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Why I Work in Monochrome

Many people have asked me why I never work with colour, and if I ever plan on changing this. The answer I usually give is something along the lines of 'I just prefer colour', but the reason is far more complex. It wasn't until recently where I put some thought into why I do what I do, and why it works for me.

I do actually shoot in colour before converting to black and white immediately after the images are setup for editing. I do this to ensure the most amount of information is present within the image, which may make just a small difference, but if that is the difference it takes to achieve the standard I hope for then I'm fine with that. I lend a great deal of attention to ensuring the raw quality of of each image is the highest it can possibly be and shooting this way is just one of these steps.

Considering my statement of intent; 'minimalism enabling clarity', which applies to all my most recent projects, removing colour is only a logical step in the process. I use minimalism as a tool to chase clarity and colour is nothing but extraneous to this objective. My interests lie within form, and the way in which light interacts with it. Via removing colour, attention can be returned to these aspects and the relationship they share.

This example was the one and only time I decided to edit whilst preserving the colour information. I did so to contemplate both the necessity of monochrome, as well as its aesthetic quality. I lifted the colour onto a separate layer and begun editing as normal without touching it. After finishing, I compared the two versions, which besides the introduction of colour, had been processed in the exact same way.

It should be clear that the points articulated in paragraph three are made apparent now. I feel as though the intent differs completely between the two. The first delivers the sense of clarity that is derived from minimising distraction, and the focus is on the architecture itself. The intensity that each structure delivers is heightened to a point that is obvious. The flow of light constantly fluctuates between maximum and minimum, white and black, the space between brought closer.

The second however is muddied by this third element, a barrier that prevents total clarity. Functioning as another distraction, the overall impact of the photograph is ruined. White no longer flows into black because the colour space no longer operates in this two dimensional fashion. The intensity of each structure is therefore dulled.

Removing colour also allows the viewer to make their own decisions when observing the image, without being swayed by what stands out the most. Subconsciously, we look immediately at what is the most prominent part of a photograph, (the punctum) before letting our eyes wander over to the remaining parts, noticing the smaller details not as visible upon first glance (the studium). A reduction of colour is one method of manipulating this behaviour and shifting the emphasis onto certain parts, and away from others.

The Northern & Shell building, furthest right of the image, and bright blue in the colour version is a perfect example of this manipulation. Not only does it stand out a great deal more than the surrounding beige coloured architecture, but it sits far from the intended punctum of the scene. By removing the colour, this distraction is eliminated.

This shift into monochrome is another method of removing the mediocrity of reality and placing the subject into a context that enables a perspective no longer encumbered by the obstruction that colour presents. It is a frame of reference made possible only via the photographic process, its ability to translate the world autonomously continually setting itself apart from the paintbrush.


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