I entered a photoraphy contest earlier this week, with the photo above as my entry. It's a weekly contest and for this round, the 'assignment' is black & white.
My entry is a portrait of my niece, Nikki, and of me. When I originally posted it on social media sites, this is what I wrote in the caption:
Okay, there is pretty-much NOTHING flattering about this photo. I have at least nine thousand chins and a crazed look in my eyes. Nikki has gacky shadows under her eyes (because she just woke up and I practically dragged her in front of the camera... "I am your uncle - I command you!") ...but it makes me laugh, so I like it...
I've thought a lot about this choice for my entry, more than I am comfortable admitting. Perhaps mostly because, at first glance, this photo does not exactly fit into the conventions of a black and white photograph.
Almost every black and white portrait I've seen is gritty or dramatic and usually either portrays some sort of desolate state or someone pensively (more often grimly or ominously) looking into the lens or off into the distance. And I love that stuff, believe me. Black and white allows you to bring out the lines and contrasts in skin or the interesting tone of someone's eyes, etc. I recently read a facebook post by my writing teacher, Anya, who said black and white is a lost art. And I'd venture to guess that perhaps she would use my photo as a case in point.
That said, I LOVE this photograph. And it belongs in black and white. In fact, not since Ansel Adams' portrait of Georgia O'keeffe and Orville Cox - which I will be the first to admit is worlds more accomplished than my offering - but not since that photo have I seen a black and white with the impish exhuberance I was going for in mine.
Adams also did a self-portrait around 1950, of course it's black and white, which appears as spontaneous and 'unconventional.' He has a goofy look and is positioned in the frame in a seemingly unbalanced way and, at first glance, there's not a lot going on with tones or textures, etc. But it's an energetic, truthful image of and by a genius photographer.
I don't claim that my photo is genius, but I do say it is inspired by genius; and by the joyful, exhuberant, crazy, mischievous, silly, ridiculous person I am at my core. Take another look before you dismiss it as quaint or as an example of the 'lost art of black and white.' You might be surprised. Also, I should stress that mentioning my writing teacher's facebook comment is about my peronal reaction to it. I have no knowlege (yet) of her actual opinion of my black and white photo. Or your opinion of it for that matter. Regardless of your critique, I hope you enjoy it. That is - after all - its point.
And if you feel so inclined, feel free to vote in the contest (which ends October 7th). Or enter your own photograph in the contest. It runs every week.