Inspiration: Shades of Black

I only wear black because they haven’t invented a darker colour yet.

Years ago, my sister gave me a magnet with this quote on it, and it’s still on my fridge. Things haven’t changed much.

Anyone who has an affinity for wearing black on black on black – in different textures, of course – will be able to relate these words.  Don’t get me wrong, I do like pops of colour (especially against a dark background); it’s just that black, to me, is symbolic of simplicity, effortlessness and classicism. I love it and I will never give up wearing it.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m drawn to black and white photography, and I’ve been noticing it so much more these days. The varied tones of grey; the depth and strength of contrasts; the drama orchestrated by bold patterns and lines; the feelings conjured up through a perceived mood or atmosphere ~ nostalgia being the strongest.

I’ve come across a number of really inspiring black and whites, and experimented with some myself ~ I share them here, along with a few quotes. If you have any tips or thoughts on shooting in black and white, please share. Enjoy!

First day of Spring, NY, circa 1957 ~ W. Eugene Smith

First day of February: A tourist at the Guggenheim, NY, 2012 ~ Marina Chetner

Lenny Kravitz at Radio City Music Hall, 2012 ~ via Twitter

Untitled ~ © Claire Grossman All Rights Reserved

Give Me a Kiss ~ Kent Mathiesen

Dr. Paul Wolff, Shadows, 1933 ~ tumblr

Portrait d'un assassin de Bernard-Roland, 1949 ~ Voinquel Raymond

Muse ~ Jean-Pierre De Greef via

Toscana,1965 ~ Gianni Berengo Gardin

Sunday Morning along the Arno River, 1935 ~ Alfred Eisenstaedt

Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1934 ~ Harold Cazneaux

Brooklyn Bridge, from Dumbo ~ Marina Chetner

Brooklyn Bridge, NY, 1972 ~ New York Times. tumblr

Parking Garage, NoHo, NY ~ Brooklyntheory, tumblr

Paris sans quitter ma fenêtre (Les Cyclistes), 1948 ~ Lucien Hervé

Friuli in Italy, 1952 ~ Giuliano Borghesan

NYC, 1950 ~ Dennis Stock

Winter Scene, London ~ Gordon Esler, Your Shot, National Geographic

Zebra in Snow, Ohio ~ Matt Eich, LUCEO, National Geographic

Waiting for releaf ~ © Karen McRae via


60 thoughts on “Inspiration: Shades of Black

    • Hi Scott – glad you liked the photos, including mine. I am so appreciative of you commenting on them. Research – all in the name of love and having access to the WWW. A beautiful thing 🙂 Thanks!

  1. So atmospheric, especially the pictures in the rain. Photography is such a great medium for creating art and this series of black and white pictures proves that point. Thank you Marina 🙂

    • Hi Adrian – I so agree with you about the rain shot. You can see the drops springing up from the ground. So well photographed! Glad you enjoyed these – hope some gave you some inspiration for the D7000. Looking forward to your next post 🙂 Thanks!

  2. I’m surprised I haven’t been given that magnet too! Of course, I ‘m also mad about black and white photography. You have chosen a fabulous selection of photos. I find it interesting how the classic Tuscany shot also looks great in black and white. What a good idea about a regular B&W post!

    • Hi Jenny! I have researched for you and found that you can buy the magnet online 😉 Thanks for taking a look at this selection. And yes, Tuscany with all of its earthy colours also looks beautiful in b/w. I’ll definitely try and curate these images regularly. Thank you!

    • Thanks Sophie! I appreciate that. I just took a look at your blog – I’m following. Love the images and quote in the ‘Simple’ challenge; “Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Remember that.” ~ Nicholas Sparks. Thanks so much!

  3. Thanks for posting these Marina. I love black and white photograhy, it has the edge on colour, there again, black and white are colours, arn’t they. I sometimes take images in monochrome, but mostly change suitable images to black and white once downloaded….with the idea that you can take away, but you can’t add, if know what I mean. The great David Bailey maintains Black and white photography is far the best. There have been a couple of programs on TV here in the UK recently, about David Bailey, interviews, his work etc. One of his many iconic images was of course, Christine Keeler…..that image would never have been the same in colour.

    ‘Give me a kiss’ does it here for me, fabulous. But they are all fabulous.

    • Thank you Val, for your comment. I am going to have to research David Bailey as I am so new to the photography world. I read this yesterday: “In case of black and white photography it is always better to shoot in color and work on the conversion to black and white during post-processing.The presence of color information allows you to use your own post-processing techniques and fine-tune the results. Shooting in color enables you to de-saturate specific colors to present a mono-tone image or use color filters to change the contrast and shades of objects of different yet equally strong colors. And you can also process the image creatively to create a partial black and white photograph.” I think I need to start shooting in RAW. Thanks Val!

      • Good idea to start shooting in Raw, I always do, there’s more info in a raw image.
        Just remember though, your memory card stores all this extra info, so won’t take as many pix as shooting in jpg. I also use a fast card, its worth the extra cost.
        When I download and convert the images, I usually convert to jpg, however, aving studied the raw images, if I have one that is exceptionally good, especially for printing, I convert that image to Tiff, as it gives a better print result.

      • Thanks Val, for the tips. I am going to aim to look at software programs in the next few weeks, and look into a fast card. I so appreciate this and glad everything is documented in my comments – so I can come back and refer to your words!

  4. This is truly such a remarkable selection, and I especially love the range of emotions they all contribute, mixing and mingling in this beautiful kaleidoscope of pure feeling. Thank you so much for using one of my humble efforts, really, it is quite an honour to be included in this amazing selection you put together.

    • JP, I so appreciate you allowing me to use your image. Your work always inspires and tells a story. I totally agree – all the photos make you feel something, which is the beauty of b/w and art. Thanks again 🙂

  5. What an inspiring collection!! Beautiful. I too love the visual simplicity but emotional complexity of black & white. A few of these are being added to my ‘Inspiring Photos’ album 🙂
    Top 3 below…
    – Dr. Paul Wolff, Shadows, 1933
    – Portrait d’un assassin de Bernard-Roland, 1949 ~ Voinquel Raymond
    – Sunday Morning along the Arno River, 1935 ~ Alfred Eisenstaedt

    • Kezza, so glad you found inspiration from some of these. I am not surprised that you didn’t pick the Winter in London one – with all that snow you have just received 😉 You took some great photos of it! Thank you!

  6. Ah Marina, what a beautiful inspiring post.
    (I am truly honoured to be included among so many amazing images, yours included)
    All of those historic images are just so perfect, I love the First Day of Spring in New York!
    Really there is nothing like black and white photography! Thank you.

    • Thanks Karen, I love your work and thought the solo leaf was a powerful end note. Simple, natural and classic! Thank you for letting me include one of your images. Can you believe the first day of Spring back then; NY seemingly so windy and covered in snow? What will 2012 bring? I appreciate you sharing your work – it has inspired me alot!

  7. Enjoyed this Marina…..I find shooting B&W really hard…I often strip the colour out of shots and the results are OK..but actually shooting in B&W is so tough….Seeing shots like these really gives me a shove to keep trying though, so big thanks….

    • Stuart – As you know, the Nikon’s retouch menu is as far as I know about b/w processing. That said, images like these (and your influence too) are gently shoving me to start utilising software programs. Look forward to seeing more of your monochromatic shots. As far as your work goes, I am sure your b/w shots are great. Thanks!

    • Thank you so much, and I appreciate you commenting on my photo! I need to start post processing soon, away from the camera’s retouch menu, to do these landmarks justice! Nothing better than black; I can’t own enough black tops, jackets, boots, pants, skirts etc etc. Glad you can appreciate that too! Thank you 🙂

  8. Great collection of bw images, strange how taking the colour out of an image increases the depth and emotional reaction. Love the image at the top of the page.

    • I know, right? Emotion and interpretation take over as you’re leaving it up to the viewer to make up their own minds about the b/w picture moreso than with a coloured one (I think, anyway!) Thanks for the comment about the image at the top, which has now been replaced with a new one. It was of Jane’s Carousel, and there are a few images of that actually in my current post about DUMBO. Thanks!

  9. Love it, great images here! I love black, I love wearing black, writing in black, used to drink black coffee… 🙂 It’s a great colour and definitely classy! 🙂 B&W architecture photography definitely wins 🙂

      • I am so glad you find it nice 🙂 My friend was looking weirdly at me when I suggested the parsley tea, so I thought maybe I am going a bit kuku 😀 But thank god I am not alone! 😀

      • I don’t know why, but I think of parsley tea as a must have; a tonic! Maybe it’s a European thing – there are so many herbs used in Russian soups etc, that it doesn’t feel weird to drink something like this. Thanks again!

  10. Beautiful shots. I enjoyed looking at all of them. Of course I grew up with B&W! I’ve always loved it. I really like your Brooklyn Bridge, Marina…it is just stunning.

  11. I love this post. Working with B&W is very different from color. It is actually a different media. And with the arrival of digital photography, it became still more difficult to choose between the two visions. But I believe that B&W has a lot to offer, and may have a renewal of popularity. How good that you have directed our eyes to the masters.

    • Thank you for your comment Shimon ~ I am so glad you loved it! I’d like to learn more about b/w processing and will start to look into the software and shooting in raw. if anything, there’s plenty of motivation to do so!

    • Hi Alicia – yes, you are the B/W photographer – I have to take a look at your portfolio for inspiration! That’s a great photo of the rain isn’t it? So much movement in so much stillness 🙂 Thanks!

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