There but not there.

I have been a hifi buff since my teen years and to this day still get very excited about wire and boxes that make music in the home something very special. The dedicated audio press keep me informed on the latest trends even though my system is now very rarely changed. Much like photography I have found what works perfectly for me within the big world of hifi but still like to read the mags and dream of owning a mad money record spinner. Now, record players still get us audio freaks all-a-flutter and I can’t tell you how much it pleases me with my hundreds of vinyl albums that I never traded for CD’s that vinyl is a growth market both for software and hardware. Hardly surprising then, that when it comes to photography I am still dedicated to analogue film use and Black & White to boot. When hifi reviewers effervesce over some new wonder player they regularly talk about it’s ability to make sense of the music. Timing and the space between the notes, the inky black backgrounds and the pauses are what they bang on about; it’s the spaces and moments of silence between a piano hammer hitting a string and the next chord. If you have ever heard a system that times like this you fully understand this claim that it is the non notes, the quiet moments that make music special. What’s not there makes what is so much better. We are used to crappy digital radios and (d)i(re)pods mashing our music into a mess. We hear this every day and accept it as the norm so when confronted with a serious hifi even non audio sorts are impressed.

OK here’s the photography link.

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Black and White has the same effect on the viewer as those quiet moments have on the listener. We are so used to seeing in colour both in real life and the kazillions of pics uploaded to flikr, facebook etc that when confronted with a monochrome image we are taken aback. The lack of colour makes us see things we see all the time like we haven’t before, in the same way that a great timing hifi can make us hear songs we know with new ears. The missing colours are the photography equivalent of the spaces between the notes. You still need a great musician of course, a poor photo is poor whether B&W or colour and no wonder hifi can make Celine Dion sound good. But, just like a great musician knows where the pauses need to be to make chords we all know special, a great photographer knows how to make old French letter boxes or a pile of discarded pallets look great by removing the colours.

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