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Since the early days of film in photography, when things happened due to the beauty of chemistry, black-and-white photography has been far more permissive when compared to color photography. It is highly permissive when cranking certain limits – from chemical temperatures to contrast in the final image. Nowadays, that peculiar nature of the format continues to be pretty much the same. The only difference I can see is that now all the tricks happen in post-production. Before our digital era, it was a matter of choice – and after the arrival of color film; prior to that moment, it was the only way of making photographs, period.
Black-and-white photography allows anyone to subtract any distraction that an image may have in its color version to deliver the image’s message in a more efficient way. That is why many photographers decide to work in monochrome – because they have they have a specific intention they want to convey. As a street photographer, black-and-white is one of my best allies because the colors of the street are very difficult to control and often distract the viewer from the precise message or story. There are many great masters of color street photography – such as Saul Leiter or Helen Levitt – but hopefully we can talk about them and others another day.
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