Art photography at its best in monochrome
Mangaluru: Monochrome photography barely survives, but flashes of brilliant black and white work are seen here and there, and when they catch the eye of a connoisseur they leave a lasting impression. The difference between monochrome fine art photography and color photography is enormous. Only trained eyes can see color even in black and white images. “Many people who have followed my work have told me this and when they recount the intricacies of the fine art images they have seen, they have agreed that a particular level of understanding is required,” says Sheni Murali, one of the few monochrome fine art photographers making waves in their own niche.
The audience of an event like a dance recital, a music concert or a play, wants absolute silence, an unperturbed view of the event, “In such events, the audience likes to connect with the character on stage, be it any form of art, Yakshagana, all forms of Bharatanatyam, -Mohiniattam, Odissi, Shakespeare or our own plays, A fine art photographer will have to make one of the spectators does his job quietly while getting the most out of the performance. He must know the art he is trying to portray.”
Young photographers may exclaim, “I can’t remember the last time I saw a black and white photograph.” Keeping track of it is a challenge. This generation might scream “LOL!” The cynics among us might wonder, “Why do we keep taking black and white images? Although black and white photography is making a comeback for a few new photographers, it does so in a very aesthetic way!
Taking black and white images is like stepping back a few decades, so what’s the problem? You’ll need to use the scanner’s grayscale mode or remove color from your camera to make it work. Color and technical purists can shrug their shoulders. Says Murali Sheni of Mangaluru, a new generation of artistic black and white photographers, nevertheless asserts: “In black and white, there is art. Is there a greater medium for self-expression and depth of field than photography? I have studied your subject well, that is to say. Nowadays, images are subjected to intensive post-processing. Using editing software can do wonders for images.
I’ve never used Photoshop and can’t remember the last time I used my camera in color mode. “I never went back to color mode.” Sheni said. “For five three years I have been working on a series of portraits of some of the world’s most famous cultural figures, particularly classical dancers and singers. It’s not just the lines and wrinkles on people’s faces that make the artistic black and white photos; it’s also the values and sentimentality they evoke.” When it comes to black and white photography, “everything happens, unintentionally, which is a fantastic quality black and white photography,” explains Sheni.
Without sacrificing her facial expression, the photograph taken from Padma Subramaium captures the flowing columns of light illuminating the cupped hands on her face. A Bharatnatyam dancer, Chandrashekar, appears in the flush right, while the rest of the frame is completely blank in another snap. It is a work of art, after all. GH Shankar, an award-winning black and white photographer for the BBC, does it in wildlife. Yajna Acharya does this for the love of black and white photography and to keep it alive.
He chose hundreds of subjects for his passion for Black and White. Is black and white photography back? Even in the most mundane and frequent assignments like a wedding or a housewarming party or any other social gathering, people desire a piece of their memories in black and white, but what Sheni Murali produces is more artistic and unusual in the young protagonists.” A halo of know-how and mastery surrounds all forms of black and white art, whether painting or photographing.” says Yajna Acharya.
There are approximately 100 black and white photos of some of the world’s greatest classical musicians and dancers in Sheni’s collection. He enclosed several of his photos in the book Coffee Table – ‘Breathing Space ‘Where does this name come from?’ “Black and white fine art photography is all about one subject. Each photo has its own empty space around the subject, that’s what art is, the artists featured in the photos have their own breathing space, even in the photos explained by Murali.
One of the specialties of Breathing Space is that it features three generations of the Vaidyanathan family. Another photo of artists like Padma Subramaniam, Vaijayanthimala, B.Bhanumati, Shobhana, Shanta-VP Dadan A Jayan, Usha Datar, Prof. CCR Chandrashekhar, Dr Vasundhara Doraswamy, Hariharan, Unnikrishnan, Shankar Mahadevan. There are photographs of art forms like Bharatanatyam, Vilasini Natya, Yakshagana, Koodiyattam, Kathak, Mohiniyattam and Satriya. Photos taken during the event took place in Bangalore, Dharwad, Chennai, Udupi and Mangalore. “The birth of photography in I did a black and white photo twice at the Mangalore Art Gallery. My feeling is that the photo should be technically sound but not emotionally rich,” says Murali.