While the evolution of photography from a chemical to digital process is all but complete, the appeal of black-and-white images remains strong.
New generations of photographers – inspired by such masters of the past as Ansel Adams, Kertesz, Brassai and Man Ray – are discovering black and white isn’t about the absence of colour, but the presence of richness of texture and the infinite possibilities of the play of shadow and highlights.
“Arguably, it’s something that distinguishes photography from other media – it’s completely about shape and form,” says Crescent Beach Photo Club member and author Derek Hayes (British Columbia: A New Historical Atlas), a devotee of photography since he first clutched a Box Brownie as a child of three.
The club is sponsoring its 12th annual black-and-white photo exhibition Saturday, April 13, 7 p.m. at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 12953 20 Ave. in South Surrey.
Given the resurgence of interest in the medium, it’s surprising to learn the local lensers have staked out a prestigious exclusive for themselves by establishing the annual event.
“Our show is unique in the Lower Mainland, and, indeed, in Western Canada,” Hayes notes.
Members from 14 photography clubs from all reaches of the Lower Mainland have been invited to submit images that will be evaluated by three equally prestigious judges: Mark Koegel of the Vancouver Photo Workshop, Judy Higham of Coquitlam’s Darkroom Group (adherents of chemical-based printing) and Alan Bargen, a principal photographer for the Canadian Association of Photographic Art.
The participating photographers are vying for individual medals – plus the Crescent Beach Photo Club grand trophy – but for fans of fine photography, the show promises a special treat, 16×20-inch prints of the cream of current work.
While there are still those who decry the proliferation of digital technology in the photographic realm, it is that technology, ironically, that has helped black and white come to new prominence.
“It’s gone through a revival since digital cameras came along,” Hayes says. “With digital, it’s relatively easy to convert colour images to black-and-white. With film, it was considerably more difficult.
“We still have a few people who don’t think that digital is the way to go.”
But, he said, there is an ease of handling digital images that has overcome initial resistance, he recognizes, coupled with exponential progress in images quality.
“A lot of photographers started in digital work by scanning film,” he notes. “Because you couldn’t get high enough resolution back in 2003 and 2004, when you’d pay $5,000 for a three-megapixel camera.”
With about 75 active members, the Crescent Beach Photo Club is one of the healthier photography clubs on the scene – providing a kind of camaraderie and feedback that is hard to achieve online.
“While there are a lot of photo-sharing sites on the web, it’s still good for photographers to get together and share images,” Hayes said.
He has catholic tastes when it comes to subject matter, he says.
“I’ll photograph just about anything that moves – and anything that doesn’t. I’m a jack of all trades, but I like, artistically, to look for patterns, to find art in nature.
“The idea of an artistic image is it’s something that is not immediately apparent to someone just looking at the landscape,” he said. “It’s the photographic eye we try to encourage – and it can be developed.”
The show is not a sale of work, per se, although Hayes is confident a member of the public could come to an arrangement with the photographer of a particularly appealing image.
“Lots of our photographers do sell prints, as we did at the show at the White Rock Community Centre in January. Every little bit helps.”
Admission is $5 at the door – which helps the club defray some of its expenses, Hayes says, “but there’s lots of food there. It’s definitely worthwhile.”