Photography, at its advent in 1839, was called by one of its inventors “The Pencil of Nature” and was enthusiastically appreciated as a graphic tool that through the agency of light and chemistry alone precisely rendered the world in black, white, and tones of grey. The capricious qualities of the human hand were restricted to applying color by brush to freshen the face and enliven a landscape. A century later the monochromatic image was optional, color photography omnipresent, but the Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank would still tell us, “Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected”. For Frank color photography’s full spectrum palette may have been too clinically transparent to express with a personal voice. It didn’t say; it showed. Every serious photographer since has had to contend with Frank as they find their own way, with whatever palette they find most expressive. The options are many.
21st Century Monochrome is an invitational exhibit representing ten contemporary photographers, who work in black and white and use methods spanning the history of photography, including: lens-less pinhole cameras; light-sensitized platinum/palladium prints; analog film; and digital capture and Photoshop. The show highlights diverse methods within the black and white medium, reflecting the nature of each artist.