Amsterdam in Black and White

When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph in black and white, you capture their souls”  – Ted Grant, Canadian photo journalist

Starting the new year always makes me a little sentimental. I crash on the couch, fast forward to the best parts of Love Actually and flip through my vast collection of coffee table- and picture books. There is nothing like getting inspired by pretty pictures and Hugh Grant dancing to get me out of my funk 🙂
Black and white street photography is my favourite. Like the quote from Ted Grant says: black and white strips a photograph from it’s distractions and let’s you focus on the image, the person in the picture and the moment itself. 

The decisive moment

Being inspired by great street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Vivian Maier, I like to shoot a lot of my street photography in black and white. I started my own street photography series in Amsterdam as part of a class assignment to capture the ‘decisive moment’, made famous by street photography pioneer Henri Cartier-Bresson. He photographed mainly with 35mm film and was a very patient man. He explained the decisive moment as: “There is nothing in this world that doesn’t have a decisive moment. You must recognise, in a fraction of a second, that something is going to happen. And then frame that something, very precisely, into a background or a shape of forms.” Or as I like to call this: get my spidey sense working.

35mm in black and white

Amsterdam in Black & White, No legs to stand on
No legs to stand on, Top Floor Pics

Another catch to this assignment was not to dwell on one subject and take 120 pictures of it, which, let’s face it, is made so easy by digital photography. Just snap away and somewhere on your memory card or phone there will be a decent shot. No, no. I had to approach it like Bresson did. 35mm film was expensive, analog and the decisive moment was not repeated twice. You might have to wait a while for it, but when you spot your moment, take the picture and go look for the next one. The pictures in this blog were taken in Amsterdam documenting people, unobserved moments and unusual things in the street. The Bresson-way actually worked. I took one or two pictures each time and then walked away.

Giant cupcakes and vintage scooters

This Amsterdam in Black & White series provided a number of unique moments. Like a guy cycling through Amsterdam traffic while hauling a giant cupcake. A mannequin frozen in the cityscape with people rushing by. Two girls running and laughing across a bridge with their long hair flying behind them. And a guy staring into space next to this amazing vintage scooter. I like the fact that some of these images could  just as easily been taken in Berlin, Paris or Italy. Maybe someday I’ll get to publish them in my own coffee table book. Who knows…