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Black and White Photography

Black and white photography is today one of countless photographic techniques and yet it was at one time the only type of photography available. This is the reason why it often tends to be associated with historical works and a vintage feel.

In the 1830s, Nièpce discovered how to print images onto metal plates. When he died in 1833, Louis Daguerre, followed by Francois Arago, continued to develop his research, resulting in the invention of the daguerreotype which consisted of an image printed onto a silver plate when exposed to the light. Together they invented photography.

The first black and white photos began to appear. Initially used for research purposes, photography started to spread as daguerreotype studios opened everywhere. Black and white portraits immortalized the faces of the upper middle classes and would later be used to capture all members of society. Celebrities were also a popular subject choice and many photographers specialized in taking their portraits, as Jean-Loup Sieff did all throughout his career almost a century after the invention of photography.

The first colored photographs soon followed. The technique was invented as early as 1860 but was not put to use until a century later. In the meantime, many unforgettable artists began to demonstrate their talents for art photography. Street photography, for example, was a key trend during the 20th century, with major photographers such as Robert Doisneau, Brassi and Henri Cartier-Bresson capturing the urban landscape of the time. All three were masters of taking candid photos. They succeeded in making fleeting moments last forever in monochrome images. Sometimes humorous, sometimes romantic, or even just a little bizarre, they take us back in time to days gone by. Looking at such rare and fragile moments can be like going through old postcards from the past, and although we enjoy looking at them, they can provoke a sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

In the United States, the humanist Walker Evans led the way for black and white photography, capturing the daily life of modern America with his analogue camera, whether it be in the New York subway or on the highways of the Deep South. A little later, Robert Frank photographed the faces of America and the American people with his remarkable black and white shots, recognizable thanks to his highly distinctive photographic technique and composition.

Of course, black and white photography is not limited to the representation of everyday scenes. It can also sublimate landscapes, as demonstrated by Kasra's shots. The black and white blend perfectly with the long exposure to create an effect of softness, floating and the passage of time quite exceptional. We could also mention Michael Kenna and Ricky Cohete who particularly excel in this field.

Some works fascinate by the perfect complementarity of these two colors: black, which is often associated with nothingness and sadness, and white, which is associated with light and hope. In the West at least, because it can have a completely opposite meaning in other cultures like Japan. The union of these two shades accentuates the contrasts and highlights the forms in a sober and elegant way. It often directs our attention to a single subject.

Often used to provoke a feeling of nostalgia, black and white unconsciously inscribes the works in history by conveying a timeless message, frozen in time.

Artsper invites you to take a stroll through time with this selection of works by Brno Del Zou, Yevgeniy Repiashenko, Emmanuelle Barbaras, Bert Stern, Alexander Benz and Hervé Gloaguen.

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