Earlier this year photographer and friend Rick Harris and I took a trip to Detroit. The plan was to revisit some of the abandoned buildings we’ve explored in past, and photograph some new sites. In addition to a new theatre and church, I also discovered the black and white post-processing project I’ve been working on was well-suited to some of the images I was taking on our trip.
Over the past several months I’ve been going through some of my older architectural images, looking at them again and trying them out as black and white. I post-process images as HDR and I’ve found that I’m able to build up the structure of the images so there’s more detail in my shots, but at the same time the architectural angles and lines hold the images together.
Light often has an unusual quality in abandoned buildings. Paint peels in layers, and colours, including colour in graffiti can mix and create a unique feel to rooms and hallways of buildings, so I’ve always shot them in colour (and when I shoot in colour I like strong, vivid pictures). What I’m finding, though, is that the black and white images reduce some of the flotsam and jetsam of abandoned buildings, allowing they eye to hold on architectural details. For me, it’s a different way of looking at the images. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.
Here’s an example. This first image is from Detroit’s Michigan Central Terminal. Lots of strong straight lines and architectural detail that would be outstanding even without the sense of abandonment. The graffiti is key to this image, changing the image to something that feels almost post-apocalyptic (click on the image to see it larger):
Now here’s the same image, in black and white (click on the image to see it larger):
The image feels simpler, even classical; more akin to what you’d expect from images of Roman or Greek ruins. The grafitti loses much of its force, but that’s okay as it leaves the eye to spend more time with the strength of the lines. Again, neither better or worse, just different, and something that gives me the opportunity to see not only new things in a different way, but also seeing familiar images in a new way.