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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sepia or black-and-white?

Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a slideshow presentation and lecture from local photographer Pamela Williams. This talented woman specializes in cemetery sculpture, a favourite of mine. The evening was entertaining and informative and, for me, particularly inspiring. Viewing her photographs of stone angels and marble women from cemeteries across Europe (and even Cuba) left me eager to review my own photographs as well as hit the road in search of new cemeteries to explore.

The exploration will have to wait for now, but over the past few days I have been browsing through all the photographs I have taken in cemeteries over the past few years. As I watched Ms. Williams' slideshow and listened to her describe these images that she so obviously loves, two things caught my attention. Firstly, I was totally charmed as she explained that when she is shooting, she has no hesitation to crop away an angel's head if she is at all dissatisfied with the hair, the eyes or the face. When she said that, one angel I photographed earlier this year in Richmond, Virginia's Hollywood Cemetery immediately popped into my mind. I decided to try a similar approach and came up with this:

I am very pleased with the results. I find I focus now on her hands, instead of her eyes, which just didn't appeal to me at all. I also tried this approach on a shot I took in Toronto's Mount Hope Cemetery; you can see that image HERE.

Another area of inspiration for me was Ms. Williams' decision not to shoot in colour. The walls in the small, intimate room in which the lecture took place were completely filled with Ms. Williams' photographs, entirely in black-and-white. She still shoots with film and, she told us, always shoots black-and-white in cemeteries. Her slides for the presentation, however, are produced using colour film and therefore will have a colour tint to them, so rather than have an odd colour to the slides that would be offputting, she has them all processed in a sepia tone. At times she even apologized for the brown tones in some of the images that had a great deal of contrast. For me, the apology was not necessary since I quite enjoyed seeing the images in sepia. As I was viewing my own photographs over the past few days, I couldn't help but ponder the sepia vs. black-and-white idea. Photographs of stone and marble statuary lend themselves to a colourless application, but which works best? Sepia? Or the classic black-and-white?

I don't know the answer and perhaps it is very dependent on each particular image, but here is the above photograph presented in both formats. Any thoughts?

As always, click on the photos to see them in a slightly larger size.

I have been experimenting with both sepia and black-and-white with some of my other photographs of cemetery sculpture. Sepia HERE, black-and-white HERE. My thanks to Pamela Williams for both an enjoyable evening and a mountain of inspiration.


Leslie Jane Moran said...

I just can't decide. I love them both, and they have different qualities in each rendition. I was also smitten with the idea of focusing on the best parts. Nice post.

jinxxxygirl said...

Ha! I find i like the color of the original. Sorry i know its not what you wanted. If i had to choose from the other two i would pick the black and white.

Bea said...

Sometimes something looks really good in black and white. Sometimes you just want that contrast and it seems to bring out the details.
This is just a thought...if you want to concentrate on the hands then crop the photo so it's just the hands. Same thing for if your interest is the folds of the gown.
I'm not a big fan of cutting off heads but that's just me. To me it looks like you didn't get the composition right when you took the picture. If I didn't like the head then I would zero in on what did catch my attention. :)Bea

Diane O. said...

If the question is sepia vs. b&w I prefer sepia. But I agree with another comment and like the original patina type color.

young-eclectic-encounters said...

I also love cemetery scenes and have tried them many different ways. If you use Picasa you can tint the B&W and it does make a difference. If you use Picnik you can change the tone of the sepia coloring and with picnik you can also add back some of the original color to give your photos an antique look.
I like both of your renditions of the angels each has their own special qualities. I especially like the crop.
Johnina :^A

Susan Williamson said...

I like all three, although the black and white was my least favourite until I saw it larger. Looking at all three again, I find I like the verdegris one best. What I would do if it was my image would be to crop out the foliage to the right and put in some sky.
Cropping out the eyes really works, I think. Somehow an angel is above batting his or her eyelashes like some of them seem to be doing in cemetaries.

Sue Berry said...

I really like the sepia one, maybe the b&w needs more contrast? Not that I'm an expert! lol

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