"Five Lights", abandoned power plant, black and white photography, Brazil, bright light, deep shadow, film grain, fine art photographer, highlights, Honorable Mention Monochrome Awards, international photo competition, Iran, Israel, Italy, Nikon D3, Spain, textural feel, the UK, the Ukraine, Touchstone Gallery DC, window details
Winning an Honorable Mention in the Monochrome Awards means a lot. I began photographing at eleven years of age, and like most of my generation I started in the black and white darkroom. (No iPhones back then.) I did black and white almost exclusively for years. With the advent of digital technology, I began exploring color. The tools of digital editing allow for precise control that isn’t possible in the color darkroom and inkjet printer have a color gamut and archival qualities that far exceed any chromogenic process.
For the last decade or so, I’ve produced mostly color work. My solo shows have featured color work, and nearly all of the awards received were for color work. My color work is rich, lush, and saturated. I use color expressively, more like a painter than a traditional photographer. My first award in an international competition — the Neutral Density Awards — was for a color portfolio.
It’s really gratifying, therefore, to be able to return to black and white and be recognized for a traditional black and white photograph. It’s even more rewarding to be acknowledged in an international competition along with photographers from Spain, Italy, the UK, Brazil, the Ukraine, Israel, Iran, and many other countries. The work produced by the other awardees is great, and the number of countries from which they’re drawn is impressive. I feel honored to be included.
My winning image “Five Lights” was shot in an abandoned power plant. Another photographer had borrowed my tripod; I was wandering around, shooting hand-held. Look up, I always say, and so I did, Above me I saw big suspended lights. The bulbs were long gone, but the light streaming from the windows hit the reflective coating of the fixtures. They glowed.
The light was beautiful. There just wasn’t a lot of it. Shooting hand-held, I cranked the ISO (light sensitivity) up to 10,000. Even with a Nikon D3, an image at ISO 10,000 is going to have a lot of noise. In color, noise is ugly, but I knew I would convert it to black and white. In black and white, the noise looks like film grain, enhancing the image with a gritty textural feel.
The light from the windows was harsh and bright, while the rest of the interior was in deep shadow. I could have exposed the image to retain highlight detail in the windows, but the result would have been total darkness n the shadows. Instead, I exposed for the shadows and allowed the highlights to be blown out. I didn’t want detail in the windows; I wanted them to glow, making this old power plant seem almost like an ancient cathedral. –Pete McCutchen & Rosemary Luckett
See the winning Monochrome Awards photos at http://monoawards.com/winners-gallery/monochrome-awards-2014/professional/fine-art/hm/332