52 Project

Stripped to its Essence: the Beauty of Black and White

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Editor’s Picks, Week 10 Module “Monochrome Madness”

Monochromatic photography is making imagery that has only one hue. Between black and white, the grayscale in between make up the range of frequencies in a monochromatic image. It can be warmer, with a yellow tinge, or cooler, with a bluish hue.

Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Ker GL 2012.
Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Maybe the sentimentality of the classic film days and photography greats shooting in black and white makes black and white seem more gritty. Maybe this led to monochrome being a preference of photojournalism in the days before newspapers could print in full color. Or maybe it was the other way around, the newspaper photographs being the inspiration for shooters to use monochrome.

Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Prima Ongsvises 2012.

But actually, monochrome is the most unrealistic of imagery. Without the color of real life, the monochrome photograph is extremely interpretive, stripping an image to its essentials.


The way in which we seek to see the world, looking for edges to find shape. Like a lens seeking contrast to focus, we are captivated by the forms without the distraction of color. We are able to find harmony in the ways the pieces of the composition fit.

Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.


Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.


If we could see in monochrome only like a motion picture camera, we would strip the image to its muse. The values of light and dark would jump out at our vision, and we choose how to arrange it artfully. Monochrome allows us to focus on only the difference between highlights and shadows. We can make a picture with just a shadow, and a patch of light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.
Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.


Monochrome allows us to add drama without color. With only the intensity of the difference between the whites and the blacks in the image, we can add a little vision and make a single image a narrative.

Imagine That Photography Tribe
Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.


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