Converting to black and white…
I shot these pictures yesterday at a refugee camp that was hit by a horrible fire. More than 5000 people lost their homes again – a third of camp’s population. They all came from Myanmar and many spent decades here in the hills, just across the border with Thailand.
The whole scene was extremely sad although people were very cool if looked from outside – I guess they know how to process the anger and fury after so many years of horror. No matter how many time I see similar, I’m always impressed by their calmness and ability to start recovering immediately.
Pictures were strong, they told the story in details and in color of the place. But, what have I done after, probably very inappropriate in given situation, is a little test – I converted images in black and white. Why? Just to see the result and reactions. It is the other people’s tragedy that is, beside the fine art, often portrayed in black and white.
I took the whole take and treated it as if I never seen pictures before, as if someone else photographed and gave them to me for edit. To enter a competition, let’s say. And I converted images pretty aggressively into black and white using orange filter that makes sky darker and faces lighter. I also added some contrast and few other small things emulating film but did not do any dodging or burning. Basically, only what would be “acceptable” in the industry.
To edit in black and white, just like shooting, is different experience – what we see in color world may not look equally good in black and white. It can be very often messier, too busy and confusing. No wonder, the final edit sometimes looks different.
Do I like what I see? I don’t know. I’m sure there will be some people saying black and white even works better, giving it timeless note and emphasizing what is important, cutting the colors out. No colors – does it bother you as it bothers me or it is only because I know the original?
I don’t show the color versions here as you would not see them if this is published.
This is all in theory as I would never do such a thing for what I do in my life the best – documenting events for a news agency without interfering much. This exist only as an exercise for something I’m trying to explore – why and when people convert into black and white? And does it really, and when, make sense?
All comments are welcomed. With this, I’m hoping to have a conversation started (with others but with myself, too) without really looking for big answers and conclusions. Just to hear other people’s reasons, different but probably all valid, for shooting and converting to black and white.
Please, look at more picture from the Umpiem refugee camp here.