The Lomography Community is a melting pot of talent of both experienced and new film photographers, and we're very proud and ecstatic when two great minds and artists get their worlds entwined. Longtime black-and-white expert Olle Pursianien, a.k.a. oleman and promising talent Sumner Franke, a.k.a. soulcraft share their ardour for the timeless art of black-and-white photography through their pictures and words.
Shifting from Color to Monochrome
Lomographer Olle Pursiainen, a.k.a. oleman, is already a household name in the Community. Known for his vast catalogue of black and white photographs, he's on the frontline when it comes to a mastered Lomographic approach in B&W films. But how did his noir oeuvre even began? Olle shared that his affinity for B&W began due to more monetary issues than anything else:
"When I started taking pictures in the 1970s, it was more of an economic issue. Photographing in black and white and also self-developing the films was a far cheaper alternative than photographing in color. For me, photography is not just about taking pictures, but the whole process of selecting the right film and camera for the photo session and also the film developing is an important part of that process."
Meanwhile, newcomer Sumner Franke, a.k.a. soulcraft, is just about to burn his fourth roll of monochromatic emulsion. It's only recently he got into black and white photography, when one of his housemates gave him a roll of Ilford HP5. Not entirely inclined with black and white at first, Sumner nonetheless tried the film out with his dad's Olympus OM-2n from the 70's.
"My naive thinking was, 'why bother when you can just drop the saturation on color photos and get the same effect?' Little did I know... When I developed my first roll I was shocked by the timeless beauty of the contrast and grain. There's something so magical about it. I was immediately hooked. My housemates -- @keithoshiro, @three60s, and @nonirasmussen, all who have shot hundreds if not thousands of rolls, were impressed and encouraged me to shoot more."
On Shooting with Shades of Grey
There's a beautiful dichotomy of what both Olle and Sumner focus on. Olle's more inclined to photograph empty, quiet landscapes that he himself witnesses in his life: "I have a special love for snow landscapes and winter photography overall. I also like to photograph the odd things that I encounter in my everyday life."
Meanwhile, Sumner's all about capturing the feminine form through a very limited palette. He achieves consistently elegant compositions by trying to create depth, texture, contrast and varying intensities of light. Still, on his fourth roll, he tells us some advantages in shooting with low light:
"I know that in low light, whatever is out of the range of good exposure is dropping into oblivion. Pure black. I'd like to explore that more, I love how extreme it is. Likewise, it can be so gentle with neutral values, creating this beautiful subtlety in faces and skin tones. Seeking a blend of these contrast scenarios can be as simple as placing the subject in front of a window in a dim room. I especially love dappled light through foliage or textured fabrics in hard light. The portrait of @sashasamsonova I took in this light was an instant favorite."
Raw Simplicity is Key
It's very straightforward to see the difference between Sumner's and Olle's photography. Olle has a knack for photographing the ephemeral silence of everyday life while Olle's keen on mapping the artistic human form. And yet, the two share the same vision for black and white aesthetics. Monochromatic photographs without composition and visualization in mind can easily look lifeless. For Olle and Sumner, B&W shooters shouldn't fuss too much, and simply allow their eyes and hands to do the work. Olle believes raw simplicity is what makes the shot stand out:
"I don't think there is any need to spice up the black and white images, on the contrary, I try to simplify and scale as much as possible. The strength of the black and white image lies in the content and the message, not the color splendor and the glamour. My point of view may have been influenced by the fact that I grew up with black and white TV under tight conditions."
Sumner believes in allowing the spur of the moment to do its magic to his photographs as well, but as a portraitist himself, he also takes in consideration of the cultural aspects that can influence how his image's being perceived. For him, black-and-white has the power to liberate the feminine form.
"Beyond the photographer, the cultural dialogue on what is acceptable shows up in the poses, the clothing, hair, makeup. All of these factors make B&W shots relevant to our current day and age. Its all in the details. I'd say I'm lucky enough to live in a time where the culture is being rapidly reshaped and reimagined in ways that support this art. Or at least, I believe, we're on a path towards that acceptance and support. My photos, in particular, explore and celebrate the feminine, the freedom of nudity, and collaborative reciprocal experience of self-expression, trust, and vulnerability. All of which, I believe, are very relevant to our current day and age."
Lessons to Learn
Of course, good photographers never finish without leaving a piece of good advice. While starting out with black-and-white photography may be daunting and overwhelming, there's a lot of lessons that can be picked up from shooting in B&W as it teaches you in being selective of your shots, being hyperaware of your surroundings, the lighting, as well as the composition. Olle does think B&W is a good teacher for eager film photography enthusiasts who want to improve: " Being a good black and white photographer is to see the light, to master the backlight and to see the finished image before taking it."
It also teaches one the most important trait for a photographer: patience.
That said, this should all be practised as if it's meditation. As Sumner would put, " just enjoy the moment of time you've immortalized." In other words, don't stress yourself, and you'll be fine!
What do you think about black and white photography and how much do you resonate with Olle and Sumner? Let us know more by commenting below!