Cuba is certainly a colorful place – both in the actual colors and in the figurative sense of ‘colorful’. But it’s also a wonderful place for black-and-white, too. Traditional street photography was usually in monochrome. In this way, you don’t have the seduction of color to draw the eye. You have only the contrast and tonality of the scene to use. And when you eliminate the color, the composition has to stand on its own. I’ve been photographing in black-and-white for many years, and I love the challenge. I’m a ‘color’ girl; I lust after color contrast and harmony in images. But I also respect and admire good black-and-white images. I began my life as a photographer in black-and-white, and it’s at the very core of how I came to know photography. So I keep honing my skill at seeing in black-and-white.
When I’m in the field, I’ll ask myself how the scene might look without the color. Never mind that the car in the foreground was a cool hue of teal, and the walls a soft yellow…I push to see beyond the color, and look for tonal range and contrast. I often use this most scientific method: I squint my eyes down to where I can hardly see, which removes most of the color and I can then see the contrast and tonality, which helps me decide whether it will work or not. You might ask, why does that matter, when you can convert it later? It doesn’t – at least not for the final result. But by practicing seeing in black and white, I believe it keeps me sharper overall. And I like that.
A past participant on a photo tour I led to Morocco, Andre Bogaert is an excellent street photographer, in my mind. I watched him work – ‘Cartier-Bresson’ style – with his Leica. He was quick to see the potential, the gesture and moment – but he also saw the whole picture – the shapes, patterns and textures, the juxtapositions. He’s one of those people that can work in both black-and-white and color, in seeing his color work, too, perhaps because he was trained in graphics. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I did – and leave him a few comments – I’m sure he’ll be delighted. Visit his flickr stream here and his website here.