Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kerry Says: Let's Write in Black & White

black and white 


1. (of a photograph, film, television programme, etc.) in black, white, shades of grey, and no other colour. 
"old black-and-white movies" 
synonyms: monochrome, greyscale

2. (of a situation or debate) involving clearly defined opposing principles or issues. 
"it was all grey areas; no black-and-white certainties" 
synonyms: categorical, absolute, unconditional,unqualified, unambiguous, clear-cut, positive, straightforward

photo credit: bowtoo via photopin cc
Have you ever been told that you think in terms of, “all good or all bad”, “all or nothing” or the famous “black and white”? In Black and White Thinking an individual sees, hears and thinks one way only. They live in hope or despair, joy or sadness, are successful or failures… (Source) Of course, such a mindset is not to be encouraged, and one may well ask how could it possibly have any connection to the thinking that goes into the writing of poetry, which surely exists in the grey areas of consciousness. 

I'll admit from the outset, that this challenge may, in fact, prove impossible but if you'll grant me leave to explain my own lateral thinking, perhaps we could attempt a B&W poem. The idea came to me while I was browsing through black & white pictures on Photopin (an ample source of images shared under creative commons). The photos are lovingly composed, and seem to have an almost unidentifiable quality that goes beyond recording an image to something infinitely artistic and, even, poetic. I wondered if it were possible to translate some of that 'magic' into the written word, so I went in search of tips for successful B&W photography.

The Tips (Condensed)

Our eyes see in colour but to be successful in black and white photography it’s important to train them to see the world as tones of grey. The best black and white photography exploits the differences in tone between elements in a scene. Great black and white photos also make good use of shapes, textures, lines and lighting, to compensate for the loss of colour.

photo credit: Greg McMullin via photopin cc

Tonal contrast is important in all types of photography, but especially in black and white photography. Whether a low contrast image or a high one the contrast level can have a profound effect on the mood and atmosphere. A natural way to add contrast to your image is through choice of subject.

photo credit: Barry Yanowitz via photopin

The classic subjects for mono treatment include documentary, landscape and portraiture. Portraits often look stronger in black and white because, without the distraction of colour, the emphasis is on character, expression, and revealing ‘the soul’ of the subject. When reducing landscapes to monochromatic tones the composition becomes more important than ever. Make the most of your foreground, remember to include a focal point. 

photo credit: demandaj via photopin cc

Following on with the concept of contrast, have a hunt for striking patterns and textures. Concentrating on interesting shapes can be a great way of crafting a bolder image. To appreciate an object’s outline there needs to be tonal variation between subject and background. Reducing your focal point to a silhouette is an effective method to achieve this. Keep an eye out for recurring themes.

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc 

The techniques of both high- and low-key lighting lend themselves naturally to black and white photography. A high-key image is conventionally bright, and composed primarily of highlight tones. The opposite is true for low-key images, which are conventionally dark, comprising of a range of either dark, or completely black, areas punctuated with highlights to complete images with extended contrast. (Source)

photo credit: centrifuga ☁ via photopin cc

While I was reading these tips, certain words leapt out at me: contrast, tone, mood, atmosphere, focal point, highlight, patterns, textures. Each of these concepts has a place in poetry; they could, in fact, be considered the very foundation of poetic technique. Therefore, I believe it is possible to use the tips provided in our own context, which is the composition of poetry.

If you feel inspired to respond to this challenge, please write a new poem. The post remains available through Thursday, and indeed, will still be on the home page until Saturday. Feel free to post at a later date than today. The terms of using pictures from Photopin insist on the inclusion of the correct link to the photographer's website. The featured photos are used for purposes of illustration, but if you would like to add one to your post, please add the necessary acknowledgement.



Vandana Sharma said...

:) Thankyou for such a lovely theme.

Kay L. Davies said...

There's no telling what prompt will grab a poet, and no explanation for the direction in which it might take us.
With the house to myself (Dick and Lindy are snoring in stereo) I found I was thinking of black and white photos of myself. Why? I really don't know.
A very unusual prompt for the toads, Kerry, and I'll be very interested to see where it takes them.

Grace said...

Very interesting theme Kerry ~ I hope to keep these pointers in mind when writing about black and white pictures ~

Have a good day ~

Margaret said...

Fascinating! I have quite a few challenges I MUST visit and comment on before I can do this one but I adore the photography and idea behind this post today.

I have to pick up two "children" from college and well, tomorrow is T-day here in the U.S. Friday will most likely be busy as well, so I may be posting my response to this challenge on Monday. (just wanted you to know).

Thanks, Kerry.

Marian said...

whoa, this is a lovely, lovely challenge, Kerry!

Loredana Donovan said...

Wow! I love black & white photography! And the same concepts & techniques do apply to poetry. This is an amazing prompt, Kerry.

I'm off to travel to be with family for Thanksgiving, so I will give this a (b/w) shot later in the week. Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving & Peace to all :)

hedgewitch said...

A very provocative and fascinating challenge Kerry. I will see if I can rise to it.

Grandmother Mary said...

Mine ended up going to the shades of grey since that's our weather and my state just now. Good prompt.

Ella said...

Grey here and I in the shadows of dark-I love this challenge! Thank you Kerry!

Helen said...

Kerry! An awesome challenge, timely as well ~~ I have been sorting and scanning old black and whites!

Hannah said...

I loved this, Kerry, (BIG-time), thank you!!!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I know this is a very difficult time for many to be writing, with Thanksgiving weekend coming up. My best wishes to all who will be spending time with family.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Kerry, the second link is the correct one. I added a reference and the silly thing didnt update but created a new link.

Patricia McGoldrick said...

It is an art form in itself!

Maude Lynn said...

This was tough!

Ella said...

I'm with MZ-this was really difficult! I have struggled to express myself lately. Life has been more than a challenge and I do tend to think in B&W-not always, but sometimes. Thank you Kerry for pushing us outside our comfort zones.

Anonymous said...

Great idea for a challenge, Kerry. Poetry is about distilling essence, and sometimes that work is one of reduction down to the primary absolutes of life/death, this/other, I/Thou etc.,--the binary code of thought. I'm really enjoying reading the responses (fantastic job on yours, BTW). - Brendan

Fireblossom said...

I had to think about this one for a while, but without this challenge, the poem I wrote would not have come to be, or at least, would not have come to be in the same form. it stretched me, and that makes this a great challenge in my book!

Happy American Thanksgiving to all the cheetahs and zebras in RSA!

Loredana Donovan said...

I just posted from my phone, Kerry. In between cooking & festivities. Will be in an out visiting today. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

a few fragments that don't quite cohere, but what the hey. giving thanks for the garden ~ M

Fireblossom said...

NEW posts, Brendan. NEW posts, not reposts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kerry--I thought this was a super interesting prompt--I had a hard time with it due to distraction really--my poem is really all over the place, but decided to just go with that. There's always a certai interest in seeing how a mind works. Thanks. k.

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

Because I have borderline personality disorder, I've had to work on not having black and white thinking. It helped when my bipolar disorder was also diagnosed and I started taking Lithium. That took away some of the edge.