In school I had a painting teacher that cautioned his class on using black paint. Perhaps he did not like black in compositions or felt a heaviness or danger in its lack of illuminating color spectrum. Being the rebel I was then, I used black paint because I liked its dimensional qualities.
To this day I find black or darkness make imagery more realistic as the contrast can give a grit or a dynamic impact. It directs the eye through composition posing a mystery to the negative space. After all negative space is as important of a design element in composition as is positive space or subject matter. The intrigue of the darkness hypnotically lures the eye into imagining what might be there.
My photography career began in Los Angeles capturing live performance of rock bands. Not only did I enjoy photographing people following their passion, the lighting of the stage made for impactful images, especially on transparency film. My eye developed through those years capturing personality and environment with the depths available from light to dark. As I continued I translated that into large format transparency film in studio. That style is something I carry with me even today.
Much of today's commercial photography is digital which is great for its production value in speed of capture and delivery to clients for various marketing platforms. To me, digital photography seems to have an artificial feel to it with the wide capture range via mass market sensors. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the lighter overall images that digital is capable of, yet much of it looks the same from photographer to photographer in part due to client expectation. We could agree that lighting style plays it's role as well and the more LED lighting is used (sometimes due to tandem video production), the flatter the imagery. Cameras and lights are mere tools. I have felt what's important to remember is that I can make my tools venture into greater contrast punctuating my stories with more realism.
I'm not afraid of the dark. Its part of Nature. Much like photographing with available light in editorial situations, it allows the viewer to feel as though they are there in the moment. The tension of light to dark creates a balance in structural space and form. Digital photography is at its best when it replicates the dynamics of film and as a vehicle speaking for the photographer-artist behind the lens. I'm still painting with black, with that wide spectrum that builds dimension, because it depicts the real world.
about the author: Karen Ollis is an experienced photographer specializing in studio portraiture, and environmental on-location portraits for editorial stories, PR and marketing testimonials. instagram @ollisphoto