What is it about black and white photos that creates such drama and timelessness? From a psychological perspective, lack of color can help the viewer focus on the emotion and gesture of the subject rather than be distracted by the environment or clothing choice. From a photographic perspective, the light and shadows seem to play out richly when combined with the right lighting and technique in a good black and white photograph.
Here’s the photo that changed my life. My grandmother worked for photographer Jack Richburg in Houston in her early 20s, and had him do her portrait a year or two before getting married at 23. I noticed the image with fresh eyes after I started doing boudoir portraiture – and realized that I wanted just a little something more in my own work. I wanted to make photos for my clients they would be proud to display.
After spending a lot of time thinking about this riveting photo of Granny O, I realized that the quality of the imagery, the beautiful expression and well-done styling all combine to create an image that is timeless. It almost seems as though this photo could have been taken last year, let alone 60 years ago. The photographer was obviously a master, able to make photos that captured his subjects’ personalities in a flattering and natural way. The fact that she still has this photo hanging in the dining room today says a lot about its place as a treasured family heirloom.
My hat is tipped to Jack Richburg, and I thank him for teaching me a deep lesson about the lasting legacy of a good photograph.