THE BEAUTY OF SILVER by Nicholas A. Price
Silver is the metalic component in both true black and white negative film and silver gelatin based papers.
There are many ways to produce a monochrome print so why does a silver image represent the best option?
Below are a few of the reasons why in my opinion. silver is superior and also an answer to the question "Why is a monochrome image from colour not good enough?"
Why is Silver Superior?
Black and White images made from silver have been around for over 150 years. There is no doubt that real silver Black and White images last and have a timeless quality that cannot be matched.
The fact that silver gives better control of image tone and is predictable, reliable and stable, makes it the perfect platform for creative image making.
There are a range of Creative Techniques that can be used to make images more personal and distinctive. These include which allows the image colour to be sepia, brown, blue etc.
Genuine high quality Black & White prints are still highly sought after for the distinctive look and interpretation they bring to a subject, enhancing its merit artistically and hence it will have a higher intrinsic value.
Why is colour not good enough?
Colour films and papers can be used to make monochrome prints. However, there are problems and disadvantages in making Black & White prints using colour paper because it compromises the quality of the final image.
For true Black and White images colour paper cannot be used.
'Black' which has been produced from a mixture of dyes will vary in colour depending on the type of lighting in which it is viewed. This is because of a phenomenon called 'metamerism' where 'black' which looks black in daylight will look greenish in tungsten light.
The eye is very sensitive to small colour shifts in a grey tone. Variations that would be acceptable for a colour image are unacceptable for a Black and White print.
Even if a reasonably neutral tone is achieved for a monochrome image on a colour paper, there is often a shift in image tone as the print is displayed or as, inevitably, the dye fades with age. For a full colour print this shift is normally insignificant and goes largely unnoticed. The eye is much more sensitive to these sorts of changes if the image is a monochrome one and so even a small shift in colour, due to fading of the dyes, can have a major effect on the print's look, attractiveness and acceptability.
It is, therefore, essential to insist on real silver Black and White images so that the beauty and creativity of the original will last a lifetime
From a 2009 Article by Nicholas A. Price
Nicholas Price is an acclaimed fine art photographer and artist with over 30 years of experience in traditional film photography. His articles have been published in several books and also featured in presentations, lectures and interviews at the Guggenheim Heritage Museum, KNPR, Boston Globe, USA Today and the Las Vegas Review Journal.
© 2017, Nicholas A. Price