The art of reduction

I've often felt that we Photographers tend to do things backwards. For instance, I find it intriguing that the very first photographic images that I fell in love with were Black & White, yet I've been a Colour shooter for most of my photographic life.

For example, if we were learning to draw or paint we would concentrate on one single, often simple subject. We may start in monochrome because we would spend all our time studying tones and observing the inter-relationships present in our drawing. We would perhaps eventually migrate up to working in Colour because that's adding another dimension to the work. We are not simply working with mono tones any more, we are also working with colour and how that merges with tones to build in a further level of complexity.

But we photographers start complex. We often start as Colour photographers. Just as in the same way that we often start with compositions where there are too many things going on, our earlier images can often be far too complex for their own good.

I have a theory as to why this might be.

Before we are photographers, we have spent most of our lives learning to filter things out in our every day encounters. If we were to study each individual object in our field of view each day, we'd quite simply - go nuts. So we've learned to filter out the things we don't need to know about and this is what we have to unlearn when we become photographers.

Good photography is about an improved sense of awareness. Noticing all the tonal relationships in a frame and all the distractions that go with that. Our skill is about seeing everything that we'd normally filter out, and knowing what we have to physically remove  from the frame, so that what the camera sees, is what we saw. That can take a lifetime to master.

So in that sense, I feel we're all on a journey to simplify our scenery down to what we really saw, and to remove all the other distracting elements. We're on a path of 'reduction'.

For me, I feel I've been reducing my Colour work down to fewer subjects in the frame and fewer tones. I feel that over the past while, I've become so focussed on the tones at play in a scene that I'm now ready to work with Black & White.

I don't presume to be an expert at it. I feel it's just something that I want to pursue for a while and see where it goes. But that feeling that this is a good direction to go in, is built on the foundation of all the experience I've built up over the past few years while working with colour and specifically how the tones between different colours interact.

The world is now sometimes monochrome for me, and I'm excited about what I may discover.