Black and White

… My first camera was a Brownie 127, given to me by my grandfather for Christmas. I loved absolutely everything about it: the feel; the smell; the way it clunked as the white plastic button was pressed; even the white plastic button itself. I had no idea that the tiny little lens was made from acrylic plastic until I read it online. Apparently they left much to be desired but helped to keep the costs down. Even the number of the shots taken showed through the sweetest little red window at the back.

… It was not until I started to earn quite good money I bought two Pentax ME Super film backs and a selection of lenses so that I could easily experiment with colour at the same time as black and white.

Colour photographs are a regular part of our news experience now but that wasn’t always the case. Today newspaper sponsored our first event at Alexandra Palace. Although they pioneered computer photosetting and full-colour offset printing in 1986, linotype and letterpress were still the industry standard printing process for daily newspapers. The use of colour photographs lagged behind the technology that could have printed them, not just because of the cost of changing the machinery but also because colour was still seen as more of a marketing and public relations tool rather than for documentary or historical record.

… I organised classic motor events which fitted in a leisure category, it was only on very rare occasions that I sent a black and white photograph to attract publicity. Black and white was more appropriate for ‘art’ and ‘news’. Fortuitously, by 1988 high street photographic processing companies had invested in colour machines. Monochromatic printing either had to be done by hand or was expensive to outsource to specialists. To keep my own black and white photography going, with hardly any time to go into the darkroom, I used Ilford’s XP1 and then XP2 film that could be processed using the C-41 colour process and machinery. I then kept the negatives safe for printing when I had time, many years later as it turned out.