Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Scott Mansfield’s black-and-white landscape photography shows how soft tonality and a quiet approach can be every bit as strong as big, high-contrast imagery
Mansfield actually made some color images at sunrise on that hike to The Wave, though color only makes up about a quarter of his work. Color can bookend the day; he doesn't approach it the same way as black-and-white, which he can shoot any time of day.
"I don't think most of my stuff would work that well in color because I saw it in black-and-white," Mansfield says. "Color really does change with the light, I think even more than tonality does. The drabness of the color would take away from the beautiful tonality of black-and-white. It would just be boring. It would just be a light blue sky and dirty water, whereas in black-and-white it becomes a beautiful white sky with very subtle gray water. Color does look better during the magic hour, which is when I don't shoot that much. It's just not my thing. It's sometimes just too over the top. There's gorgeous color imagery out there, but it's a pretty postcard scenic done well whereas I think a good black-and-white becomes a little more timeless than timely.
"I bring both systems with me," he adds, "but I don't think I've ever had a case where I shot a black-and-white frame and then turned around and also shot a color frame. I just see so much differently in black-and-white, and I consider myself a black-and-white photographer. It's very hard to get rid of visual information in a color photograph, and that's something that I'm always trying to get to, trying to be as minimalist as possible. With black-and-white, you automatically get rid of the color information, so that's one great distraction you've taken away, and you're left with beautiful lines and tonality and contrast and so forth. I shoot color and black-and-white very differently.
"I think sunsets are beautiful to the naked eye," Mansfield continues, "but not necessarily for my own tastes. I find them a little bit gaudy and overdone in photographs. It doesn't really translate. I've never seen a sunset image that matched an actual sunset in real life. And I don't think that's a mistake on my part or other photographers' parts; I think it's just the nature of looking at a sunset. It's almost too pornographic in color, if that makes sense. I really, really like subtlety. For me, it's about tones and shape and composition, and less about 'this is a gorgeous time of day and therefore I should be out shooting.' I'm often looking for subtlety, a certain mystery in a scene."
Though well versed in finding beautiful black-and-white imagery in almost any circumstance, Mansfield prefers working around iconic locations, and he doesn't integrate photography into his daily routine. He couldn't; his focused approach is too intense.
To see more of Scott Mansfield's photography, visit www.scottmansfield.com.
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