 This

specificity of the photographic referent, a kind of simulacrum, the eidolon emitted by the object41

confers denotative status on photography, as we will look at Barthes arguments later in this chapter,42

and brings about arguments of reality.

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, New Haven Fishwife, ca. 1845.

! Wright (1999), p. 6
! Barthes (1980), p. 23. My translation.
! Sontag (1979), p. 70.
! Bourdieu (1996), p. 27.
! Sontag (1979), p. 71.
! Barthes (1980), p. 120. My translation.
! AndrBazin, The Ontology of the Photographic Image, in What is Cinema? Volume I, trans.
Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of Californian Press, 1967), p. 14.
! Walter Benjamin, A Short History of Photography, trans. P. Patton, in Artforum, vol. 15,
February (1977), reprinted in Alan Trachtenberg(ed.),Classic Essays on Photography (New Haven,
Leetes Island Books, 1980), pp. 199-216, p. 202. Benjamin compares the characteristics of portraits
in painting and photography. In traditional art, he argues, portraits are appreciated as testimony to the
art of painter and interests in the identity of the people represented subside as the time goes by.
! Barthes (1980), p. 22.
! 42
Barthes argues denotative power of photography in The Photographic Message and Rhetoric of
the Image.
Benjamin also argues mechanical production and the aura of the work of art.43 He argues that the

presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity. He compares manual
reproduction and technical reproduction and says that, while manual reproduction is usually
considered as a forgery and the original preserves all its authenticity, technical reproduction is more
independent of the original, and can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out
of reach for the original itself.44 And these characteristics cause confusion between the original and

copy and thus jeopardise the authority of the object, the aura.
Daniel J. Boorstin also examines the problem of reality in modern life, saying we believe in
illusions because we suffer from extravagant expectations.45 We demand more illusions, bigger

and better and more vivid,46 and vivid image has come to overshadow pale reality: The Grand

Canyon itself became a disappointing reproduction of the Kodachrome original.47 In the age of

mass-production, the original loses its originality and the copy becomes more familiar, and the
uniqueness of originals and of copies is dissolved as colour mechanical reproductions become
cheaper and easier. And what is more, we enjoy the pleasure of deception.48 He continues:

photography enables amateur to produce a kind of original49 and it confuses our sense of what

is original and what is a copy of experience.50

Susan Sontag says that photographs teach us a new visual code. They do not only record reality,
but they create interest by new visual design, and they confer importance to things photographed.
Photographs have become the norm for the way things appear, and change the very idea of reality,
and of realism. The power of photography blurs the border of images and our understanding of
reality and makes it less plausible to reflect upon our experience according to the distinction between
images and things, between copies and originals. The force of photographic images comes from
their being material realities in their own right, richly informative deposits left in the wake of
whatever emitted them, potent means for turning the tables on reality for turning it into a
shadow.51 Thus, an object photographed becomes a symbol and a shadow.

Halla Beloff also argues the power of photography to show the world and to authenticate the
world.52 He argues that photography is shaped by our ideas, influenced by our behaviour, defined

by our beliefs about community,53 and in return it influences our ideas and our behaviour, and

defines our society and can radically transform our idea of what is real.54

Now there is a very subtle relation between reality and photography. As exhibited above,
photographs are believed to have the power to be evidence. Barthes argues that this derives from
characteristic of photography as a message without code.
A photograph transmits the literal reality: although there is a reduction in proportion, perspective
and colour, there is no need to divide up the reality into units and to constitute these units as signs,
therefore no need to set up a code between the object and its image. Barthes defines two types of
message: denoted message and connoted message. A denoted message is the analogon of the reality

! Benjamin (1970).
! Benjamin (1970), p. 222.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 4.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 6
! Boorstin (1992), pp. 13-14.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 194.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 170.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 170.
! Sontag (1979), p. 180.
! Beloff (1985), p. 16.
! Beloff (1985), p. 22.
! Beloff (1985), p. 19.
itself, and a connoted message is the manner in which the society communicates what it thinks of it.
Photographys pure status is denotative and objective by nature. However, it is possible to connote a
photographic message. Barthes exhibits six kinds of connotation procedure: trick effects, pose,
objects, photogenia, aestheticism and syntax. Those procedures are based on the photographic
paradox of co-existence of the message without a code and the message with a code: the connoted
message develops on the basis of a message without a code.55
! Now how do we perceive this message from le Spectrum as le Spectator?

Barthes argues that even when the photographic image is heavily connoted, people do not really pay
attention to the connotation: they receive a connoted message subconsciously, and they take it as if it
were a denoted message. Thus it is possible to give people subliminal message using photographys
power of denotation. This power of denotation also works with text next to photographic images: the
verbal message seems to share in its objectivity, and the connotation of language is innocent
through the photographs denotation.56

However, as Barthes examines the photographic message,57 rhetoric of the image,58 and

mythologies of culture,59 we subconsciously refer to our cultural accretions in reading photography.

As Beloff says, we bring a whole set of personal and social associations to a photograph and these
meanings conjured up make up the perception60 and, as Terence Wright argues, photographs are not

automatically realistic and the forces of culture constantly alter our perception and understanding
of photographs.61 He continues: the value of photographys representational powers lies as much in

the images historical and cultural contexts as in any inherent properties of the photographic medium
itself. At the very least, our looking at a photograph, and our obtaining information from it, is not as
straightforward as we might have first thought.62

This is especially true with advertisement photography as we receive the connoted message of
advertisement and the implied value of the advertised object using a set of social and cultural
associations yet we somehow believe in the advertised reality, yet we are not fooled by
advertisement: as postmodernist thinkers argue, knowing advertising is beyond the true and the
false,63 we enjoy advertising as a festival64 and have the pleasure of deception from it.

These are main arguments on photography and its functions in society. The aim of this dissertation
is to examine the specific roles of black-and-white photographs in fulfilling those social and cultural
intentions of photography. Before the detailed examination of black-and-white photography, we
review arguments on intentions and connotations of colour and black-and-white photography.
There is not much literature specifically on black-and-white photography, and it is often
mentioned in relation to documentary photography. Also some commentators compare colour and

! Roland Barthes, The Photographic Message (1961) in Image Music Text, trans Stephen Heath
(London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 15-31.
! Ibid, p. 26.
! Roland Barthes, The Photographic Message (1961) in Image Music Text, trans Stephen Heath
(London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 15-31.
! Roland Barthes, Rhetoric of the Image (1964) in Image Music Text, trans Stephen Heath
(London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 32-51.
! Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Paris: Seuil, 1957).
! Beloff (1985), p. 18.
! Wright (1999), p. 6.
! Wright (1999), p. 7.
! Jean Baudrillard, Revenge of the Crystal: Selected Writings on the Modern Object and its Destiny
1968-1983, ed. and trans. Paul Foss and Julian Pefanis (London: Pluto, 1990), p. 93.
! 64
Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, trans Ian Hamilton Grant (London: Sage, 1993),
black-and-white photography.
Graham Clark argues that the realism of photography is part of a structure of illusion to which we
accede,65 and says that, especially in the traditional documentary, we equate black-and-white

photographs with realism and the authentic66 and the presence of colour lessens the sense of

the photographs veracity as an image and witness.67 He argues that colour detracts from a

photographs realism and reflects the act of interpretation rather than of recording, as professional
and art photographers use colour in a deliberate way to draw attention to the medium or to imply a
statement about the subject.68 Siegfried Kracauer also says that natural colours recorded by the

camera tend to weaken rather than increase the realistic effect.69 Terence Wright also argues one

of the expected characteristics of documentary photography is the stark, grainy, black and white
image.70 As Clarks says colour photographs are central to snapshots,71 Wright argues that colour

photography is associated with the amateur market and snapshot.72 He also contends that the

monochromatic image enhances the viewers imagination for the colours that are not present in the
photograph can be mentally filled in through the process of perception.73

Wrights argument that black-and-white photography encourages imagination seems to be

contradictory to Clarks argument that colour reflects the act of interpretation rather than recording.
However, as Wright mentions Ernst Haas being exception for his approach of formal
experimentation,74 artistic formal approach to colour invites us to interpret photographs. Wright also

argues that colour images do not embody the harsh actuality demanded by such documentary
modes as the news photograph,75 hence black-and-white photography is more suitable for

documentary recording. We will discuss the different use of black-and-white and colour photographs
in documentary, art and advertisement in detail later in the following chapter, but first, we will look
at another argument on black-and-white and colour photography and then conclude this review of
the literature.
Ernst Haas, Rose, 1970
Halla Beloff, who argues that photograph is something to do with physics and chemistry and
time travel, and social issues and identification people and things and what happened76, examines

the problem of black-and-white photography in terms of Technics, naturalism/realism, history and

association, and psychology. Colour photography has more information and psychologically rich,
hence enhances pleasures and suitable for mercantile and amateur photographs and conforms to
pictures in the popular magazines while serious photographers avoid and despise colour. In the
technical aspect, photographers have thought that they have more control over the optic values with
black-and-white photographs. Also, black-and-white photography seems to have abstracted truth and

! Graham Clark, The Photography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 23.
! Clark (1997), p. 23.
! Clark (1997), p. 23.
! Clark (1997), p. 24.
!Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (New York: A Galaxy
Book, 1965; orig. pub. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960). pp. vii-viii
! Wright (1999), p. 139.
! Clark (1997), p. 23.
! Wright (1999), p. 140.
! Wright (1999), p. 139.
! Wright (1999), p. 139.
! Wright (1999), p. 139.
! Beloff (1985), p. 1.
to show truer essence by removing the surface gloss of colour. Historically, founders of photography
used black-and-white and therefore it is associated with historical authorities while colour
photographs first appeared in magazines like Vogue and in travel brochures. Psychologically, colour
photographs give us sense of good cheer, the mundane world and ordinariness while black-and-white
photography has an austerity, an abstractness and makes a visual object interesting and challenging
by removing itself from the mundane and presenting an element of translation or codification.77
! It seems that roles of black-and-white photography and colour photography are differentiated and

each has specific connotations in different genres of photography. In the following chapter, we will
examine particular usage of black-and-white photography and its historical, cultural, social, semiotic
and psychological values different from those of colour photography. The intention of this
dissertation is to account for these differentiated functions of black-and-white photography in our
IIIExamination of Black-and-White Photography
! As exhibited in the introduction, even today with all the advanced techniques of colour process,
we still use black-and-white photography, and its usage and function seems to be different from
colour photography. In review of the literature, we examined functions and intentions of
photography, and the purpose here is to examine how black-and-white photography can enhance or
lessen those functions and intentions and how different functions and intentions are represented in
colour and black-and-white.
Black-and-white photography is still used partly for economic and practical reasons. Black-and-
white photography is still cheaper to reproduce in books and newspapers. Also some photographers
feel that black-and-white photography is easier to control. However, there are more historical,
aesthetic and connotational reasons for unabated application of black-and-white photography.
In the following sections, we will first look at the history of colour photography, how
photographers and thinkers considered of colour photography and how historically colour and black-
and-white photography have different connotations. Then we will examine semiotics and psychology
associated to colour and black-and-white photography. We will look at theories of semiotics of visual
design, especially concerning colour, Gestalt psychology regarding visual perception and other
arguments on popular culture, and intend to account for the differentiation between colour and
black-and-white photography.
And then we will look at three different genres of photography: documentary, art and
advertisement photography. Categorisation of photography is problematic, as Ansel Adams says:
Definitions of this kind are inessential and stupid; good photography remains good photography no

! Beloff (1985), pp. 92-94.
matter what we name it.78 However, here, we do not concern with the value of a particular

photograph. One photograph, for instance, can be produced for advertisement or for newspaper
article, but can be appreciated as art. Here, our focus is on intentions and functions of photography
in each stage. What specific intentions does black-and-white photography have at the stage of
production or editing? What particular functions does it fulfil when it reaches to the audience? We
subconsciously relate photography to our cultural accretions, which are often associated to the
notion of genre. Therefore, it is effective to look at usage of black-and-white photography (and
colour photography) in those three categories.
1 Colour Photography
! In this section, we will examine the history of colour photography, how photographers have
considered it and what association it has had.
The inventions of colour photography start in the late nineteenth century. In 1850, Levi L. Hill, a
Baptist minister and professional daguerreotypist in New York announced his success in fixing the
colour in the public press and published Treatise on Heliochromy in 1856, but the process was not
perfect enough for general use.79 Ian Jeffrey contests that the first practical colour film for amateurs

and professionals came on to the market in 1935 and it became widely available after 1945, and that
many improvements from the 1940s onwards made possible printing of an unprecedented accuracy,
and this in turn encouraged a new interest in colour among art photographers. The developments in
commercial printing since the 1940s brought the work of photographers within reach of a large new
audience, and finally helped establish it as a serious medium for art.80

Until the process of colour photography was established and became available, photographs had
been coloured by hands. Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of Calotype, offered hand-coloured
Calotypes and sold them for twice the cost of a print in its original monochrome form, even though
he was not enthusiastic about the results.81 As James L. Enyeart argues, hand colouring of

photographs was part of the commercial bias that condescended to a public desire for natural color
images, and those interested in the aesthetic potential of the medium had less than enthusiastic
thoughts about the introduction of such color. 82

Even in those days, colour photography was related to commercialism and demand from
consumers and not to artistic expression of photographers. Enyeart cites the statement of J. H.
Croucher in an 1853 book about the daguerreotype process. Croucher says that colour covers the
fine delicate outlines and exquisite gradations of tone of a good picture, and that such a coating is
barbarous and inartistic, and he criticises that the prevailing taste is for coloured proofs and amateurs
are ministering to this perverted taste.83 Beaumont Newhall, citing John Towlers article in

Humphreys Journal of Photography, also argues that the colour process was in demand but that
there were problems as well as the value of satisfying this need. Towler writes: Good taste,
however, eschews much color; a vulgar taste seeks gratification of strong contrasts, and hence of
colors and says that it is the part of business man in the photographer to sacrifice all preconceived
notions to the desires of his customers.84

! Ansel Adams, A Personal Credo (1943) in Beaumont Newhall (ed.), Photography: Essays &
Images: Illustrated Readings in the History of Photography (London: Secker & Warburg, 1981), pp.
255-261, p. 257.
! Beaumont Newhall, In Color, in The History of Photography: from1839 to the Present (New
York: The Museum of Modern Art, 5th edn, 1982), pp. 269-279.
! Ian Jeffrey, Photography: A Concise History (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981), p. 245.
!James L. Enyeart, Introduction: Quest for Color, in Harry M. Callahan (ed.), Ansel Adams in
Color (Boston, London: Little Brown and Company, 1993), pp. 9-32.
! Enyeart (1993), pp. 12-13
! J. H. Croucher, Hints on the Daguerreotype Photographic Pictures (Philadelphia: A Hart, Late
Carey and Hart, 1853), p. 199, cited in Enyeart (1993), p. 13.
! 84
John Towler, Humphreys Journal of Photography, vol. 14 (1862), p. 146, cited in Newhall (1982),
p. 269.
Roland Barthes also expresses his dislike of hand-tinted daguerreotypes saying that colour is
applied later on the truth of black-and-white original image and that colour is like make up applied
on corpse.85 This is, of course, not the same with the case of todays colour photography where the

original image is in colour, but certainly related to the question of reality. James L. Enyeart contends
that the general public has seen photography as a means of capturing reality while photographers
have considered photography as either vessel of truth (documentary) or an abstraction (personal
interpretation). To the general public, colour serves only to enhance the illusion.86

In 1903, the Lumire brothers invented Autochrome using the additive principle and they were
put on the market in 1907.87 This process, Enyeart says, offered the equivalent of a colour

transparency on glass with vivid colour separated by delicate soft edges created by the slightly
granular texture of the emulsion88 and raised hopes for truly aesthetic possibilities,89 and the first

public exhibition in the United States of Autochrome was held in New York by Edward Steichen and
other photographers in 1907.90 However, the manufacture of Autochrome discontinued in 1932 and

additive processes were taken over by subtractive processes,91 and Kodachrome was put in the

market in 1935. In 1947 Eastman Kodak Company invited creative photographers, such as Edward
Weston, Ansel Adams, Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand, and Walker Evans, to experiment with the then
new 8 10 sheet film Kodachrome. Walker Evans reproduced a portfolio of colour works by these
photographers in the July 1954 issue of Fortune magazine and said of the colour medium that it was
sill in its infancy and argued that many photographers were apt to confuse colour with noise and to
congratulate themselves when they have almost blown you down with screeching hues alone a
bebop of electric blues, furious reds, and poison greens.92

Ansel Adams also argues that the first requisite for colour photographs was to achieve realistic
images. However, it was impossible to get a truly realistic image and a concept of pseudo-reality
developed in both professional and amateur work and color photographers seemed to revel in
smashing, garish color. If you cant make it good, make it red, was more than a casual remark. As
the quality of equipment and materials advance the creative level does not.93

These criticisms were partly due to the popularist use of colour photographs at that time. As Ansel
Adams says, the tastemakers in colour photography are the manufactures, advertisers in general and
the public with their insatiable appetite for the snappy snapshot.94 One of the few vehicles for the

colour photograph in the mid-twentieth century, as Terence Wright writes, was the National
Geographic Magazine, and in the 1960s the demand for colour photographs increased by the
circulation of such magazines as Life, Paris-Match and Stern.95 Those major magazines could

afford the high cost of materials for the process and provided the only practical venue for colour
images,96 but were not concerned with whether or not the then extant processes transgressed

! Roland Barthes, La Chambre Claire: Note sur la Photographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1980), pp.
127-128. My translation.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 13.
! Newhall (1982), p. 276.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 15.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 14.
! Newhall (1982), p. 267.
! Newhall (1982), p. 267.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 20.
! Ansel Adams, notes (Adams Estate, March 4, 1983) cited in Enyeart (1993), p. 19.
! Ansel Adams, notes, Introduction to Color Book (Adams Estate, March 22, 1983) cited in
Enyeart (1993), p. 13.
! Terence Wright, The Photography Handbook (London and New York: Routeledge, 1999), p. 140.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 18.
any philosophical questions of reality, integrity, or photographic ideals,97 and were only interested

in fulfilling the publics attachment to living color98 in order to sell more publications. While

serious photographers with aesthetic or social intentions tend to choose black-and-white

photography for the imagination it enhances99 or for its stamp of history,100 commentators such as

Graham Clark101 and Halla Beloff102 argue, colour photography has been associated with amateur

photographs and popular magazines. In the 1960s, colour photography was seen as either a brash
and cheap photography for the masses or, on the serious side, was reserved for the glossy
commercial image, offering glossy images for glossy subject-matter.103

However, there were some attempts for creative colour photography, as seen in the case of
Eastman Kodak in 1947 exhibited above. In the 1950s, also, some photographers with reputation for
their black-and-white photography including Irving Penn, Andr Kertsz, Walker Evans, Charles
Sheeler, Paul Strand, and Cecil Beaton experimented with colour. In 1951, Alexander Liberman, art
director for Cond Nast Publications, published a book on colour photography with each of the
photographs was accompanied by a statement by the respective photographers.104 One of these

photographers, Andre Kertsz, argues that the aesthetics of colour is associated to painting history
while black-and-white is pure photography.105 On the other hand, Edward Weston argues that the

prejudice against colour photography comes from not thinking of colour as form.106 Beaumont

Newhall says Waterfront, 1946 is the embodiment of Westons aesthetic theory of colour as form.
Here our eye delights in the play and contrast of the brilliant color fields of red, blue, and
yellow,107 and the customary depth of field present in Westons black-and-white work has given

way to an emphasis on a flat plane.108


Edward Weston, Waterfront, 1946.

From the mid-1970s, some younger creative photographers with started to take a fresh look at
colour.109 They use colour to draw attention to the medium, to imply a statement about the

subject,110 as a mode of expression, or for the formal experimentation.111 For instance, Ansel Adams

is interested in colour as a new tool for creative expression112 and argues that colour photography

! Enyeart (1993), p. 18.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 18. Original italics.
! Wright (1999), p. 139.
! Halla Beloff, Camera Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 94.
! Graham Clark, The Photography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
! Beloff (1985).
! Wright (1999), p. 140.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 19.
! AlexanderLiberman (ed.), The Art and Technique of Color Photography (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1951), p. 44, cited in Enyeart (1993), p. 20.
! Edward Weston, Modern Photography, December 1953, p. 54, cited in Newhall (1982), p. 279.
! Newhall (1982), p. 279.
! Newhall (1982), p. 279.
! Wright (1999), p. 140.
! Clark (1997), p. 24.
! Wright (1999), p. 139.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 21.
can offer potential aesthetic experience if it is seen as a means of simulating reality, rather than
recording it.113

Yet, the problem of automatic photographic expression concerning colour photography remains, as
Brian Winston argues, the history of the development of colour film with its numerous different
brands, its various distinct systems of reproduction, reveals that colour photography is not bound to
be faithful to the natural world.114 Also, the criticism against colour photography has not

unconditionally given way to the possibilities of colour photography. For instance, in 1969, Walker
Evans argues that colour tends to corrupt photography, and says there are four simple words for the
matter, which must be whispered: colour photography is vulgar.115 However, he allows one

exception when the point of a picture subject is precisely its vulgarity or its colour-accident through
mans hands.116 Thus, colour photography still has the stamp of kitsch popular culture for mass

production and mass audience.

Also, from the 1980s, black-and-white came to revive, as Richard DeMoulin, the general manager of
Eastman Kodak Co.'s professional photography division said, "The pendulum is swinging back to
black and white."117 Moreover, black-and-white photography came to have specific connotations,

especially in the domain of advertising. For instance, Gap Inc. launched ad campaign featuring
black-and-white shots of Hollywood stars, artists and other well-known personalities in the 1980s.
The account manager for this campaign Richard Crisman says that Gap wanted to highlight the
individual rather than the environment and that black-and-white enables us to do this better than
colour.118 And today Gap still often uses black-and-white photography for

Gap Advertisement with James Dean and Jack Kerouac

Gap Inc. Advertisement Campaign 2002
its advertisements, as do many other fashion advertisements. Marc L. Hauser, a photographer who
worked on a black-and-white advertisement photographs for Stouffer Food Corporations Lean
Cuisine also says that companies feel black and white will convey a stronger statement.119 And this

trend influenced portrait photographs too. An article from Wall Street Journal on the 13th of
December in 2002 reports that J C Penny and Sears portrait studios began offering black-and-white
photos, and that 10% of customers choose black-and-white at Sears.120 The article continues: It's all

part of America's nostalgia boom, say retailers and photographers, as customers go for a look that's

! Enyeart (1993), p. 28.
! Brian Winston, Technologies of Seeing: Photography, Cinematography and Television (London:
BFI Publishing, 1996), p. 55. In this book, he argues that colour films are made to best (not
faithfully but most pleasantly) represent the tone of skin colour of Caucasian.
! Walker Evans, Photography, in Louis Kronenberger, Quality: Its Image in the Arts (New York:
Atheneum, 1969), p. 208, cited in Mark Haworth-Booth, Photography: an Independent Art -
Photographs From the Victoria and Albert Museum 1839-1996 (London: V & A Publications, 1997),
p. 175.
! Ibid.
! Peter Pae, Black-and-White Photos Develop Fans Use in Ads Lifts Snaps Appeal After Long
Fall, in Wall Street Journal (New York: October 17, 1989, Eastern edn), p. 1.
! Ibid.
! Ibid.
! 120
Lauren Lipton, Details: Black and White Now Seen All Over in Wall Street Journal (New
York: Dec 13, 2002, Eastern edn), p. W. 14.
both edgy and classic.121 Black-and-white photographs can make housewives look like stars.122 And

to general public, black-and-white came to be more dramatic and it is not ordinary like colour.123

Now that there is not much technical restriction in colour photography and it has become so
popular, black-and-white photography has come to be applied with commercial intentions, to catch
eyes, to startle, and to differentiate. And it is even more interesting when we correlate minimalism in
fashion in the 1980s to this trend.124Black-and-white photography has become a part of fashion in

some cases.
Throughout the history of photography, there has always been aspiration for naturalistic colour. In
the early stage, when there were still technical restrictions in colour process, black-and-white
photographs were chosen for practical reasons. Colour photography was less stable, more expensive,
and had a shorter shelf life than black-and-white.125 Today, the techniques of colour photography are

well established. Ansel Adams said before his death that if he were young again he would be a
colour photographer.126 The limitation of colour process that used to restrict creative photographers

fear of having less control over their work is now removed, and there are more and more creative
photographers experimenting with the possibilities of colour photography.
Yet, we still use black-and-white photography. It is because, as Terence Wright says, colour and
black-and-white photography have different system of representations: It is not simply a matter of
either mode being easier each has its own characteristics.127 Colour and black-and-white

photography have different functions and connotations. We will examine this issue in three different
types of photography: documentary, art and advertisement photography. Before these examinations,
we will look at semiotics and psychology concerning colour and black-and-white photography.
2 Semiotics and Psychology
!This section will examine the semiotics of colour based on Gunter Kress and Theo van
Leeuwens theories on the grammar of visual design and the grammar of colour,128 what association

colour can have in our modern culture, and also we will look at Rudolf Arnheims theories based on
Gestalt psychology and examine how the absence of colour can enhance some functions of two-
dimensional representation of three-dimensional world.129

Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen argues problem of modality and reality in Reading Images:
The Grammar of Visual Design.130 As theories on cultural semiotics argue reality is defined by

culture, society and history, Kress and van Leeuwen say that reality is in the eye of the beholder and
that the eye has had a cultural training, and is located in a social setting and a history,131 and they

! Ibid.
! Peter Pae, Black-and-White Photos Develop Fans Use in Ads Lifts Snaps Appeal After Long
Fall in Wall Street Journal (New York: October 17, 1989, Eastern edn), p. 1.
! Ibid. Here one customer says she chooses black-and-white portrait because its more dramatic. I
show it to my friends, and they all say wow. It isnt ordinary like color.
! Ibid.
! Wright (1999), p. 145.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 19.
! Wright (1999), p. 145.
! Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (London:
Routeledge, 1996), and Colour as a Semiotic Mode: Notes for a Grammar of Colour, in Visual
Communication, vol. 1, no. 3 (2002), pp. 343-368.
! Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception (London: Faber and Faber, 1969) and Film as Art
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957).
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996).
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 163.
continue to explain different coding orientations as regard to visual modality based on culturally
and historically determined standards of what is real and what is not.132

Kress and van Leeuwen exhibit four coding orientations: technological coding orientations;
sensory coding orientations; abstract coding orientations; and the commonsense naturalistic coding
orientation.133 The last one is the dominant coding orientation everyone shares regardless of his or

her education or scientific-technological training. We all apply this mode when we, for example,
watch television or read popular magazines. And we apply sensory coding orientations in certain
kinds of art, advertising, fashion, cooking, interior decoration, where the pleasure principle is
dominant, and here colour is a source of pleasure and affective meanings,134 while, in

technological coding orientation, colour is often useless for the scientific or technological purpose of
the image and thus has low modality. Socio-cultural elites, an 'educated person' or a 'serious artist'135

also apply abstract coding orientation in high art and in academic contexts, where an image reduces
the individual to the general and the concrete to its essential qualities.136

As Kress and van Leeuwen argue, higher education in our society is an education in detachment,
abstraction and decontextualization, and we seek for a deeper truth behind appearances,137 and

we value visual representations which reduce events and people to the typical, and extract from
them the essential qualities.138 On the other hand, colour is often applied to appeal to sensory

qualities and the emotive value of colour is sometimes seen as a general characteristic of colour139

colours are there to be experienced sensually and emotively.140 Black-and-white photography,

because of its absence of sensory, gratifying colour, seems to be more abstract and true to its
essence, and complies with expectation from higher education in our society.
Rudolf Arnheim also argues colour produces essentially emotional experience, whereas shape
corresponds to intellectual control.141 He argues in the chapter on shape that vision is not a

mechanical recording device or passive reception, but in looking at an object, we reach out for
it.142 Therefore shape requires active response while in the case of colour, it gives expressive

impact143 and we are passive receivers of stimulation.144 He also argues possibilities of film as

art,145 where he says that by the absence of colors, of three-dimensional depth, by being sharply

limited by the margins on the screen, and so forth, film is most satisfactory denuded of its
realism,146 and he contends that the reduction of actual color values to a one-dimensional gray

series is a welcome divergence from nature which renders possible the making of significant and

! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 168.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), pp. 170-171.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 170.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 170.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 170.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 170.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 170.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 169.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (1996), p. 170.
! Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception (London: Faber and Faber, 1969), p. 325.
! Arnheim (1969), pp. 32-33.
! Arnheim (1969), p. 323.
! Arnheim (1969), pp. 324-325.
! Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957).
! Arnheim (1957), p. 26.
decorative pictures by means of light and shade.147 Hence, black-and-white photographic images,

because of its absence of expressive colour, focus on shapes that require intellectual reflection, or
distance from reality and thus explore aesthetic possibilities. The reality here is the reality of the
commonsense naturalistic coding orientation.
Brian Winston also examines the meaning of colour in photographic images.148 He cites Douglas

Fairbanks complaint that colour could distract the eye, confuse the action, and, presumably worst
of all, take attention from acting and facial expression149 and Buscombes argument that colour

came to denote luxury, spectacle or fantasy150 and argues that colour come to signify a lack of

serious intent. Halla Beloff also argues that, with the black-and-white photographs, the message is
the message is spoken to the sophisticated, who do not need the bribe of colour,151 and says sober

businesses need sober suits.152

This comment that sober business, by which Beloff means serious photographs such as news
photographs, need sober suits, by which he means black-and-white photography with an austerity,
an abstractness153 reminds us of Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwens examination of independent

semiotic modes, where they argue that in the concert hall everything is concentrated on the music
and the expression through semiotic modes such as dress is held back, by comparison to popular
music shows.154 In classic music concert, players usually wear black and white so that their dresses

will not disturb our focus on the music. They are the colours for formal dress in many cultures. Thus
we associate black and white to seriousness and formalness. Colour, as German Romantic painters
contends, is instinctive and sensual, a matter of immediate feeling rather than intellectual
judgement, and toned down or repressed in the mature adult,155 and as colour preference comes to

applied in personality tests, each colour has cultural connotations. Of course the colours black and
white also have cultural connotations, but in the case of monochrome photography, we regard it as
absence of colours rather than the colours of black and white. Thus black-and-white photography
facilitates us to focus on subject matter, its shape, its texture, or the overall light and shade scale.
Now let us examines the understanding and appreciation of colour photography, as Ansel Adams
puts it. He argues that colour photography is so ubiquitous that the casual viewers accept them as the
reality, for the real world is, for most people, an artefact of the industrial/material surround. The
colours of the urban environment are for the most part far more garish and unrelated than we find
in nature.156 This reminds us of Boorstins argument on pseudo-events and the difference between

celebrities and heroes.157 We are now so accustomed to the reality of colour photography that we

believe in it more than we believe in the actual world. Celebrities are the invention of this

! Arnheim (1957), p. 66.
! Brian Winston, Technologies of Seeing: Photography, Cinematography and Television (London:
BFI Publishing, 1996), p. 54.
! Ed Buscombe, Sound and Colour, in Jump Cut, April (1978) p.25, cited in Weston (1996), p.
! Ibid.
! Halla Beloff, Camera Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 94.
! Beloff (1985), p. 94.
! Beloff (1985), p. 94.
! Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, Colour as a Semiotic Mode: Notes for a Grammar of
Colour, in Visual Communication, October 2002, vol. 1, no. 3 (2002), pp. 343-368, p. 350.
! Kress and van Leeuwen (2002), p. 353.
! Ansel Adams, notes, Introduction to Color Book (Adams Estate, March 22, 1983) cited in James
L. Enyeart, Introduction: Quest for Color, in Harry M. Callahan (ed.), Ansel Adams in Color
(Boston, London: Little Brown and Company, 1993), pp. 9-32, p. 13.
! 157
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York: Vintage Book,
25th Anniversary edn, 1992).
contemporary society with the reality of artefact and our extravagant expectations: they are the
human pseudo-events. He says the celebrity is the creature of gossip, of public opinion, of
magazines, newspapers, and the ephemeral images of movie and television screen,158 while the

old-fashioned hero159 is romanticised and anachronistic, who stands the test of time.160 A hero is a

maker of tradition and is made by tradition: receding into the misty past he became more, and not
less, heroic.161

Here we can relate colour photography to celebrities for their vividness and their close relation to
magazines and ephemeral images of television, while we can associate black-and-white photography
with heroes for their roots in history. Boorstin says that heroes stand for greatness in the traditional
mould and tend to become colourless and clich.162 The image of a hero should be in black-and-

white for its mistiness and its feeling of standing the test of time while the image of a celebrity
should be in colour for its immediate gratification and popularity. For instance, in an article titled
When Mono Rules, a photographer William Chung, explaining why he took a photograph of Sir
Patrick Moore in black-and-white, says, you get a much better sense of the great mans character. It
just suits his eccentricity better.163 And in fact, most photographs of historic heroes are in black-

and-white (for those heroes are in the age of black-and-white photography) and photographs of
celebrities are often in colour. As Susan Sontag argues, photography teaches us how to look at the
world, those photographs of heroes and celebrities gradually motivate us to associate black-and-
white photography with heroes and authority and colour photography with celebrities and
transitoriness. Thus, black-and-white photography conveys a great mans character better than
ephemeral colour photography.
! William Cheung, Sir Patrick Moore Photography, 2003
And also in the case of family portraits, we tend to take snapshots in colour for holidays to
convey the happiness and vividness. As we have examined arguments on colour by Kress and van
Leeuwen and Arnheim, colour has expressive sensory quality that resembles to the experience of
emotions. Arnheim explains Rorschachs experiments that a cheerful mood makes for colour
responses and that colour dominance indicates openness to external stimuli.164 Robert Warshow, in

his book on American popular culture, argues that we are obsessed with happiness,165 and certainly

colour images and pseudo-events encourage this tendency. Warshow also argues that mass audience
escapes into easy sentiment whereas the educated audience escapes into ideas and that Death of a
Salesman, a play by Arthur Miller, offers the atmosphere of thought.166 Death of a Salesman,

because of its lack of optimism portrayed as a main characteristic of popular culture, is considered as
earnest: as Warshow says, pessimism is a measure of seriousness.167 Warshow also contends that all

negative social images tend to given undue weight as representing a truer reality.168 Hence,

black-and-white photography, for its absence of cheerful optimistic colour, is considered as more

! Boorstin (1992), p. 63.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 62.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 62.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 62.
! Boorstin (1992), p. 64.
! When Mono Rules, in Practical Photography May 2003, pp. 10-18, p. 12.
! Arnheim (1969), p. 324.
! Robert Warshow, The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre & Other Aspects of
Popular Culture (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, enlarged edn 2001).
! Warshow (2001), pp. 150-151.
! Warshow (2001), p. 151.
! Warshow (2001), p. 149.
solemn and sober. This quality of black-and-white photography is especially significant in the
domain of documentary photography, combined with our association between negative images and
truer reality. We examine this issue in detail in the following section on documentary photography,
but before that, we will look at argument on studium and punctum by Roland Barthes.169

Barthes finds two elements in photography. The first is something familiar to knowledge and
culture, it is a kind of general interest and it gives an average impression. Barthes calls this element
studium. We have to study a photograph and find its political or cultural connotation here. The
second element comes to break studium. This time, viewer does not have to try to find it: it comes to
pierce the viewer. Barthes calls it punctum.170 Barthes explains that specific details function as

punctum. However, here, we will extend the definition of punctum to include certain quality of a
photograph that emerges to impress the viewer, while studium signifies overall information of a
Colour photography, as a whole, can work well as studium for its naturalistic representation: it has
more information than black-and-white photography. Photography, as Umberto Eco contends, is not
considered as an analogue of reality any more, and we need to be trained to recognise the
photographic image,171 and colour is one of the effective codes of recognition. As Arnheim argues,

shape enables us to distinguish things from each other, but colour also helps considerably.172

Especially today with most images in colour photographs as in television and films, we are, in
general, more used to decode colour photographic images and it is easier for us to do so than to
decode black-and-white images. For example, as Arnheim says, when looking at a black-and-white
movie, we are often at a loss to identify the strange food the actors have on their plates,173 because

of its absence of colour. In this sense, colour has more information, and thus more suitable for
function of studium. Black-and-white photography can operate as punctum, for in todays
environment full of colour photographic images, black-and-white photography stands out. Colour, as
each colour, can also operate as punctum, as in the case of smashing, garish colour, as Ansel Adams
puts it.174 However, it is black-and-white photography that encourages the function of punctum.

Black-and-white photographs, unlike information-rich colour photographs, allow us to focus on

other things than information from the whole photograph, for example, texture or shade. And this
can encourage punctum to emerge from plan of a photograph. For instance, look at the photograph
of a folk by Andr Kertsz, or the photography of a pepper by Edward Weston. As whole
photographs, they denote a folk,
! Andr Kertsz, La Fourchette, 1928.
or a pepper. The subject matters have no photographic significance per se. It is its shape,
composition, texture and shade that make the photographs interesting. Black-and-white photography
allows those qualities to come forth. Whereas in colour, colour composition and colour tones will
disturb those qualities.
! Edward Weston, Pepper 30, 1930.
! Barthes also says that photography is subversive not when it frightens, repulses, or even
stigmatises, but when it is pensive,175 and we can also say that black-and-white photography is more

pensive, for its absence of colour confers a certain stasis and starkness. Therefore, we can say that

! Roland Barthes, La Chambre Claire: Note sur la Photographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1980).
! Barthes (1980), pp. 47-49. My translation.
! Umberto Eco, Critique of the Image, in Victor Burgin (ed.), Thinking Photography (London:
Macmillan, 1982), pp. 32-37.
! Arnheim (1969), p. 323.
! Arnheim (1969), p. 323.
! Ansel Adams, notes (Adams Estate, March 4, 1983) cited in Enyeart (1993), p. 19.
! Barthes (1980), p. 65.
black-and-white photography can fulfil function of punctum better than colour photography.
It may seem contradictory that black-and-white photography has its root in history and therefore
has power to confer authority on the subject matter, but at the same time it allows us to focus on
qualities of photography other than intended subject matter. However, we can read different elements
from a photograph: we can read photography as intended by photographers, editors, or advertisers,
or we can create meanings over it. Also, as we looked at coding orientations argued by Kress and
van Leeuwen, we use different coding orientations in each genre. Thus we use various historical,
social and cultural associations in each genre. Here, we will examine three genres where black-and-
white photography has a significant role: documentary, art and advertisement photography.
3 Documentary Photography
! The quality of authenticity implicit in a photograph may give it special value as evidence, or
proof,176 as Beaumont Newhall says, and even though we now know the possibilities of

manipulation, we still have our faith in the silent authority of photographs and recognize their value
as reportage.177 Although dispute on validity of documentary photography abides, use of

photography for documentary and journalism is ubiquitous, and here we will focus on the function
of black-and-white photography in the realm of documentary photography.
Documentary photographs are, as Derrick Price argues, traditionally in black-and-white whereas
they could be in colour in todays postmodern environment.178 Terence Wright investigates how

attitudes have changed regarding photographys ability to document179 and examines use of colour

in 1970s.180 However, stark black-and-white photography still seems more suitable for serious

documentary photography. Historically, Enyeart examines, colour is considered to enhance the

illusion of the general public that photography is a means of capturing reality, whereas
photographers have always considered photography as a vessel of truth or an abstraction,181 and as

Derrick Prince argues, black-and-white photography, originally a necessary condition, became a

guarantor of the integrity of an image for many photographers,182 and the suppression of colour

made it possible to control the aesthetic qualities of the picture and helped to structure its
connotative meaning.183

Don Slater examines the belief that Camerawork had before the age of postmodernism: a belief
that images can represent a truth, that one can distinguish appearance and essence, that images
should serve social struggles.184 The commencement of use of colour in documentary photography

coincides with the rise of postmodernist arguments, thus we associate colour photography with
postmodernism, whereas black-and-white photography continues to have this belief in truth and
essence, therefore in authority and authenticity.

! Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography: from1839 to the Present (New York: The
Museum of Modern Art, 5th edn, 1982), p. 235.
! Michael L. Carlebach, The Origins of Photojournalism in America (Washington and London:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), p. 4
! Derrick Price, Surveyors and Surveyed: Photography Out and About, in Liz Wells (ed.),
Photography: A Critical Introduction (London and New York: Routledge, 2nd edn, 2000), pp.
65-115, p. 111.
! Terence Wright, The Photography Handbook (London and New York: Routeledge, 1999), p. 145.
! Wright (1999), p. 140.
! James L. Enyeart, Introduction: Quest for Color, in Harry M. Callahan (ed.), Ansel Adams in
Color (Boston, London: Little Brown and Company, 1993), pp. 9-32, p.13.
! Derrick Price (2000), p. 111.
! Derrick Price (2000), p. 111.
! 184
Don Slater, The Object of Photography, in Jessica Evans (ed.), The Camerawork Essays:
Context and Meaning in Photography (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1997).
As we have examined in the previous section, black-and-white photography has the quality equal
to that of heroes whereas colour photography can be related to celebrities. This association confers
historical authenticity and authority on depiction in black-and-white. Dorothea Lange was told,
when she complained of the excessive use of Migrant Mother to the neglect of her other works, that
time is the greatest of editors and the most reliable.185 Black-and-white, because of its status as a

medium for documents established long before colour medium, has association to history and thus
offers the feeling of having survived through history. And this quality enhances the specificity of
photographic referent as Barthes argues: it was there186 as well as the romanticism of photography

as Susan Sontag argues.187


Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936.

Now, how does this quality of black-and-white photography serve for documentary photographs?
The subject-matter of documentary photography is often human suffering, as in the case of Migrant
Mother, or atrocity of war. Terence Wright cites a comment by David Duncan that colour is
unsuitable for documenting war, for it violate too many of the human decencies and the great
privacy of the battlefield.188

Documentary photography is intended to inform people of events and make them aware of how
others live in the other side of the world (often in plights): as Halla Beloff says, documentary
photography shows us the noble losers in society.189 Thus, it is better not to be too realistic in order

not to repulse the viewers. Black and white photography helps people to take safe distance from the
tragedy depicted. Consider, for example, a photograph by Weegee. If it were in colour, it would be
too vivid and too shocking, and hence could be sensational, whereas in stark black-and-white, it
seems to gain more gain journalistic, evidential or aesthetic value. As Terence Wright argues, colour
images have not been considered to embody the harsh actuality demanded by such documentary
modes as the news photograph, established by photographers like Weegee,190 and, as Halla Beloff

says, news photographs in colour would look less stark, less businesslike and more jolly.191

Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Murder in Hells Kitchen, 1940

Jonathan Fridays Demonic curiosity and Aesthetics of Documentary Photography192 examines

the psychology behind documentary photography. In this article, Friday examines how documentary
photography taking forms of human suffering as its subject matter could ever achieve the
significance of art. He explains how artists can transform psychological disturbance into objects of
aesthetic value. As he contends, traditionally an aesthetic interesting representation involves an
indifference to the reality of the objects and events represented.193 Rudolf Arnheim argues that the

! Drothea Lange, The Assignment Ill Never Forget (1960), reprinted in Beaumont Newhall (ed.),
Photography: Essays & Images (London: Secker & Warburg, 1980), pp. 262-265, p. 263.
! Roland Barthes, La Chambre Claire: Note sur la Photographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1980), pp.
119-122. My translation.
! Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin Books, 1979). In Chapter II of this
dissertation, we looked at this romanticism as function of le Spectrum. Refer to page 8.
! Terence Wright, The Photography Handbook (London and New York: Routeledge, 1999), p. 140.
! Beloff (1985), p. 125.
! Terence Wright, The Photography Handbook (London and New York: Routeledge, 1999), p. 139.
! Halla Beloff, Camera Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 94.
! Jonathan Friday, Demonic Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Documentary Photography, in British
Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 40, No. 3 (2000), pp. 356-375.
! Friday (2000), p. 368.
absence of colour produces an unreality just as much from the reduction of three-dimensionality.194

And because of this alienation from reality, black and white photography tends to make us focus on
the historic or aesthetic value of photography.
However, Friday continues, when the subject matter is horrifying, the difficulty arises because
the spectators knowledge that this is how things were overwhelms any attempt to fictionalise the
subject matter in the manner of aesthetic attention.195 For instance, Friday examines a photograph

by Don McCullin and says that it sets up a conflict in the spectators mind between the
attractiveness of its beauty and the dark
! Don McCullin, Shell-shocked Soldier, 1968
horror of its content.196 However, documentary photography is not trying to fictionalise the subject

matter, but to emotionally distance, and as Friday examines works of Robert Capa, this distancing
does not diminish or deny the reality,197 but establishes a pictorial meaning beyond a mere index

of the event depicted,198 and a meaning that encompasses but extends beyond the subject

matter.199 Friday concludes that the art of documentary photography requires an artist who can

transfigure human suffering and a spectator who can redeem this suffering, and their own attention
to it, by grasping important moral insights.200

Robert Capa, D-Day, Omaha Beach, 1944

Pierre Bourdieu also argues that bourgeois discourse about the social world requires and performs
neutralisation and distancing.201 Susan Sontag argues documentary photography reflects the urge to

appropriate an alien reality,202 and that photography offers both participation and alienation in our

own lives and those of others allowing us to participate, while confirming alienation203 Marius De

Zayas also says: The more analytical man is, the more he separates himself from the subject and the
nearer he gets to the comprehension of the object.204

Here, black-and-white photography seems to fulfil these functions better than colour. As
examined above, black-and-white photography has the stamp of history and therefore it offers
temporal remoteness and sense of authority as well as emotional distancing due to its absence of
sensory colour. This alienation from immediate sensation allows black-and-white photography to
give sense of abstraction and neutralisation, which, combined with sense of authority and
authenticity, confer scientific and intellectual tone on black-and-white photography.
4 Art Photography

! Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957).
! Friday (2000), p. 368.
! Friday (2000), p. 372..
! Friday (2000), p. 368.
! Friday (2000), p. 368.
! Friday (2000), p. 368.
! Friday (2000), p. 375.
! Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice
(London, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 45.
! Sontag (1979), p. 63.
! Sontag (1979), p. 167.
! Marius De Zayas, Photography, in Camera Work, no. 41 (1913) and Photography and Artistic-
Photography, in Camera Work, no. 42/43 (1913), reprinted in Alan Trachtenberg (ed.), Classic
Essays on Photography (New Haven: Leetes Island Books, 1980), pp. 125-132, p. 131.
!There have been arguments as to whether photography can be art since the early days of
photography, and it still raises questions today. However, here, we will focus on how black-and-
white photography can be more artistic than colour in some aspects.
As examined above, many photographers have felt that they have more control over black-and-
white photography than colour. Colour, if not applied with clear purpose, can disturb the whole
photograph. We can see an example from When Mono Rules,205 which argues that colour can

distract from mood or messages a photographer wants to convey with photographs and explains how
monochrome photography can be better choice. The photographer William Cheung explains why he
chose black-and-white in photographing Billboard Girls Photography, saying that the scene looks
muddled with the wires across the road distracting in colour, but that in monochrome, the scene
takes on much more graphic quality.206

William Cheung, Billboard Girls Photography, 2003

!This notion that black-and-white photography can be more graphic reminds us of Rudolf
Arnheims argument that absence of colour allows us to focus on shape.207 Consider, for example,

Constructivist photography with a radical point of view208 such as Pioneer with a Horn by Alexander

Rodchenko, or Bauhaus artist Lszl Moholy-Nagys photograph, Bauhaus Balconies. Those

photographs are in quest of form as Beaumont
Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko, Pioneer with a Horn, 1930
! Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Bauhaus Balconies, 1929
Newhall puts it. 209
Forms in these photographs would be still interesting even in colour, but it could

be distracting for its emotive value. Unless we want to focus on forms of colour as in the case of
Ernst Haas210 or Edward Westons colour photography,211 black-and-white is more suitable for quest

of form, shape and perspective. It is also a suitable medium for representation of shades and all the
gradation of grey. For instance, Andr Kertsz says that grey is the colour in which all the colours
reassembled into one, and that grey is the only photographic subject.212

Andr Kertsz, La Tour Eiffel, Paris, 1929

! Those photographs have ability to show something we overlook in our daily life. Moholy-Nagy
consider camera as a tool for extending vision and this appreciate photographs for scientific and

! When Mono Rules, in Practical Photography May 2003, pp. 10-18.
! Ibid., p. 11.
! Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception (London: Faber and Faber, 1969). Arnheims theories
are examined in the previous section on semiotic and psychology of this dissertation.
! Graham Clarke, The Photograph (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 192.
! Beaumont Newhall, In Quest of Form, in The History of Photography: from1839 to the Present
(New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 5th edn, 1982), pp. 198-215. Here he argues that in the
1920s, photographers found the new perspective which has compositional possibilities and is
different from academic perspective based on vanishing points placed at eye level.
! Refer to the page 14.
! Refer to Westons argument exhibited at page 20.
! 212
Pierre Borhan (ed.), Andr Kertsz: la Biographie dune Oeuvre (Paris: Seuil, 1994), p. 93. My
other utilitarian purposes for the sake of quest for form.213 And black-and-white photography

enhances this function for its disparity from reality and its focus on shape. Consider, for example,
photographs of plants. There are artistic photographs of flowers in colour such as some works by
Robert Mapplethorpe, but they are more often in black-and-white. In black-and-white, we can focus
on the

Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily, 1986Robert Mapplethorpe, Poppy, 1988

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Echeoeria, 1922Imogen Cunningham, Magnolia Blossom, 1925
beauty of shapes, forms and texture of plants while in real life we would appreciate the beauty of
colour and of flowers as they are. In an article When Mono Rules, Ian Biggs explains why he
prefers monotone photograph of tulips to colour: the colour version has impact but lacks subtlety
while in the mono version is a delicate blend of tones which seems to make the eye appreciate the
beautiful shape of the tulips even more.214

Ian Biggs, Tulip Photography, 2002

! In the same way, photographs of scenery look more artistic in black-and-white, as in works of
Ansel Adams. Adams, although he has experimented with colour photography, says in the 1978
edition of Polaroid Land Photography that the most difficult subject for colour photography was
landscape,215 and when he photographed Arizona Highways,

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

Ansel Adams, Scripps Pier, 1966
Ansel Adams, Road, Nevada Desert, circa 1960
he preferred the more abstract qualities of black and white, which, he felt, emphasized the
photographers interpretive vision,216 and he felt colour photographs seemed too saccharine and

looked the kind of super postcards.217 Colour photography of magnificent scenery is suitable for

tourist guide books. As Enyeart argues, colour has been seen as a debased desire on the part of an
unknowing public, who values a semblance of reality over the personal vision of a photographer
expressed in black-and-white.218 Adams believes that the responsibility of the artist is to enhance

optical reality by way of photographic controls in order to provide an impression that is more
communicative than reality itself,219 and that his work is about the impression or equivalent of an

experience in reality.220 He also says in his essay that art implies control of reality, for reality itself

possesses no sense of the esthetic. Photography becomes an art when certain controls are applied:
camera position, focal length of lens, filters, negative material, exposure, development and printing

! Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography: from1839 to the Present (New York: The
Museum of Modern Art, 5th edn, 1982), pp. 206-207.
! When Mono Rules in Practical Photography May 2003, pp. 10-18, p.16.
! James L. Enyeart, Introduction: Quest for Color, in Harry M. Callahan (ed.), Ansel Adams in
Color (Boston, London: Little Brown and Company, 1993), pp. 9-32, p. 20.
! Jonathan Spaulding, Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography (Berkeley, LA and
London: University of California Press, 1995), p. 275.
! Ibid.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 12.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 28.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 28.
procedures.221 Edward Weston also argues that his ideals of photography are much more difficult

to live up to in the case of landscape workers222 for nature unadulterated and unimproved by man

is simply chaos. In fact, the camera proves

! Edward Weston, Dunes, Oceano, 1936 Edward Weston, Tomato Field, 1937
that nature is crude and lacking in arrangement, and only possible when man isolates and selects
from her.223 Here he also emphasise the importance of interpretations of subject matter that stir

one intellectually.224

Black-and-white photography gives this control to photographers and offers the sense of artistic
process and interpretation to viewers, for it is different from what we normally see. As an article
When Mono Rules says, imagining what a colour scene will look like in terms of monochromatic
tones needs experience to develop concept of dark and light and understand the relationships of
tones within a scene: one need to develop the ability to see in black and white.225

Ansel Adams also says that black-and-white photography is an almost complete abstraction.226

This abstraction requires intellectual viewing from the audience. Pierre Bourdieu examines popular
taste and judgement of photography and argues that popular tastes reject some photographs because
of their uselessness (pebbles, tree-bark, wave), but that colour can suspend the rejection of
photographs of trivial things.227 General public would say in colour, that could be pretty and if

the colour is good, colour photography is always beautiful,228 and Bourdieu argues that this is

exactly popular taste that Kant describes.229 On the other hand, people with higher education tend to

refuse the ordinary objects of popular admiration,230 although there is also aesthetic disposition

that any object can be perceived aesthetically among the highest-qualified people.231 As a result of

higher education in our society that evaluate detachment, abstraction and decontextualization,232

intellectuals and bourgeoisie prefer abstraction and neutralisation,233 and black-and-white fulfils this

demand. Also, as Halla Beloff argues the problem of beauty, photographs are inextricably linked

! Ansel Adams, essay entitled Color and Control with notation copy to file (no date), Adams
Estate, cited in Enyeart (1993), p. 24.
! 222
Edward Weston, Random Notes on Photography (1922) reprinted in Beaumont Newhall, (ed.)
Photography: Essays & Images (London: Secker & Warburg, 1980), pp. 223-230, p. 225.
! Ibid.
! Ibid.
! When Mono Rules, in Practical Photography May 2003, pp. 10-18.
! Enyeart (1993), p. 28.
! Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-brow Art, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Cambridge: Polity
Press, paperback edn, 1996), p. 92.
! Ibid.
! Ibid. Here Bourdieu cites a passage from Critique of Judgment: Taste that requires an added
element of charm and emotion for its delight, not to speak of adopting this as the measure of its
approval, has not yet emerged from barbarism. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. J. C.
Meredith (London: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 65.
! Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice
(London, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 35.
! Bourdieu (1979), p. 39.
! Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (London:
Routeledge, 1996), p. 170.
! Bourdieu (1979), p. 45.
with nostalgia,234 and also photographs teach us what to appreciate. As we examined in the section

on semiotics and psychology, our aesthetic judgment is based on and shaped by history and
masterpieces from the past as well as culture and society. As to landscape photography, Peter Henry
Emersons works have been highly appreciated and museums and galleries
! Peter Henry Emerson, Gathering Water Lilies, 1886
!often exhibit black-and-white photographs. Consider also portrait photography. Julia Margaret
Camerons works have been always appreciated for its nostalgic pre-Raphael character and certainly
have influenced other photographers.
Thus black-and-white photography is associated with masterpiece from the past, with its stamp of
history and sense of intellectual and artistic process, and is more suitable for art photography than
colour, for its focus on shape, form, perspective, texture and light and shade, and also its abstraction
and neutralisation due to its absence of sensory emotive colour.
! Julia Margaret Cameron, Mary Hillier, 1872
! Garry Winogrand, portrait of Marilyn during filming of The Seven Year Itch, 1954
! Garry Winogrand, New York, 1968
5 Advertisement Photography
One of the characteristics of our society is its emphasis on commodities. As Anadi Ramamurthy
argues, photography is both a cultural tool which has been commodified as well as a tool that has
been used to express commodity culture through advertisements and other marketing material.235

Advertising photography is one of the most pervasive photographs in our daily life, and as noted
earlier, from 1980s, advertising started to use black-and-white photography in specific contexts.236

Peter Pae writes in Wall Street Journal that this trend mirrors the popularity of black and white in
fashion,237 and today there are always some advertisements in black-and-white for fashion,

especially for luxurious perfumes, and monotone fashion photography in magazines. Thus here we
will focus on fashion advertisement and how black-and-white photography can enhance its
Paul Virilio argues that advertising photography suggests inversion of perception: advertising
forces itself on us and its image perceives us, and says that suggestiveness is advertisings raison
dtre.238 The purpose of advertising is to give impact. We said earlier that there are always some

black-and-white images, but most images we perceive in everyday life are in colour. Thus black-
and-white photography looks conspicuous and attracts attention. It also fulfils the function of
advertisement to differentiate products, for images in black-and-white have different connotations
from those in colour.
Judith Williamson argues that advertisements must consider not only the inherent qualities and
attributes of the products they are trying to sell, but also the way in which they can make those

! Halla Beloff, Camera Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 74.
! AnadiRamamurthy, Constructions of Illusion: Photography and Commodity Culture in Liz
Wells (ed.), Photography: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 2nd edn 2000), pp. 165-216,
p. 167.
! Refer to pages 19-22: here advertising campaign by Gap Inc. is illustrated.
! Peter Pae, Black-and-White Photos Develop Fans Use in Ads Lifts Snaps Appeal After Long
Fall in Wall Street Journal (New York: October 17, 1989, Eastern edn), p. 1.
! 238
Paul Virilio, The Vision Machine in James Der Derian (ed.), The Virilio Reader (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1998), pp. 134-151, p. 137.
properties mean something to us.239 Products such as perfumes have no substantial difference from

each other in themselves, thus advertisers need to create differences, and as Gillian Dyer says, the
most obvious way of creating distinction between products and to make one stand out from the rest
is to give it a distinctive image.240 Judith Williamson also argues that difference is crucial to

signification and that a sign is defined by what it is not: a sign must point to an Other, the referent
which it is not, but which it means.241 Black-and-white photography means differentiation from

prevalent colour images which historically have been related to popularism and commercialism.242

As we looked at Pierre Bourdieus argument on socio-cultural class distinction in the judgement of

taste,243 bourgeoisies and intellectuals have different aesthetic appreciation from general public, and

as in previous arguments, we associate black-and-white with intellectual aesthetic appreciation and

colour with popular taste. Thus, advertisement which seeks for high-class or intellectual atmosphere
is better represented in black-and-white photography. There are also colour advertisements for
luxurious products, where either colour has significance for differentiation of products, it refers to
popular, kitsch, or postmodern culture and art, or with colour manipulation or enhancement. In some
cases, realistic colour representation seems to be employed to show its naturalism and freshness or
happy sense of colour (although even in such case, colour coordination is minutely contrived).
! Sarah Moon, Anna Sui advertisement, 2002
Herms advertisement, 2002-2003
Still black-and-white photography has special significance in advertising luxurious products: as
Halla Beloff says, black-and-white photography has an austerity, an abstractness that means we
take notice of it in a particular way.244 And advertisements in black-and-white for brands such as

Calvin Klein or Giorgio Armani and trendy fashion photographs by renowned fashion photographers
such as Peter Lindberg, Helmut Newton, Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts have conferred high-class and
stylish connotation on black-and-white photography.

Peter Lindberg, Guerlain advertisement, 1998

Helmut Newton, Big Nude III, Paris, 1980

Bruce Weber, Calvin Klein advertisement, 1992
Herb Ritts, Lacoste advertisement, 2002
! Manuel Alvarado examines narrativity of advertising photography in his essay Photographs and
Narrativity.245 Here, he argues that the narrative function of advertising photographs is to confirm

! Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising (London and
Boston: Marion Boyars, 1978), p. 11.
! Gillian Dyer, Advertising as Communication (London and New York: Methuen, 1982), p. 123.
! Williamson (1978), p. 60. Original italics.
! Refer to the previous section Colour Photography, pp. 16-22.
! Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-brow Art, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Cambridge: Polity
Press, paperback edn, 1996), and Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans.
Richard Nice (London, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979). Refer to page 7 and
page 43.
! Halla Beloff, Camera Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 94.
! Manuel Alvarado, Photographs and Narrativity in Screen Education, 32-33, Autumn Winter,
1979/80, pp. 5-17, reprinted in Manuel Alvarado, Edward Buscombe and Richard Collins (eds.),
Representation and Photography: A Screen Education Reader (New York: Palgrave, 2001), pp.
the self-enclosed representation of the world depicted246 and that the fictional narrative of

advertising photography tends to deny its own production and to create a world one that is
enclosed and without contradiction.247 And Arnheim argues that fashion photography shows

stylised model in the midst of an authentic setting and such apparitions in the public domain were
for a while, they looked too obviously like artefacts truly to stir the sense of the superreal.248 We do

not expect fashion advertising to reveal the process or details of production. As Alvarado argues,
image in common advertising strategy implies the question of what the product could be measured
against,249 and, as Beloff says, advertising photography must not only inject our consciousness with

the simple content that is there, but also draw in motherhood, wealth, up-to-dateness, sexual
arousal.250 Here it is interesting that many luxurious perfume advertisements use black-and-white

images and colour photography of the products. With those advertise-

Mario Testino, Gucci advertisement, 1997-1998

! Mario Testino, Dolce & Gabbana advertisement, 2001-2003
! Patrick Demarchelier, Giorgio Armani advertisement, 1997-2003

Chanel advertisement, 1990

Chanel Advertisement, 1996
!ments, we look at realistic colour representations of the products, but at the same time, we look at
their implied images in black-and-white, which, as we have argued, distances from reality with its
sense of abstraction. This encourages us to focus separately on the product and the image: the
product is in front of the monotone image, and this invites us to connect a particular real product
with the abstract constructed world of advertisement in a peculiar way. We know the world depicted
is not real, and we know that the product is real, and still we feel that this real product has this
implied world behind it. The image forces itself on the product and it perceives us. This is possible
because we perceive colour and black-and-white images differently. As Roland Barthes argues,
photography has two iconic messages: a coded iconic message, and a non-coded iconic message.251

These advertisements with both colour and black-and-white photographs have two clearly distinctive
messages. Colour realistic representation of the product is without code, and the depiction of
fictional narrative of the implied world in black-and-white is coded. Black-and-white photography
enhances the confirmation of the fictional narrative of advertisement with its remoteness from
reality. Colour photography enhances the reality of the product.
Black-and-white photography in advertisement reinforces the confirmation of fictional narrative of
advertisement, and enhances the function of differentiation with its connotation of high-art and
! Alvarado (2001), p. 156.
! Alvarado (2001), p. 156.
! Rudolf Arnheim, On the Nature of Photography in Critical Inquiry vol. 1,September (1974), pp.
149-161, p. 154.
! Alvarado (2001), p. 157.
! Beloff, (1985), p. 18.
! Roland Barthes, Rhetoric of the Image, in Communications 4 (1964), reprinted in Image Music
Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 32-51.
!Note: as for the photographs of advertisements of perfumes, one can find the images at world wide
web: Images de Parfums Collection de publicits de parfums
< http://www.imagesdeparfums.fr.st>
IV Conclusion
! In this dissertation we have examined why people still use black-and-white photography a long
time after the invention of practical colour process, and how black-and-white photography enhances
functions of photography, as we examined in review of the literature.
We first examined history of colour photography and the argument is that colour photography has
been associated to commercialism and serious photographers have preferred black-and-white
photography. Colour photography is related to amateurism and popular magazines and has been
considered to debase aesthetic appreciation. Also, black-and-white photography, especially from
fashion advertisement in the 1980s, has come to signify stylishness.
Then we examined semiotics and psychological arguments in relation to colour and black-and-
white images. Colour has emotive while black and white, as colour, connote formality, and as
absence of colour, have sense of abstraction, therefore comply with requirement of todays higher
education. Absence of colour also allows us to focus on shape, which requires intellectual
engagement from audience. Black-and-white also connotes history and austerity for its anachronism
and absence of sensory colour.
In the section on documentary photography, we examined the relation between demonic curiosity
and black-and-white photography. Black-and-white photography, for its absence of emotive colour
and its connotation of history and abstraction, can authorise and neutralise the depiction with its
intellectual and scientific tone.
For art photography, black-and-white photography allows viewers to focus on shape, form, shades,
and texture of subject matter and on perspective of photography, thus requires intellectual and
aesthetic engagement.
Advertisement photography intends to attract attention and to differentiate products, and black-
and-white photography can fulfil those functions, for its disparity from reality due to its absence of
colour and also for its association with advertisements for high-class brands and stylish fashion
magazines and for its abstraction which can be related to intellectuals whereas colour is related to
popular tastes.
Black-and-white photography, for its focus on shape, form, texture, shades and perspective, it leads
to conceptualisation and aestheticisation of the subject-matter and also leads to differentiation from
pervasive colour which is associated to commercialism and popular taste, and for its abstraction and
neutralisation due to absence of sensory emotive colour, has intellectual atmosphere and sense of
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