You’ve heard it all before: video killed the radio star, DVDs will be the death of movies, digital color photography will replace classic black-and-white gelatin silver prints. But as Mark Twain might say, rumors of B&W photography’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. When Calumet and Ilford launched their First Annual Silver-Print Competition in 2006, they received thousands of entries for a chance to win one of 12 student awards and 13 master printer awards.
So is black and white making a comeback? In the art world, it never went away. Gelatin silver prints are still considered the gold standard for photography collectors, not to mention the ultimate test of a photographer’s mastery. The process of developing photographs on paper coated with silver salts is time-intensive, and requires careful intervention and handling. But for many art photographers, the results still justify the painstaking work. Truer black, subtle textures, silvery grays, and a luscious sheen make a silver-process print seem palpable, and paradoxically more “real” than a shot taken in living color. There is a possible explanation for this: We may see in color, many of us still dream in black and white.
If your dreams include cash prizes from Calumet/Ilford’s Silver-Print Competition, submit your work with this completed form between February 15 and March 16. Blurb is a sponsor for this year’s competition and Calumet/Ilford’s Silver Conference, the annual meeting of the minds for silver-print photographers in the US.
Meanwhile in the Blurboverse, we’re witnessing a growing number of black and white photography books being published. Some feature digital black and white shots, but many photography buffs are scanning in their original silver-process photos to showcase in Blurb books. Did it yourself, did you? Please let us know how it went, and if you have any tricks you’d like to share.