When was the end of Black & White?

Started May 13, 2012 | Discussions
Dan Desjardins
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When was the end of Black & White?
May 13, 2012

Ok - I know it's still alive today, but my question is very specific. When did people stop taking Black & White pictures as a matter of course? What was the last year when people would load up a roll of Tri-X, or Panatomic-X in a Spotmatic, or Nikon F, or Miranda Sensorex or Topcon Super D... because they wanted to take pictures, and didn't think much about WHY they were loading black & white film? Another way to put it, when did Black & White become a specific artistic expression?

For me it was 1973. Back then I would normally shoot Black & White. Perhaps it was because I did all of my own darkroom work and color was a total PIA. Yeah - I shot B&W well into the 80s, but by then I was going for the effect.
How about you?

Roadrunner123
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 13, 2012
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Leswick
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 13, 2012

There are many people (in present tense) loading up their cameras and prefer B&W to color. In fact there are many (not as much though) LF photographers that continue use B&W exclusively. It never ended for me, though 4x5 requires somewhat different approach. To me it's an exclusive domain....much as the color or derivations of it.

Leswick

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Deleted1929
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 13, 2012

When the sensors always produced colour RAW data and manipulating that to B&W in post processing became infinitely more flexible that film ever was.

Say "Thank you, Engineers of the World."

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jedinstvo
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The Instamatic brought color to the masses
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 13, 2012

When did the Kodak Instamatic appear? When that happened automated processing equipment also came on the scene. At that time black and white came to be seen by the average person who just wanted pictures of the family and the vacation as something inferior. Same as black and white TV. I don't know any "artists" who watch black and white TV because "it's a more expressive medium," but I do know some pretty famous photographers who still shoot black and white film. I convert color digital images to black and white sometimes and I still carry around a Leica with Tri-X in it. However, I now have a bag containing two-year's of exposed by undeveloped tri-x.

Looking at photos taken by members of my family I find color pictures started about 1964. So how did Kodak miss the boat on digital? I hope somebody is writing their doctoral thesis on that.

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jess shudup
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That added a lot to the discussion- not
In reply to Roadrunner123, May 13, 2012

When I was shooting film in the early 1960s the choice was frequently one of practicality and economics.
B&W- I processed and printed myself.
Color I sent out.

That cost a lot more, plus the question of slides or prints. And color labs weren't eveywhere, and certainly not 24 hour service. I was young, and money was an issue.
(Except of course on the commercial side- there the client decided !)

By the 1970s though I was processing/printing both, and could choose between B&W and color based on the desired result.

So I'd say that for me the mid sixties/ early seventies was the beginning of the end of B&W for everything, and the beginning of the color era.

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jon404
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 13, 2012

Let's see -- at work, in the late '90s -- for a parts catalog, hundreds of small pictures, Nikon FM with a Micro-Nikkor 55mm macro lens, Plus-X film. About six months later, we bought one of those early Nikon-Kodaks, which cost $9,000 and was obsolete in two years as the digital revolution went into high gear.

Personally? Mid-'70s... found I enjoyed making color slides more than my old love for Panatomic B/W prints. Kodachrome, then Ektachrome. But to this day, on my new XZ-1, I use the Vivid color setting because of my old enjoyment of Kodachrome color. Reds!

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John Sheehy
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Deleted1929, May 14, 2012

sjgcit wrote:

When the sensors always produced colour RAW data and manipulating that to B&W in post processing became infinitely more flexible that film ever was.

Say "Thank you, Engineers of the World."

That's a rather poor way of getting B&W, though. Flexible, yes; optimal, far from it.

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John

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PerL
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When newspapers got color capacity on every page...
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 14, 2012

Dan Desjardins wrote:

Ok - I know it's still alive today, but my question is very specific. When did people stop taking Black & White pictures as a matter of course? What was the last year when people would load up a roll of Tri-X, or Panatomic-X in a Spotmatic, or Nikon F, or Miranda Sensorex or Topcon Super D... because they wanted to take pictures, and didn't think much about WHY they were loading black & white film? Another way to put it, when did Black & White become a specific artistic expression?

For me it was 1973. Back then I would normally shoot Black & White. Perhaps it was because I did all of my own darkroom work and color was a total PIA. Yeah - I shot B&W well into the 80s, but by then I was going for the effect.
How about you?

..then there was no commercial reason anymore. But at least well into the 80s B&W was often required.
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Dan Desjardins
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Re: When newspapers got color capacity on every page...
In reply to PerL, May 16, 2012

Yeah - around 1982 I remember a good friend/newspaper photographer had a vanity plate I envied... TRI-X!

But really, by then it was boutique... I did a lot of darkroom work for a portrait photographer in Savannah - all in B&W. He only did B&W - it was his "signature" thing.

Des

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Gordon W
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to John Sheehy, May 17, 2012

John Sheehy wrote:

sjgcit wrote:

When the sensors always produced colour RAW data and manipulating that to B&W in post processing became infinitely more flexible that film ever was.

Say "Thank you, Engineers of the World."

That's a rather poor way of getting B&W, though.

Really? What's poor about it, John?

Flexible, yes; optimal, far from it.

What do you consider optimal?

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Berghof
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I think the queation should ask "when colour took off" ?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 17, 2012

I'm not sure about the Western countries but in Czechoslovakia most of people used to shoot B & W photos until I would say mid 80s and then I would think colour started to dominate the choice of most family photo albums. Many continue to shoot B & W including me but colour would be 95 - 98 % of my photos nowadays.It really depends on the subject. I would definitely shoot more colour in North America and I would find more use of B & W in Europe. Places like India or China I think have to be in colour mostly.It all depends on personal taste. Both are great and both are part of many great pros.
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harrygilbert
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 17, 2012

For me it was when Kodak stopped making Panatomic X, and paper/chemicals for stabilization processing become unavailable. I used to shoot several hundred high-resolution industrial photos to be used in technical manuals, and self-process the film and prints overnight to meet deadlines. Color at the time was too unwieldy, although I had a full color lab at home.

When decent and affordable digital cameras came along, I ditched film altogether and never looked back.

For me, B&W digital shots are a very niche area of photography, and do not appeal to me at all.

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photoshutter
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 18, 2012

I still use B&W film.
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Gordon W
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, May 19, 2012

For me personally, black & white (B&W) completely ended with my first digital camera in 1999 and I was only too happy to bid B&W farewell.

Before that, my B&W shooting ended for all practical purposes when I closed my darkroom in 1987 and all film processing (mostly for product shots and photography for ads, brochures, catalogs, etc, and all in color) went to labs.

For the general public, B&W ended when color processing of their snapshots cost no more than B&W. 1950s to 1960s?

For the serious photographer who processed his own work and shot B&W only because of the difficulty and expense of processing color, B&W ended for them, like myself, with the arrival of affordable digital, when color became easier than B&W.

There will always be a niche group of photographers who prefer film and those who prefer B&W, but they are a small percentage of today's photographers as evidenced by what's posted on photo sharing sites that cater to serious photographers, like Smugmug for instance. You'll find very little B&W on them.

To me, B&W is lifeless compared to color. That's not to say there aren't exceptions. I do occasionally process a B&W image in this digital age, but rarely. Like this B&W conversion...

...of this shot...

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Dan Desjardins
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Gordon W, Jun 5, 2012

I really like both of your photos, but each evokes a different response from me. The color draws me into a near reality while the B&W draws me into to a more surreal image. The B&W looks a lot like something I would have shot in the late 70s - but it has a much wider tonal range than I would normally expect - perhaps due to the fact that it is a conversion.
I think this is a nice example of how B&W and color are viewed by the psyche...

Des

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PerL
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Gordon W, Jun 5, 2012

Gordon W wrote:

For me personally, black & white (B&W) completely ended with my first digital camera in 1999 and I was only too happy to bid B&W farewell.

Before that, my B&W shooting ended for all practical purposes when I closed my darkroom in 1987 and all film processing (mostly for product shots and photography for ads, brochures, catalogs, etc, and all in color) went to labs.

For the general public, B&W ended when color processing of their snapshots cost no more than B&W. 1950s to 1960s?

For the serious photographer who processed his own work and shot B&W only because of the difficulty and expense of processing color, B&W ended for them, like myself, with the arrival of affordable digital, when color became easier than B&W.

There will always be a niche group of photographers who prefer film and those who prefer B&W, but they are a small percentage of today's photographers as evidenced by what's posted on photo sharing sites that cater to serious photographers, like Smugmug for instance. You'll find very little B&W on them.

On the other hand, if you look at major photo exhibitions of famous photographers you will see a strong representation of B&W.

To me, B&W is lifeless compared to color. That's not to say there aren't exceptions. I do occasionally process a B&W image in this digital age, but rarely. Like this B&W conversion...

...of this shot...

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jrtrent
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late 60's
In reply to jess shudup, Jun 5, 2012

jess shudup wrote:

So I'd say that for me the mid sixties/ early seventies was the beginning of the end of B&W for everything, and the beginning of the color era.

That seems to coincide with articles I've been able to find on the subject, too; no single year is agreed upon, but somewhere in the mid-60's to early 70's, color film overtook black and white both in sales and as the most popular choice for family photo albums.

For me, color was always dominant as I much preferred slides to anything that resulted in a print, which always seemed pretty feeble to my eyes compared with the splendor of a projected slide.

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chopsteeks
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to Dan Desjardins, Jun 5, 2012

I am shooting more b/w film now than digital.

Recently gave one of my Oly DSLRs to my nephew.

Latest purchase --- Sironar 90mm f4.5 ----

Film is now becoming an exclusive club ----- I like it !!

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Gordon W
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Re: When was the end of Black & White?
In reply to PerL, Jun 5, 2012

PerL wrote:

Gordon W wrote:

There will always be a niche group of photographers who prefer film and those who prefer B&W, but they are a small percentage of today's photographers as evidenced by what's posted on photo sharing sites that cater to serious photographers, like Smugmug for instance. You'll find very little B&W on them.

On the other hand, if you look at major photo exhibitions of famous photographers you will see a strong representation of B&W.

Famous photographers such as whom? And are they current photographers or past photographers? Even Ansel Adams had started to shoot color along with B&W, although I personally think much of his work is highly overrated.

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