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Black and white

Before the arrival of photography – with the exception of some etchings and lithographs – all the images we consumed were in colour. Quite simply, because no one would ever have thought to do anything else – why paint in black and white when colour was so readily available?

Yet despite this, today many photographers still choose to work in black and white – such as Pauline Théon, Kadir Von Lohuizen or Joh Lowenstein – even though their photos are taken in colour by the camera itself. Is the black and white trend a fleeting effect of fashion, or a symbolic return to the roots of the photography movement? Black and white photography has something that colour photos, despite recent innovations and the extraordinary quality of images today, cannot quite access. The use of black and white lends significant force to the composition: the contrasts, the shadows and the figures all stand out more strongly. People simply feel differently when faced with a colour photo versus a black and white image.

Colour is a distraction of sorts, a disturbance: colour is a nuisance.

And yet, some photographers still prefer colour to black and white, whilst others merge touches of colour with otherwise monochrome compositions. But in the end, all agree that both styles impose a totally different way of looking at a photo: from researching the shot to post production work, when artists develop or retouch the image. The use of colour is therefore something of a process in its own right, relating to two different ways of viewing the world and showing it others. The question, then, is what is being told, and why is it being in the way that it is?

The symbolic value of putting black and white together is a good starting point for reflecting on the fascination that they generate even today. There could not be a more fascinating, more striking ambivalence than when black, the 'colour' of darkness and burnt coal, considered a non-colour, is placed alongside white – representing light, and the result of all the colours merged together.

The problem faced by photographers today is that black and white still carry strong connotations of the past, of an era before the popularisation of colour and its massive cultural recovery amongst the press and photo journalists. In fact, it is rare now that contemporary subjects are photographed in colour, but we still associate black and white images with a retro feel.  

So what does contemporary art have to say about it all? Discover Artsper's selection of black and white works: on the border of past and present, of the real and the imaginary… let us guide you!

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price,501:1000 facet,10503*Artworks by best-selling artists|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Oeuvres d’artistes best sellers|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Obras de los artistas más vendidos|icon-bestsellers*obras-de-los-artistas-mas-vendidos facet,10503*Werke von Bestseller-Künstlern|icon-bestsellers*werke-von-kunstlern-bestseller facet,10503*Œuvres d’artistes best sellers|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers price,1001:5000 category,6*Peinture*peinture category,6*Gemälde*gemalde category,6*Painting*painting category,6*Pintura*pintura facet,10500*Young Talents|icon-youngtalents*youngtalents facet,10500*Obras de artistas emergentes|icon-youngtalents*obras-de-artistas-emergentes facet,10500*Werke aufstrebender Künstler|icon-youngtalents*werke-von-jungen-kunstlern facet,10500*Oeuvres d'artistes émergents|icon-youngtalents*jeunes-talents price,5001:10000 price,500 facet,8259*Nuestras recomendaciones|icon-recommendations*nuestras-recomendaciones facet,8259*unsere Empfehlungen|icon-recommendations*unsere-empfehlungen facet,8259*Our recommendations|icon-recommendations*recommendations facet,8259*Nos recommandations|icon-recommendations*recommandations facet,10497*Werke berühmter Künstler|icon-masterpieces*werke-beruhmter-kunstler facet,10497*Obras de artistas famosos|icon-masterpieces*obras-de-artistas-famosos facet,10497*Oeuvres d'artistes célèbres|icon-masterpieces*artistes-celebres facet,10497*Artworks by famous artists|icon-masterpieces*masterpieces facet,11991*​Master Artists|icon-masterartists*masterartists facet,11991*Grands Maitres|icon-masterartists*grands-maitres facet,11991*Große Meister|icon-masterartists*grosse-meister facet,11991*Maestros artistas|icon-masterartists*maestros-artistas facet,1629*Abstraite*abstraite facet,1629*abstrakt*abstrakt facet,1629*abstracto*abstracto facet,1629*Abstract*abstract category,5*Sculpture*sculpture category,5*Skulpturen*skulptur category,5*Escultura*escultura facet,11997*Nouveaux artistes à découvrir|icon-new-remarquable-artists*nouveaux-artistes-a-decouvrir facet,11997*​New \u0026 remarkable Artists|icon-new-remarquable-artists*new-remarquable-artists facet,11997*Artistas nuevos y destacados|icon-new-remarquable-artists*artistas-nuevos-y-destacados facet,11997*Neue bemerkenswerte Künstler|icon-new-remarquable-artists*neue-bemerkenswerte-kunstler facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*moyen facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*moyen facet,1635*Street art*street-art facet,1635*Straßenkunst*street-art facet,1635*arte callejero*arte-callejero facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*grand category,9*Photography*photography category,9*Photographie*photographie category,9*Fotografien*fotografie category,9*Fotografía*fotografia facet,1686*Pop Art*pop-art facet,1686*Pop-Art*pop-art facet,1686*Arte pop*arte-pop facet,8277*Large (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)|large*large facet,8277*Large (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*large facet,1671*Natur*natur facet,1671*Landscape*nature facet,1671*Paysage*nature facet,1671*Naturaleza*naturaleza facet,1644*Portrait*portrait facet,1644*Retrato*retrato facet,1644*Porträt*portrat facet,8301*Oeuvres en promotion|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Special Offers|icon-promotions*vergunstigte-werke facet,8301*Special offers|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Trabajos en promoción|icon-promotions*trabajos-en-promocion category,23*Dessin*dessin category,23*Fine Art Drawings*drawing category,23*Zeichnungen*zeichnung category,23*Dibujo*dibujo facet,1641*Nude*nude facet,1641*Akt*akte facet,1641*Nus*nus facet,1641*desnudos*desnudos category,15*Edition*edition category,15*Print*print category,15*Drucke*editionen category,15*Edición*edicion facet,11697*Figuratif*figuratif facet,11697*Figurativo*figurativo facet,11697*Figurative*figurative facet,11697*Figurativ*figurativ facet,1830*Paysage|landscape*orientation-paysage facet,1830*Landscape|landscape*orientation-landscape facet,1830*Landschaft|landscape*orientation-landschaft facet,1830*Paisaje|landscape*orientation-paisaje facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*medium facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*medium facet,1680*Animaux*animaux facet,1680*Animal*animal facet,1680*Tiere*tiere facet,1680*Animales*animales facet,1674*Scène de vie*scene-de-vie facet,1674*Everyday life*everyday-life facet,1674*Escena de la vida*escena-de-la-vida facet,1674*Alltagsszenen*alltagsszenen facet,1827*Portrait|portrait*orientation-portrait facet,1827*Hochformat|portrait*orientation-portrat facet,1827*Retrato|portrait*orientation-retrato facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*tres-grand facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*tres-grand facet,8271*Petit (\u003c 50 x 50 cm)|small*petit price,50001 category,24*Design*design category,24*Diseño*diseno price,1000:501 facet,12220*Artistes Français*artistes-francais facet,12220*French artists*french-artists facet,12220*Artistas franceses*artistas-franceses facet,12220*Französisch Künstler*franzosisch-kunstler facet,1659*Flore*flore facet,1659*Floral*floral facet,1659*Flora*flora facet,1659*Flores*flores facet,11634*Pop Culture Street Artists*pop-culture-street-artists facet,11634*Pop culture Street-artistes*pop-culture-street-artistes facet,11634*Popkultur Straßenkünstler*popkultur-strassenkunstler facet,11634*Cultura pop Street-artistas*cultura-pop-street-artistas facet,1668*Noir et blanc*noir-et-blanc facet,1668*Black and white*black-and-white facet,1668*Schwarz und weiß*schwarz-und-weiss facet,1668*Blanco y negro*blanco-y-negro facet,1632*Architecture*architecture facet,1632*Die Architektur*die-architektur facet,1632*Arquitectura*arquitectura facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*very-large facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*very-large facet,108*Öl*ol facet,108*huile*huile facet,108*oil*oil facet,108*al oleo*al-oleo facet,126*acrylique*acrylique facet,126*Acryl-*acryl facet,126*acrylic*acrylic facet,126*acrílico*acrilico price,25001:50000
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