The Timeless Art of Monochrome

By Kirsten Bruening
Light & Composition University
31st January 2022 – 15th April 2022

Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master’s of Art in Photojournalism

Instagram: @zam.photographie

Professor Nasrul Eam
Dean, Department of Art and Photography


The master thesis “The Timeless Art of Monochrome” by Kirsten Brüning from 2022 deals with the emergence and history of photography as well as the timeless art of monochrome which has not lost its influence until today. From the first steps with a camera to the emergence of documentary photography to the magic in black and white in the field of close-up and macro photography. The most important and influential photographers of the time and their photographic genre.  The thesis deals extensively with the decisive moment in a photograph. What significant influence on the quality and expressiveness of a photograph it has. Moving further the thesis explores the most influential female photographers, who shaped a significant part of the photographic eras with their influence and thus were able to influence the events of the time, sometimes significantly.



The History of Photography

Photography is an omnipresent medium today. Whether in science, advertising, event media, propaganda, or just our shoots – we can’t imagine a world without photographs.

Looking back to its history, about 200 years ago photography didn’t exist. At the start of the 16th century, the artist Leonardo da Vinci sketched out diagrams and wrote instructions about the camera obscure. In his papers, he included not just pinholes but also simple glass lenses.

200 years later, in the late 1830s, photography as we know, began in France. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a portable camera obscura to expose a pewter plate coated with bitumen to light. This is the first recorded image that did not fade quickly.

In the period between the two Napoleons experiments were underway both in France and in England, and by the time Napoleon’s nephew Louis-Napoleon became Emperor of France in 1852, photography was creating its small revolution. Photographers of this era used generally cameras designed and made by themselves or skilled craftsmen, adapting lenses made by optical manufacturers to use photographically.

The early timeline of the history of photography was optical companies such as Zeiss, Leitz, and others starting to design lenses specifically for photography.

Voigtländer went a step beyond and introduced a camera for metal plates in 1841.

The metal and glass plates were fragile, cumbersome, and hard to work with. Also, they were costly for the average person. A more accessible method continued to be looked for by photographers. A more accessible method continued getting improved upon.

Henry Fox Talbot invented a viable method in 1835. The viable method of spreading a gelatine emulsion on paper. In 1839 astronomer John Herschel came up with a way to fix the image recorded by silver halides.

In the year 1887, these two technologies were first manufactured as photographic film. This film could be produced in individual sheets or as a roll. 

In 1888 George Eastman of Rochester, New York had an idea. He wanted to build a simple and easy-to-use camera, to use this new roll film. In the history of photography, George Eastman was a master of marketing photography to the masses.

“You push the button, we do the rest.“

Eastman Kodak became a driving force in the worldwide boom of photography. They introduced many different formats of films in rolls and sheets. And as well as cameras for beginners, enthusiasts and professional photographers.

One of the common formats of roll film was 135. Also called 35mm. This format was used primarily for motion pictures, but also it started getting spooled into small cartridges for miniature still cameras.

The movie cameras transported 35mm film through the cameras vertically, with an image frame of 18x24mm. In the year 1913, Oskar Barnack, an engineer at Leitz, designed a prototype still camera that transported the film horizontally, producing a 24x36mm image frame.

By 1925, the Leica I was introduced and became a commercial success. In time, the 24x36mm format became one of the most produced and used image formats in all photography.

While many film and camera formats exist, 35mm became one of the most popular formats in the history of photography.

In 1957, the first eye-level viewing single-lens reflex camera with an instant return mirror was introduced by Asahi Optical of Japan called Pentax.

The Nikon F released in 1957, was a professional-caliber 35mm SLR with an entire system of lenses, motor drives, and other accessories around it. 35mm SLRs became one of the primary types of cameras for photographic images.

The first known digitally recorded images were created in a Kodak lab in 1975. It took 23 seconds to capture the 0.01 MP image. It was a very basic camera, but the recording apparatus weighed in at 8 pounds.

Among the first digital camera of the 1980s and 1990s were several point shoot-style cameras from computer makers and the bigger manufacturers. From 1989 through the early 2000s Fuji and Kodak collaborated with Canon and Nikon to make digital cameras that fit what professionals needed.

The D1 was introduced by Nikon in 1999. This marked the first time that a major camera factored on its design and build a camera specifically as a digital system camera.

In the year 2004, the sensor in the Canon EOS 1D Mark II had surpassed the resolving power of the former industry standard Kodachrome slide film. 


Classics from the History of Photography

Over the year, photographers and artists experimented with the possibilities afforded them by new technologies and camera innovations to create fascinating and enduring works that would go down in photographic history.

The first photograph ever was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.  It was taken from the upstairs windows of Niépce´s estate in the Burgundy region of France. The photograph was captured via a process known as heliography which used Bitumen of Judea coated onto a piece of glass or metal.

the first photograph ever


1963 Swiss photo historian Helmut Gernsheim donated the world´s earliest permanent photograph to the University of Texas for public display.

In the year 1861 the mathematical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, took the world’s first color photograph. The piece above shows a colored ribbon. It was the inventor of SLR, Thomas Sutton, who pressed the shutter, but Maxwell is credited with the scientific process that made it possible. For those having trouble identifying the image, it’s a three-color bow. 

the first color


A way back in 1957 the first digital photograph was taken by Russel Kirsch. That was almost 20 years before Kodak’s engineers invented the first digital camera. The photo is a digital scan of a shot initially taken on film. It has a resolution of 176 x 176. The low resolution was because the computer they used wasn’t capable of storing more information. 




The History of Photojournalism

Photographers that used images to communicate the news, photojournalism has shaped the way we see the world since the middle of the 19th century. What began as war photography has slowly spread to other newsworthy events, including sports and even long-form storytelling through photo essays. 

The first true photojournalism is usually attributed to Carol Szathmari and Roger Fenton who used their cameras to document the Crimean War in the years 1853 – 1856.  Roger Fenton was the first official war photographer. His images demonstrated the effect of war. Fentons work was published in “The Illustrated London News“, bringing these images to a mass audience for the first time. 

The beginning of modern photojournalism took place in 1925 in Germany. The event was the invention of the first 35mm camera, a Leica. At his time there was another invention originally from Germany, the photojournalism magazine. In the mid-1920s, Germany first, experimented with the combination of two old ideas. The idea of publication of photos was old, which was available after about 1890 and by the early 20th century. The difference between photo magazines beginning in the year 1920, was the collaboration – instead of isolated photos. Editors and photographers began to work together to produce an actual story, told by photos and words or cutlines. In this concept, photographers would shoot many more photos than they needed and transfer them to editors. Editors choose the best believed told story. As important in the new photojournalism style were the layout and writing. Cutlines and captions helped to tell the story behind the frame and were guiding the reader through the illustrations. 

The combination of photography and journalism, the photojournalism termed and coined by Frank Luther Mott, historian, and dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism became familiar after World War II (1939-1945). The German photo magazines established the concept, but Hitler’s rise to power in the year 1933 led to the suppression and persecution of most of the editors who generally fled the country. Many of them came to the United States. 

The golden age of photojournalism was from the 1930s through the 1970s. Technology and public interest aligned to push the field to new heights. Innovations like the flashbulb made photography more portable than ever. Photo-driven magazines like Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and the New York Daily News employed a large staff of photographers and used the photo essay as a means to disseminate news. 

In the field of photojournalism women also became leading figures. Margaret Bourke-White was the first American female war reporter and the photographer of the first LIFE cover.

Dorothea Lage was one of many photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration to document the Great Depression. Her Migrant Mother image became an iconic representation of the era. 

In the year 1947 the photojournalists Robert Capa, David Seymour, and Henri Cartier-Bresson were among those who created Magnum Photos. This photographer-owned cooperative harnessed the collective strength of its members to cover the great events of the 20th century. 

Photojournalism (also: press photography or picture journalism) uses the forms of expression and means of photography to illustrate reporting on backgrounds in politics, culture, and other areas of social concern or to present events exclusively in a pictorial way.

They capture current events and should provide the world with truthful photographic material. 

Photojournalists influence to decisively change political events with their visual language or capture historical moments. 

Journalistic images should be objective and show reality. 

Photojournalists should make sure that they show current events correctly. 

Choosing a different section, a different angle of view, makes dramatic scenes suddenly seem harmless. At the same time, it exposes the small and big tricks of photographers, ranging from slight falsification by omission to deliberate manipulation and staging.

The impression that journalistic photography supposedly relates to reality is historically learned. It has to do with the trust we place in the documentary quality of such photographs. 

The photo always shows only a section of everything that could have been seen at the scene of the event.

That is why a photojournalist has the task of objectively depicting the event. The viewer always acts subjectively. 


The Most Important and Influential Photojournalism Photos

the terror of war

(Quelle: Getty Images – )

“The Terror of War“ was taken by Nick Uth in 1972. 

“That photo showed the world what the war in Viet Nam was about. Regardless of their nationality or language, people could understand and relate to the tragedy. […] The picture for me and many others could not have been more real. It was as authentic as the war itself.“


the burning monk

(Quelle: Getty Images)

“The Burning Monk“ taken by Malcolm Browne in 1963

In June of 1963, in a busy street of Saigon, the Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death as a protest against the South Vietnamese Diem regime´s discriminatory Buddhist laws. He was hoping to show that to fight all forms of oppression, a sacrifice must be made. Hence his self-immolation. The black and white image became a paragon of the turbulent 1960s. 

the falling man

(Quelle: Getty Images)

“The falling man“ by Richard Drews, 2001

This photo was taken in the moments after the September 11, 2001 attacks. A man who tried to escape from the collapsing buildings. On a day of mass tragedy, this image was one of the only widely seen photos showing someone dying. The true power of „Falling man“ is less about who is subject. It was more about what he became, a makeshift Unknown Soldier, suspected forever in history. 

Alan Kurdi

(Quelle: Getty Images)

„Alan Kurdi“ Nilüfer Demir, 2015

For more than four years the war had been going on in Syria

when Alan Kurdish parents lofted the 3 years old boy and his 5 years old brother into an inflatable boat and set off from the Turkish coast for the Greek Island of Kos. It was three miles away. Within minutes of pushing a wave capsized the vessel and the mother and both sons drowned. Nilüfer Demir, of the Dogan News Agency, came upon Alan, his face turned to one side and bottom elevated as if he were just asleep.

“There was nothing left to do for him, there was nothing to bring him back to life. I thought this is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body!”


(Quelle: Getty Images)

“Albino Boy, Biafra” Don Mccullin, 1969

Biafra is a tiny west African nation, that split off from southern Nigeria in the year 1967 and was retaken less than three years later. Don Mccullin shoot this photo of a 9 years old albino child in 1967.

“To be an albino orphan was to be in a position behind the description.“

“Dying of starvation, he was still among his peers an object of racism, ridicule, and insult.“

These are just a few outstanding and worth remembering photojournalistic images all the time.


Black and White Photography

In a world full of vivid colors, black and white photographs occupy a unique way. It’s the timeless Art of Monochrome.

They allow the viewer to focus on the essentials and to perceive details much more intensively. Photographs in black and white take the viewer into a magical world full of light and shadow. It is not without reason that many great photographers such as Amsel Adams, Paul Almas, Elliot Erwitt, James Nachtwey, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Vivian Maier have become famous for the unique style of their black and white photographs. 

Painting with light, detached from color, representing a world in black and white, makes everything that otherwise goes unnoticed seem extraordinary.

It is not enough to convert a color photograph into black and white. For black and white photography other requirements are necessary than for color photography. Black and white photography is about light, shadows, contrasts, and bold arrangements. The art and secret of a good black and white photo are not that you see it as a good black and white arrangement when it has already been taken. The secret is that the photographer recognizes it before he presses the shutter. He has to see the world in black and white, so to speak. Wherever color is a distraction, the choice will always be monochrome. 

Why do we love black and white photography?

Black and white photography is simple – beautiful and minimal images in black and white can have an amazing impact for their simplicity. … Black and white photography can evoke a mood – from nostalgia to sadness to yearning, black and white pictures somehow convey emotion in a way that color images simply can’t.


Portrait Photography in Black and White

A good portrait photograph makes visible what would never have become visible without the photographer. Making the essence of a person visible in the photograph is the highest art of photography.  

The pioneer of portrait photography was Julia Margaret Cameron. She was born in Calcutta in 1815 and received her first camera at the age of 50. What was originally intended as a toy sparked Cameron’s fascination for photography? In the 1860s, photography was still in its infancy. The glass photographic plates had to be coated and sensitized by hand, and therefore the results were often surprising. Cameron transformed the greenhouse into a studio and the coal shed into a darkroom.

Friends and neighbors were also put at the service of the new art. Their patience was tested to the utmost, because average exposure times of five minutes were necessary, during which the “victim” had to remain completely motionless. Cameron must have used an incredible amount of energy and the full force of her personality to keep the people, especially the children, in line. After barely a month, she had a presentable result, her first picture, which she called “Annie, my first success“.



Other photographers tried to keep exposure times as short as possible with as much light as possible from all sides. Julia restricted the light with curtains and thus modeled the facial features with light and shadow. She accepted the suffering of her victims (when sitting still) because it was important to her to capture the personality. For her, beauty was the incarnation of the divine. She also refused to retouch her pictures. In the field of portrait photography, she went her way and became a pioneer.

During her 15-year creative period, she often had the opportunity to portray important contemporaries. Her pictures are expressive documents because they were created by an equal personality who put all her strength and love into her work.

To this day, the photographs have lost none of their persuasive power and magic. The portraits, however, are only a fraction of the complete oeuvre, which comprises around three thousand photographic plates.

Julia Margaret Cameron died in Kalutara at the age of 63.

“A blessing rested on my photographic work; it gave pleasure to millions and deeper happiness to very many.“

One of the greatest portrait photographers of the 20th century was Yousuf Karsh. Born in 1908 in the Ottoman Empire. Karsh had to flee to Syria at the age of 14 to escape the Armenian genocide. At the age of 14, he was sent by his parents to Quebec/Canada to begin an apprenticeship with his uncle George Nakash, a photographer. He quickly recognized his nephew’s abilities and sent him to Boston/USA to train with the portrait photographer John Garo. 

After 4 years, Karsh returned to Canada and set up his photography studio in Ottawa. 

William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime Minister became aware of him and arranged numerous portrait sessions with Canadian dignitaries. 

Yousuf Karsh achieved international fame in 1941 with his portrait of Winston Churchill. 

Yousuf Karsh Winston Churchill 1941 1557x1960 1


He was a master of lighting and marked his work with the separate illumination of his portraitists’ hands. 

Karsh had an extraordinary ability to capture the character of a person in his photographs.

In 1967 he wrote: “There is a secret hidden in every human being and as a photographer, it is my task to reveal it according to my abilities. This revelation, if successful, will reveal itself in a split second in an unconscious gesture, a glimmer of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all people wear to hide their very selves from the world. In that moment of opportunity, the photographer must act or lose his chance.”

Karsh was the only photographer and the only Canadian to be included in the list of the one hundred most influential people of the 20th century by the International Who’s Who 2000. Of the others chosen for this list, he had portrayed over half.

Yousuf Karsh died in 2002. 

Arnold Newmann, born in New York in 1918, was one of the most influential portrait photographers of the second half of the 20th century. 

Even as a boy, Arnold Newman was interested in art. After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship to study art at the University of Miami in Coral Gables. For financial reasons, however, he had to discontinue his studies in 1938. 

After dropping out, Newman began working in a small portrait studio, where he learned the importance of affection for clients.  He began to photograph friends in 1938 and developed his style. 

In 1941, Arnold went to New York with a portfolio, where he presented his work to Beaumont Newhall, curator of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. His wife Nancy recommended him to the well-known photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz also recognized Newman’s talent and enthusiasm for people, especially artists, and supported him.


Newmann Picasso


Arnold Newmann once said about his photographs:

“My work is an expression of myself, the way I feel and think.

I am interested in what drives individuals, and what they do with their lives. The portrait is a kind of biography.”

His individual portrait style makes Newman one of the most important portrait photographers of the 20th century. Although he liked to let the large-format camera force him to compose his photographs with calm and deliberation, he sometimes portrayed over 50 people in one day.

He portrayed famous painters such as Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso or Piet Mondrian; musicians such as Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, or George Harrison; authors such as Paul Auster, Norman Mailer or Arthur Miller; politicians such as John F. Kennedy, Golda Meir or Konrad Adenauer. Famous photographer colleagues such as Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Man Ray also stood in front of his camera. And also architects (e.g. Frank Lloyd Wright), industrialists (e.g. Alfred Krupp), and actors (e.g. Marilyn Monroe). Arnold Newman’s oeuvre reads like a “who’s who” of the second half of the last century.

On 6 June 2006, the great “photographer of the soul”, as he likes to be called, died of a heart attack in New York at the age of 88.

One of the most fascinating subjects in black and white photography is portrait photography.

With the right light, a photograph can be realized that is breathtaking and timeless at the same time. In portrait photography, the focus is on the eyes, the subject does not necessarily have to look directly into the camera. However, the eyes should be in focus in any case. Eyes in portrait photography are a significant point to give the photograph that certain something. When creating a portrait, the photographer concentrates primarily on focusing, either by choosing a suitable focus point with the camera’s focus setting or by switching to manual focus. As a rule, portrait photographers use the classic lens with a focal length of 85mm, which will blur the background regardless of the choice of aperture. It is always important to choose a suitable background. Even if it is out of focus, a tree sticking out of a person’s head will ruin the whole composition. 

If there is more than one person in the photo, the photographer must make sure that they are all in focus and use a wide aperture. Care must be taken to ensure that all people are approximately the same distance from the camera or a smaller aperture must be used to increase the depth of field. 

In portrait photography, it is very important from which direction the light falls on the person.


If the sun is very low in the sky, exposure from the front should be avoided. On the one hand, the subject will tend to close their eyes and on the other hand, contrasts that give the portrait that certain something will not be shown correctly.

The photograph will quickly look flat as if different layers have not been captured.


Exposure from the side is always preferable to exposure from the front. Sidelight can produce impressive results in black and white. To soften shadows, the photographer can use a reflector on the opposite side, for example, a bright wall, a mirror, or something similar. The reflection reflects the light onto the subject. 


When backlit, the subject will not close their eyes and the head will be framed by a beautiful and bright glow. However, the photographer must ensure the correct position of the light source, otherwise, the exposure will be directed at the background and not at the subject. 


There are two types of portable flash. The so-called pop-up flash is built into the camera or the clip-on flash mounted on the hot shoe. As a rule, the pop-up flash gives the photographer the best control, as it can usually be tilted and rotated. The pop-up flash allows the direction of light to be changed. The photographer is free to choose whether to direct the light from the ceiling or the wall back to the subject. This creates a larger light source that gives the subject a more flattering appearance. 

In most cases, the flash is not used to brighten the subject but to lighten shadows.

Natural light is preferable to artificial light whenever possible. With the correct exposure time, aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation, the photographer has full control over the outcome of a portrait photograph. 

DSC 0238 2 Silke portrait 1

Nikon Z7, ISO 200, 1/320 sec., f/5.6, 70mm

This portrait was taken in a street café in Paris. The light came from above but was interrupted by the front of the house behind. To be able to photograph the face with enough light, a window pane in which the light of the sun was reflected was used as an additional light source.

DSC 7810 1

Nikon Z7, ISO 100, 1/8000 sec., f/4,5, 70mm

This portrait was taken on a hot summer day. The sun was high in the sky, and the boys’ hair created contrasts and shadows on his face. The eyes, however, are clear and distinct. The difficulty was to create a portrait that still had enough shadows and contrasts despite the bright light. 


Nikon D800, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec., f/6.3, Sigma 105mm

The sun was also high in the sky for this photo. The photograph was taken through a windowpane at an unguarded moment. The background does not look coherent because of the trees and bushes. The eyes are not clear. Only the happy expression on the face makes this photo a nice snapshot. The 3:4 format also looks better in this case.

Svenja 1

DSC 7814 Eric Portrait 1 1

Nikon Z7, ISO 100, 1/6400 sec., f/4,5, 70mm

The special feature of this portrait is that it was taken at close range. Thus the emotions of the person are perceived exactly and the viewer has the feeling of standing in front of this person. However, it would have been better to show the ears in their entirety. 

In conclusion, five core elements make up a good portrait. Location, lighting, composition, emotion, and technical settings. When all 5 of these elements are well-executed, a great portrait is created. If any of these elements comes up short, the quality of the portrait suffers.


Architecture Photography in Black and White

Architectural photography generally focuses on all types of buildings, including photos of interiors and exteriors as well as bridges or similar structures. Photos of cityscapes also belong to the category of architectural photography. Architectural photography has been used primarily to document buildings since the invention of photography. Over the years, it has developed into a diverse art form in its own right. 

One of the biggest advantages of architectural photography is the immobile subject. A tripod offers freedom in the choice of perspective and also provides stability. 

Different lenses are a must, as each focal length has different advantages. Lenses with a fixed focal length make sharp photos with less distortion. A fixed focal length is also great for shooting at night. A zoom lens can be used to photograph subjects that are far away or difficult to reach. Interesting details and structures can also be brought into focus more easily with a zoom lens. 

Optical distortion can be avoided by the photographer with a tilt-shift lens. Parallel lines will then be truly parallel to each other and not converge to a point. 

Wide-angle lenses are often used in structural photography. With a wide-angle lens, larger areas can be photographed. However, the edges can appear slightly distorted and may need to be cropped. 

Landmarks, government buildings, libraries, museums, churches, and historical buildings are ideal for architectural photography. To find the best angle for the desired subject, it is useful to view the building from different perspectives. The time of day also plays a decisive role. Night shots of ordinary buildings turn them into something special because of the atmosphere. 

Depth of field is crucial when photographing buildings. The photographer should not withhold any detail from the viewer and should bring as much sharpness as possible into the picture. This can be achieved by using a small aperture. 

Symmetry plays a key role in architectural photography. This can be parallel lines in a wall or the reflection of a building in a lake. 

The background/sky also plays a crucial role in this type of shooting. Vivid white clouds drifting over a bright blue sky make a perfect background. This effect can be enhanced by using ND filters. The same applies to photographs taken in bad weather, threatening storm clouds can give a photograph that certain extra something that makes it perfect. 

Architectural photography does not only mean depicting buildings aesthetically – individual parts of the building or structure can also be selected as a subject. The façade of a building, which comes in many different designs, is particularly suitable for this. Not only do the materials differ, such as wood or stone, but also the shapes of individual buildings and especially the objects incorporated into the façade are worthwhile subjects for architectural photography. 

Unusual windows, doors, or projections can be optimally integrated into successful concepts. 

If the focus is placed on the walls, there are various possibilities for photographing them. The angle of view plays a decisive role here. Walls photographed from the front look very static, while those photographed from the side look much more dynamic. The position of the photographer has a decisive influence on the effect of the photo. If he stands on the street like any amateur photographer and shoots at a height, this will only produce an ordinary angle of view, but if the photographer tries to get a good position from a higher building, this will have a surprising effect on his shot. 

In architectural photography, the photographer must pay particular attention to a good and coherent composition. Most buildings have a wealth of guiding lines that a photographer can use as orientation. Joints in the masonry are popular, for example, the white lines between red bricks. The surroundings of the building should also be used to conceptualize a successful shot. This could be, for example, a curved path leading to the entrance door. At the same time, this path would be the first perfect guiding line that automatically leads the viewer’s eyes to the house.  

In general, it is important to avoid placing prominent objects such as conspicuous windows or doors in the center of the picture. These objects should rather be arranged according to the rule of third. 

An attractive and successful composition fills the foreground, middle ground, and background with various eye-catchers. This makes the photograph more exciting for the viewer.

As a rule, the photography of buildings is considered very static. A good photograph captivates through its composition and an interesting angle of view. To make architectural photography special, the photographer can try to integrate movement. Nevertheless, the still part should dominate the picture. Passers-by walking past the object can be integrated particularly well. Longer exposure times, e.g. 1/5 sec., ensure that the outlines become blurred and give architectural photography that certain something. 

Some famous and popular black and white architecture photographers are: 

1. Julius Shulman – Julius Shulman is an unrivaled icon in the field of architectural photography. Shulman was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1910. In the more than 70 years of his career, he has not only documented the buildings of the most important architects of the 20th century, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Pierre Koenig, Richard Neutra, and John Lautner, to name but a few. He also elevated the genre of commercial photography to the status of art through his visionary photographs.

Many of the buildings of these star architects have only become known through the photographs of Julius Shulman.  Richard Neutra, an early patron of Shulman illustrated his catalog raisonné exclusively with his photographs. Neutra once explained:

“Julius Shulman’s work will outlive me. The film is stronger and good glossy shots are easier to carry than heavy concrete, stainless steel, or ideas.”

Shulman, who was born in New York, moved to California with his family at the age of 10. He took a few courses at UCLA and Berkeley in the mid-1930s. However, he never enrolled at either of these universities, preferring to take a variety of courses.

In 1936, he met a casual acquaintance, a construction draftsman at the site of Richard Neutra’s residence. Shulman took six photographs that Neutra liked so much that he subsequently bought them. 

Richard Neutra introduced him to other architects and convinced Shulman to work as a photographer. An unprecedented career for Julius Shulman began, with his keen sense of style and sure intuition, he recognized what architects wanted to express and captured it in his photographs. 

Always striving for precision and quality, Shulman created photographs that often looked like film style. In his photographs, there were festively dressed people who looked as if they were living in these modern and elegant buildings. 

One of his most famous photographs is the night shot of Case Study House No. 22, built-in 1959-1960.

stahlhouse 1920x1446 1


Pierre Koenig’s house, sophisticated and minimalist, perched high above countless Los Angeles lights. Both ladies talk animatedly

This photograph perfectly captures the style of the time. 

Shulman once said of his photographs:

“I don’t change the architecture, but put a quality into it that makes it seem magical, so that people say, ‘That’s a wonderful photograph.’ I want to live in that house!”

In 1989, Shulman retired from active day-to-day photography and devoted the next 20 years to museum and gallery exhibitions. 

In 2000, he became involved with the German industrial and architectural photographer Juergen Nogai. The two photographers worked together and searched out all the places Shulman had ever photographed before. In 2005, Julius Shulman’s extensive archive was purchased by the Getty Research Institute. 

Julius Shulman died in 2009 at the age of 98. 

shulman julius 13 2001 453504 displaysize


Julius Shulman Freeman house LA 768x614 1


2. Eric de Mare – Eric de Mare was born in London on 10 September 1910. His parents were Swedish migrants. Eric was educated at St. Paul’s School in London until 1928 when he transferred to the Architectural Association as a pupil. In 1933 he went to Scandinavia to work and travel. In some of his later publications de Mare focused on Sweden, he was a supporter of the Social Credit movement. 

In 1934, on his return from Sweden, Eric became a member of the Architectural Press and in 1943 became the Associate Editor of the Architects Journal. de Mare published his first book in 1942 entitled Britain Rebuild. In the following years, he published other books and articles in the Architectural Press. Many of the subjects covered in these works are represented in the collection of the Public English Heritage Archive. 

On his return to England from Sweden, de Maré joined the Architectural Press and became deputy editor of the Architects Journal in 1943. In 1942, de Maré published his first book, Britain Rebuilt. In the years that followed, other books and articles were published in the Architectural Press. Many of the subjects covered in these works are represented in the Public English Heritage Archive collection.

He claimed that photography, and especially the photographer, was the key to a critical appreciation of architecture. In Gerald Wood’s ‘1972 book’ Art Without Borders, de Maré wrote: “The photographer is perhaps the best critic of architecture, for through successful composition and selection he can communicate direct and powerful commentary in both praise and protest: He can also discover and reveal architecture where none was intended. „

Eric de Mare began documenting canals and waterways in 1948. In doing so, he explored the anonymous architecture that constituted a major style of the landscape. During this tour, he photographed landscapes, buildings, and people he encountered. The record of this trip led to a special issue of the Architectural Review in 1949. In 1950, The canals of England was published, a book containing historical and technical descriptions of inland waterways decorated with de Mars photography. 

As a result of his good work on canals, Eric was commissioned in 1950 by the then editor of the Architectural Review, AR Richards, to photograph early industrial sites and buildings. 

The photographs were combined with JM Richards’ texts in The Functional Tradition in Early Industrial Buildings and published by the Architectural Press in 1958. 

The work of Eric de Mare in the 1960s reflected the other end of the industrial spectrum. He focused on modern power stations which gave his photographs a sculptural quality. 

In recognition of de Mare’s 80th birthday, Michael Hopkins and partners presented a large collection of photographic negatives to the Architects Association Foundation. In 1990, the Architects Association also honored de Mare with a retrospective exhibition of his work. 

Eric de Mare died in 2002 at the age of 91. The Guardian described him as one of the finest architectural photographers of the mid-20th century. The Daily Telegraph described de Mare as one of the most remarkable photographers of his time as well as a prolific writer. 

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3. Ezra Stoller – was born in 1915 in Chicago. Ezra Stoller grew up in New York and studied architecture at NYU. He began photographing buildings, models, and sculptures while still a student. In 1938, Ezra finished his studies with a BFA in industrial design. Stoller worked with photographer Paul Strand at the Office of Emergency Management from 1940-to 1941. He was drafted the following year and was a photographer at the Army Signal Corps Photo Center while in the Army.

After the Second World War, Ezra Stoller continued his career as an architectural photographer and from then on concentrated on commissions from industry and science.

Over the next 40 years, he became best known for his photographs of buildings. 

Ezra worked from the late 1930s to the 1980s. His paintings conveyed the three-dimensional experience of architecture through a two-dimensional medium. To create this impression, he paid careful attention to the angle of view, lighting conditions, line, color, shape, and texture. 

Some of the iconic buildings he photographed included Fallingwater, the Guggenheim Museum, the Seagram Building, and the TWA Terminal. His unique style makes the images as familiar as the buildings they document. 

Ezra Stoller created a work of photographs of science and technology, factories and industrial production, and commercial and residential architecture during his active period as a photographer. It reflects both social history and the documentation of design and construction. 

Ezra Stoller managed to make many modern buildings famous based on his photographs alone. He was uniquely able to visualize the formal and spatial aspirations of modern architecture. 

During his long career, he worked closely with many of the leading architects of the time, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, Marcel Breuer, and Mies van der Rohe.

Ezra died in 2004 at the age of 89 from the effects of a stroke. 

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These are just a few of the most famous and influential architectural photographers, including Frederick H. Evans and Berenice Abbott.

Architectural photography gives the viewer an illusion. The illusion of being part of the action.  Good architectural photography, with its exceptionally good composition, structure, lines, and good lighting conditions, can open up completely new perspectives and dimensions to the viewer. 

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Nikon Z7, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/50 sec., 17,5mm

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Nikon Z7, ISO 200, f/6.3, 0,625 sec., 36mm

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Nikon Z7, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/60 sec., 24mm

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Nikon Z7, ISO 600, f/6.3, 1/15 sec., 14mm

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Nikon Z7, ISO 600, f/6.3, 1/320 sec., 14mm


Animal Photography in Black and White

One of the most difficult areas of photography is wildlife photography. Animals do not comply with a photographer’s wishes, and the best lighting conditions and usually do not hold still when the photographer wants to press the shutter release.

The photographer must have excellent technical skills and at the same time know how to expose, frame, and compose well. 

In wildlife photography, the photographer quickly learns that some animals are accessible to a certain degree and for other animals, a telephoto lens is needed to even take a photo. 

As a photographer, the priority is not to put oneself or the animals in danger to take a good photo. It is also the responsibility of the photographer to protect animals in their habitat. 

Safety for the animals and oneself is the most important thing. Do not put yourself or the animals in danger to get a good picture. Also, protect the animals in their habitat.

One of the important rules of wildlife photography is: to use the right equipment!

Choosing the right camera for this genre of photography is more difficult than it might seem. The camera needs to be compatible with different lenses, so it should be a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. At the same time, this camera must have fast autofocus and fast continuous shooting mode for moving targets. And a very important point – the camera should be robust enough to withstand the elements. 

One of the hallmarks of good DSLR or mirrorless cameras is how weatherproof they are. Top devices usually have extra seals on all buttons and rubber gaskets and the connection between lens and camera. No camera is 100% waterproof, however, expensive cameras can withstand more during outdoor excursions such as drizzle or snow. 

Most professional cameras today are equipped with a full-frame sensor. However, there can be an advantage to shooting with a camera equipped with an APS-C sensor. These cameras have a smaller sensor 23.5 mm × 15.6 mm and thus offer more zoom. So a 400mm lens on an APS-C camera will come closer than 600mm. 

Choosing the appropriate lens depends on how close the photographer wants to get to their subject. Most animals are shy and some of them are quite dangerous. When choosing a telephoto lens, the photographer should make sure that it has a large and continuous aperture. A large aperture is helpful because it extends the shutter speed, allowing the photographer to shoot in low light conditions. 

Wildlife can be photographed with either a fixed focal length lens or a zoom lens. However, if the zoom lens is too short, it may stop at the maximum setting. As a rule, it is not a problem to be too close to the desired subject; it is almost always a matter of choosing the lens with the longest possible focal length. 

Sometimes a wide-angle lens can also be the best of its choice, it allows to show animals and their behavior and surroundings. A macro lens can also be just right. The magical world of insects is best shown with a macro lens. 

Serious wildlife photographers spend a lot of time learning about the different species they want to photograph. For the photographer, it is an important point that the more they learn about the animals they want to photograph the better their photographs will be. 

Serious wildlife photographers respect animals of all kinds and their environment. Wildlife photography belongs to the field of photojournalism. The photographer documents events and will not shape or influence them in any way. 

Some unscrupulous photographers scare birds into flight or get so close to animals that they become frightened. Ideally, the animal should not know the photographer is there and behave completely normally. 

One of the most important rules in wildlife photography is: “Be a master of low light!”

Wildlife photography often means taking photos in poor weather and lighting conditions. Very good knowledge of light and above all knowing what the own camera can do and where it reaches its limits is enormously important. With a telephoto lens, for example, the photographer often works with too slow shutter speeds and high ISO values. If the photographer does not know the limits of his camera and lenses, all the photos he takes will be blurred. 

New cameras often promise clear images up to an ISO of 102,400, but in the reality, even technically perfect photos are likely to be unusable because they have total grain. 

Wildlife photography is an area in photography where failure is very tied to the photographer. Especially when these qualities are missing. For wildlife photography, a photographer must know his camera and all settings very well. 

Wildlife photography by its nature is a waiting game, persisting again and again.

The best time for amazing shoots is early morning and late afternoon. This is the period the wildlife is feeding and very active. 

Preparation is halfway to success. The photographer must learn about the subject and location where he will photograph. Besides knowing the settings and camera, is one of the most important golden rules.

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portrait, Kenya 2013, Photo © Laurent Baheux,


“I feel less danger photographing wild animals than living with civilized people!“ Laurent Baheux

Laurent Baheux was born in France in 1970 and initially devoted himself to journalism at the beginning of his professional career.

He quickly discovered his passion for nature photography. Since his youth, Laurent had a strong passion for Africa. During a holiday in Tanzania in 2002, he started taking pictures of the wild fauna. 

The possibilities of black and white photography fascinated Laurent Baheux so much that he decided to shoot only in black and white in the future to capture rare and fleeting natural spectacles. 

Laurent focuses on sublimating the animals in his photographs, capturing the majesty of their posture and gaze. 

In 2007, he was named International Wildlife Photographer of the year. Laurent Baheux’s stylized and aesthetic approach sets him apart from traditional nature photography. He has succeeded in celebrating nature and wildlife in his motifs in his way, regardless of whether they are tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants, or migratory birds.



No cage or enclosure; subjects are then individuals who express in the present moment all the strength of their freedom, all the beauty of their personality as well as all the tenderness of their life in the community.



Ross Couper was born and spent his early childhood in Zimbabwe. Ross was fascinated by wild animals at an early age due to his constant contact with them. He spent his days drawing animals and as his artistic talent grew, his drawings became more and more realistic. His parents moved Ross to South Africa where he financed his studies with drawings to follow in his father’s footsteps as a safari guide. Immediately after his studies Ross Couper was able to start his career as a tour guide and was fortunate enough to travel around the world. His heart, however, belonged to the African bush throughout this time and he returned to it after 11 years. 

“Photography is a split second of art that can never be created ever again. It is elements of time that fall into place, which includes light on a subject or a scene.” Ross Couper

Through his drawings, Ross Couper made a direct transition to photography. He saw the light change, watched a subject move, and was able to predict what would become an art form with a single photograph. 

Ross draws inspiration from other people. He firmly believes that outsiders in the world of photography have a unique view and will give anything to get ahead. This draws a parallel to the animal world, where the instinct to always move forward to survive also exists. 

Ross Couper is a photographer who takes the time to study his subjects and share his insights with others. He effectively captures moments that show the beauty of African wildlife and landscape. 

Over the last 8 years, Ross Couper has won many international awards. He currently works for the Singita Game Reserve as a resident photographer and is based at the Singita Sabi Sand Estate in South Africa. 


Quelle: Pinterest




Quelle: Pinterest

Unfortunately, there are no photographers in the world who specialize in wildlife photography in black and white. The photographers who convert their photos to black and white, such as Nick Brandt, Richard Barnabe, or Laurent Baheux, use the art of post-processing and edit their images in programs such as Lightroom or Skylum.  

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Nikon D800, ISO 800, Sigma 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec.


Nikon D800, ISO 800, Tamron 300mm, f/5.6, 1/800sec. 


Nikon D800, ISO 200, Tamron 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1250 sec.


Landscape Photography in Black & White

The photographic genre of landscape photography is automatically associated with what is still probably the most famous photographer in the world, Ansel Adams. 

Landscape photography has its roots in black and white photography. It was Ansel Adams who showed the numerous possibilities and facets of monochrome art. Adam‘s collection from Yosemite National Park in California has not lost its appeal to this day.

Using the zone measurement technique he invented, he divided the outside world into ten different black, white, and grey zones, each with a blinding difference. For each photo, Ansel asked himself which zones should be exposed in which area of the grey value curve of his negative. Equally important for his pictorial moods was the correct use of filters and his laboratory technique, which was refined down to the last detail. 

Ansel Adam’s photograph “Moonrise in Hernandez,  Mexico” became the most famous photograph in the world. 

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The photographs of Ansel Adams are not only characterized by the special mood and the precise realization of the tonal values, but also by the fact that, due to the large-format technique, one can recognize every pine needle in his photographs. 

Ansel Adams has taken the photography of an unbroken nature ad ultimo. 



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What else can landscape photography offer that is new after Ansel Adams? Is it even possible to show unbroken landscapes in today’s modern world? Very few photographers today are concerned with idylls. Nowadays, unbroken landscapes are reduced to the extreme and abstracted. 

The Japanese photographer Sugimoto, for example, has reduced his sea photographs so that only two surfaces are visible in his photos. Sky and sea. Beyond the classical theory of design, he has divided them in the middle, so that nothing remains but two equal areas in different shades of grey. 



One of the few Magnum photographers who has worked with landscapes is the Czech Josef Koudelka. In his panoramic landscapes, however, he does not show an ideal world but the abandoned traces of human intervention in nature. Some of them look so desolate that you think you are in the midst of a catastrophe. In today’s world, a photographer has to consider whether he wants to suggest a perfect and untouched nature or whether he wants to draw attention to the environmental problems with his photographs. 

„Listen, I have never had any hero in my life or in photography. I just travel, I look and everything influences me…. For 40 years I have been traveling. I have never stayed in one country for more than three months. Why? Because I was interested in seeing, and if I stay longer I become blind.“ Josef Koudelka



In landscape photography, there are three decisive factors: location, light, and patience. Choosing the right location sometimes takes the photographer to the most remote corners of the earth. But even in one’s own country, the photographer sometimes has to travel long distances to take a breathtaking landscape shot. One of the most important aspects besides the location is the light. In the golden hour, the photographer will succeed in composing atmospheric and breathtaking photographs. If the photographer composes an image with the sun at his side, the landscape will be moderated by a soft, directional light with long shadows. These shadows help to give depth to the photograph. In landscape photography there is also the decisive moment, this can be birds flying through the frame or a sky with contrasting clouds. 

Ideally, the photographer must be able to identify two different gradations in the scene he wants to photograph: the brightest part of the scene and a mid-tone. The metering can be checked for accuracy by comparing the readings for both areas.

In individual steps this means:

To compose a photograph of very good quality, the ISO must be set to the lowest value. As a rule, landscape photographs are taken with ISO 100. 

With the aperture setting, the photographer can decide how much sharpness he wants to give his picture. An aperture setting of less than f/16 is likely to create diffraction which can lead to a slight loss of sharpness in the image. 

The brightest tone in the composition must be determined, but this is not the sun. The light meter must be set to this exact point. The exposure time can be adjusted until the photographer can read +2EV. 

Without changing the exposure time, the photographer will then point the camera at a mid-tone. Ideally, the light meter should read a value of 0EV. If the light meter reads less than 0EV, it means that the camera is capturing details of the brightest tones at the current setting, but the mid-tones are underexposed. To counteract this, the exposure can be increased, but this means that the brightest tones are overexposed. 

Landscape photography means that the photographer must be able to see the composition and not just wide-angle landscape shots. With an extremely wide angle, the more photogenic sections of the landscape are irretrievably lost. What the human eye sees and how a landscape is poorly treated by a camera are completely different. If too much landscape is included, the photo can become confusing and lack the depth of a well-thought-out composition. The photographer must choose an appropriate foreground that balances the photograph and guides the viewer’s eye through the image.

Long exposure shots can create another breathtaking effect. Clouds turn into streaks and water looks like mercury. An ND filter can be used to shoot during the day with a long exposure time. This reduces the exposure time by 10-12 stops.

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Nikon Z7, 25mm, f/5.6, ISO 1000

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Nikon Z7, 70mm, f/5.6, ISO 640

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Nikon Z7, 14mm, f/8, ISO 160


Street & Documentary Photography in Black & White

“Paris is an all-encompassing universe, a place of ambivalence, a city of the past, the present, and the future.“ Paul Almasy, 1936

What can a photojournalist born in Hungary in 1906 do differently than countless photographers before him in Paris? The answer is simple, everything! Between 1945 and 1972, the photographer whose credo was that chance decides everything took countless street shots. For Paul Almasy, as for many legendary photographers of the past century, all the great upheavals – the upheavals, but also the promises of an era – began on the nearest street corner. This is where the half-deracinated youngsters of the 1950s, the migrants from Europe and the rest of the world, came to hang out. Paul Almasy was always on the side of Paris and its inhabitants, he had no less in mind than to create an “archive of the city” and was always able to see every place in the world as a whole. The photographer Paul Almasy has succeeded in creating timeless photographs that have not lost their  fascination to this day.

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Good photography does not always have to capture the special moment, it can also be dedicated to seemingly banal and everyday things. one of the great challenges of photography is to photograph people on the street. To create a clever image composition and still be discreet. 

Street photography has a long tradition, already at the end of the 19th-century photographers started to turn their attention to life on the street. This was often done with a social reformist impetus. The camera was an objective instrument to document the beginning of industrial modernity with its dramatic upheavals. The photographer Lewis W. Hine documented child labor in the USA from 1907 onwards, and his photographs contributed to the passing of laws to curb child labor. One of Hine’s most famous photographs was taken in 1908 and shows a boy standing on the street selling newspapers. 

In the 1920s, the golden age of street photography began. It was pushed forward by the introduction of the Leica camera. A type of photographer was established who let himself drift in the current of the big city with its contradictory and ambiguous cosmos of signs and took photographs out of his hand. 

The aesthetics changed, the random, incidental, surprising, fleeting and even banal events became the material for photographers of the time. In the process, the camera became an extension of their subjective perspective. Photographers of this era were less interested in concrete events and phenomena but rather focused on the casualness of seemingly banal moments, from which social phenomena could be read.

The boundaries between street photography and social documentary photography were fluent.

This can be seen particularly well in the FSA project by Edward Westen or Dorothea Lange.  Especially from a retrospective view, impressive social documentation often emerged. The fascination of street photography, however, was something else: a moment removed from the stream of events identified the photographer as the creator of his reality, his subjective perception. 

There was nothing left that was not photographed. By the chaotic discontinuity of modern life, street photography detached photographic subjects from their hierarchy. 

Whereas in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work the precise moments were spectacular and of special significance, in the 1960s and 1970s Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander turned to the banality of everyday life. 

There was nothing left that was not photographed. By the chaotic discontinuity of modern life, street photography detached photographic subjects from their hierarchy. 

Whereas in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work the precise moments were spectacular and of special significance, in the 1960s and 1970s Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander turned to the banality of everyday life.  

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Nikon Z7, f/4.5, 24-70mm, ISO 640

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Nikon Z7, f/7.1, 1/640 sec., ISO 100 

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Nikon Z7, f/6.3, ISO 400, 24-70mm

Photography is a visual art. In street photography, it is important to perceive the surroundings, shapes, patterns, colors, and the direction of the light. The photographer’s perception must go beyond the visual. Emotions are the basis for a successful composition. Good street photography is creative. For centuries, photographers have expressed themselves through their images. In the process, an incredible amount of visual material has been created Painting and photography, advertising, films, and music videos. For street photography, it is important to visually perceive one’s environment. It is just as important to deal with the works of the most famous street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson (Magnum), Elliot Erwitt (Magnum), William Klein, Joel Meyerowitz, Gary Winogrand, René Burri (Magnum), Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, and Mary Ellen Mark. What made the photographs of these photographers special and how do they differ from other photographers? 

If we look closely at the images of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Alex Webb, we will see that both are masters of composition. Both are characterized by the ability to arrange the individual elements in the picture with apparent ease and great visual power. Modern street photography is characterized by making connections between the individual elements and layers in an image. This is complex composition.

Image composition is a craft that the photographer could learn with practice. A good photograph is created when the photographer knows how to fill his picture and how to arrange the elements. A good composition alone does not make a photograph, but really good street photography is always well-composed. 

Composition is a craft, it can be learned with practice. A great image is one where the photographer knows how to fill the image and how to arrange the elements in the image. And that’s what composition is all about. Good composition alone

does not make a good picture, but a good street photo is always well-composed.

Street photography is the art of reduction, a painter adds elements to his painting, but the photographer subtracts elements until only what he wants to show remains in the photo. 

Photography is the art of reduction. A painter adds elements to a painting. A photographer subtracts elements until only what he wants to show is left in the image.

Visual unrest destroys the effect of a photograph. Simple ways for the photographer to concentrate on the essential elements of the image are to move closer to the subject, shoot from above or below, and enhance the effect by shooting in a vertical format. 

Good street photography integrates the background because it is an integral part that functions as a stage image and allows the actors to unfold in a highly visible way. 

An unsettled background can cancel out the entire effect of the picture; a good composition can be built up well via the background, as Henri Cartier-Bresson has already shown.  




Henri Cartier Bresson Passporte Prize in Street Photography



The Decisive Moment

The Decisive Moment

What is a decisive moment and why it is important in the field of photography?

Photography, especially street photography, is an art form.

The success of this art form is in capturing something deeper, an essence, a meaning, something visual and emotional, something real and complete.

And as with any art form, success lies in capturing something deeper, an essence, a meaning, something visual and emotional, something real and complete.

The photographer will never just shoot at it but try to capture the so-called decisive moment. 

A visually appealing image is combined with deeper meaning by capturing the essence of what happened when the shutter was pressed.

This is the difference between beautiful-looking images and perfectly capturing real moments of action, emotion, and meaning.

When the decisive moment has been captured in a photograph, the viewer tends to pause and study the photograph to take in all the information that is expressed in the art form. 

“The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality”. Henri Cartier-Bresson

The decisive moment is a concept popularized by the famous French street photographer and photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson further developed the concept of the decisive moment throughout the 20th century. Photographers had smaller and more mobile cameras at their disposal. With these, they were able to capture real, unstaged, and truly honest moments of life. 

Although the concept of the decisive moment emerged from street photography, it can be applied in any other genre of photography.

In every movement and every moment, there is always a split second that sums up the significance of the whole scene. 

If the photographer presses the shutter too early or too late, he misses that moment. Decisive moments always reappear before they disappear. 

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Paris Spring 2022, Museum Louvre 

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/30 sec. 

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Paris Spring 2022, Museum Louvre

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec.

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Paris Spring 2022, Museum Louvre

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/640 sec.


Documentary Photography in Black & White

The narrowest definition of documentary photography is the practice of taking a photograph that is an accurate representation of the subject. In practice, however, documentary photography is much richer than the definition suggests. 

Documentary photographers, like photojournalists and photojournalistic images, are expected to capture the world or everyday life, as it exists, without stage managing or directing, or editing the scene. In Documentary Storytelling and Photojournalism, Deanne Fitzmaurice put it like this, “it’s about not directing. It is just letting real life unfold.” Despite its anti-interventionist approach, documentary photography is not a dispassionate art form.

The origins of documentary photography have their roots in the human desire to effect social change through visual representation. Well-known photographer Joseph Riis used his photographs to inspire reform in the slums of New York in the early 20th century. In the 1930s, photographer Dorothea Lange made images that told the story of the Great Depression in the United States. 

With his book “The Decisive Moment”, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson ushered in the beginning of candid documentary photography. Even when a documentary photographer turns her lens on a landscape or historical relic, there is something impressive about her work.  As Tate put it, documentary photography offers alternative ways of seeing, recording, and understanding events and situations. Documentary photography can shape the world we live in.  Documentary photography is a popular form of reporting on real life. It differs from abstract photography and also from street photography. Abstract photography is about realizing a feeling a mood or an expression, but it does not focus on a particular subject. In street photography, the focus is more on candid photography. 

Any documentary photography can accurately portray a subject, but good documentary photography is the work of a photographer with a critical eye and a story to tell. Capturing the decisive moment in any situation requires a good amount of intuition and skill.

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Museum Orsay, Paris 2022

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/8 sec.

In Visual Storytelling „Why We Shoot“, Ron Haviv explained how technical photography skills only play a supporting role in the process of making documentary photographs, “these are just straight people skills that have nothing to do with the camera. So much of the work that we have to do [we do while] the camera is in the bag. It’s conversations. It’s learning. Its research. It’s understanding what is happening around you.”

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Museum Louvre, Paris 2022

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 500, f/6.3, 1/80 sec.

To understand what’s happening around a photographer, they must take the time to spend with their subject. Photojournalists often need to move quickly to document immediate events. Documentary photographers, on the other hand, often work with the advantage of time. A documentary project can easily span weeks, months, or even years. 

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Museum Orsay, Paris 2022

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO1600, f/5.6, 1/15 sec.

Documentary photography can be an exploration of a subject. It can also be a powerful tool to share historical events or a specific message with the world. 

Photojournalist and documentary photographer Ed Kashi used photography to explore the realities and challenges of aging in American culture. He also used it to document his own family’s journey with his aging father-in-law. The result is a body of work that touches on both the universal and the very personal. For Kashi, the most important skill he brings to his work is his curiosity. His personal desire to observe and better understand the world around him has allowed him to create such moving works.

Fitzmaurice agrees: simple curiosity is the origin of any meaningful documentary photography project.  “You want to be interested in people–in life.”

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Seine Spring 2022, Paris

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/125 sec. 

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Museum Orsay, Paris

Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 800,      f/6.3, 1/200 sec.


Into a World of Magic

Around us is a magical world that sometimes only becomes visible with a second look. A world of its own that the photographer may not otherwise take a second look at can to be transformed into a photographic work of art through close-up or macro photography. In black and white photography, any potential subject can be displayed uniquely, drawing a view of what the viewer does not normally see. 

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Nikon D800, Sigma Marcro Lens 50mm, f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/80 sec. 

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Nikon D800, Sigma Marcro Lens 50mm, f/6.3, ISO 100, 1/161 sec. 

In close-up photography and macro photography, isolated parts can be explored by the photographer, which opens up a whole new range of potential material. 

Parts of a whole become new subjects, details too small to see with the eye emerge, and patterns can emerge in mundane or ordinary areas. 

A photographer familiar with this type of photography will allow the viewer to see the world through magnified eyes, opening the door to a magical world. 

When it comes to a close-up or macro photography, most people think of a world of color and not classic black and white photography. However, many subjects look completely amazing in monochrome when shot up close. 

The tonal contrast is an important point when it comes to converting and shooting in the Monochrome mode of the camera. When shadows and highlights are included in the shot and the full tonal range of the histogram is used, a great black and white photo is created. The shadows and highlights must be coherent with each other; if the subject is dark, the photographer should prefer a lighter background or environment. 

Natural soft light will help close-up or macro photography to have an amazing result. With soft light, the photographer can use the entire tonal range from light to dark without having too few tones in the middle of the histogram. When the light comes in from the front, the photographer gets an even and well-lit subject. A side exposure gives a more dramatic look. The photographer gets the softest and best light when taking shots like this during the golden hour. 

Black and white macros are ideal for showing the texture of a subject. In macro photography, the photographer is close enough to make that happen. By using side lighting he can enhance the texture because small shadows will appear in the small cracks or pockets in the surface texture.

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1. Nikon D800, ISO 200, 50 mm, f/6.3, 1/100 sec.

2. Nikon D800, ISO 160, 50mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec.

The photographer can use color theory to his advantage. By choosing a background in a color complementary to the subject, he can create contrast in black and white. For example, with a red flower, the photographer should try to position himself to get a greenish background to get the most contrast possible in his photograph. 

In simplicity lies sophistication!

If there are too many elements in a black and white close-up or macro photograph, it can be confusing to the viewer of the photograph. If the photographer removes the color or shoots his image directly in Monochrome mode, the possibility of having elements with the same shade of gray is very high. The viewer will have difficulty distinguishing each element. The photographer will achieve an exceptional final result if the elements in the photograph are reduced. 

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Nikon Z7, ISO 100, 24-70mm,    f/6.3, 1/320 sec. 

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Nikon Z7, ISO 1250, 24-70mm, f/5.6, 1/50 sec.

One way to simplify the composition is to focus only on a particularly interesting part of the subject. The photographer must make sure that the composition still has a wide tonal range or contrast. Otherwise, his black and white photography will become flat and uninspired. 

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Nikon Z7, ISO 800, 24-70mm,        f/5.6,   1/13 sec.              

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Nikon Z7, ISO 200, 24-70mm, f/4, 1/400 sec.

Negative space can be used to a photographer’s advantage, if the composition allows it, the main subject can be highlighted and the background blurred. To do this, the photographer uses a shallower depth of field or an inconspicuous background to include additional space for the subject. 

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Nikon Z7, ISO 500, 24-70mm, f/6.3, 1/100 sec.

“The world is your oyster” when it comes to macro photography.“

The closer a photographer gets to his subject, the more it loses its identity. He has to explore the depths of his subject to create an abstract pattern. 

The blossom of a flower, the drawing of a leaf, the grain of the wood, and the eye of an animal can provide impressive images of patterns, shapes, or structures that are only recognizable up close. 

Black and white macro or close-up photography can be an extremely rewarding genre, it can be used to create stunning, timeless, and creative macros and close-ups. 


Women who changed the World of Photography

Nowadays, a woman with a camera on the street is something we take for granted. However, this was not always the case. Just under 100 years ago, a woman taking pictures attracted considerable attention. The society of that time was characterized by patriarchism and the role of women was quite different. The women of that time, who played a significant role in shaping the history of photography and who managed to circumvent the social pattern of the time and astonish the world with their photographic works, still deserve the utmost respect today. 

Some of the women photographers listed below have pushed the boundaries of genre with their approach. Many of these outstanding women photographers were discovered years later or posthumously. 

Since its inception, women have been an active part of photography. Women have played a significant role alongside the pioneers of the genre, often photographing for their husbands themselves. 

Joseph Niépce, the inventor of photography, spoke through his experiments in letters to his sister-in-law. Constance Talbot (1811-1880), wife of photography pioneer Henry Fox Talbot, and Anna Atkins (1799-1871), an English botanist and friend of the Talbots, were the first female photographers. They took photographs with Talbot and his colleagues as they developed and refined the earliest photographic methods.

Queen Victoria of England (1819-1901) was a master of the art of photography. Queen Victoria not only granted her patronage to the Royal Photographic Society but also began placing calling cards in albums. As the practice caught on among aristocratic women, photo albums became a demonstration of status, spreading the demand for and appreciation of photographic culture. By the 1880s, Kodak had recognized the increasing participation of women in photography and launched a marketing campaign featuring the Kodak Girl. Around the same time, women photographers and journalists began to actively promote photography as a suitable profession for women. In 1897, the Ladies Home Journal published the article “What a Woman Can Do with a Camera.“

It was in 1864 that Julia Magaret Cameron, at an already advanced age, picked up a camera for the first time. Within only 11 years, she established herself as one of the leaders of the pictorial movement. Julia was perceived as controversial at the time, with critics objecting to the very soft drawing and blurring of her photographs, calling it a technical flaw. Cameron’s style was more reminiscent of fine art than the current ideal of precise sharp photography. 

Cameron photographed mainly portraits. She came from a higher social class and was thus exempt from housework. Her photographs came from the simple need to create something. 

Through blur in her photos, Julia tried to evoke a sense of reverie, fantasy, and mystery. The presentation of her photos thus left room for the imagination of the viewer. It was not until years later that Cameron received full recognition as many other photographers tried to imitate and follow her distinctive style. 

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The Echo, by Julia  Magaret Cameron


Imogen Cunningham did not have the financial means for an independent career. At the beginning of the 20th century, she decided to make photography her profession. Photography at that time was considered too physically demanding for women, a camera of that time could weigh around 3 kg and more. Imogen completed a degree in photographic chemistry in Dresden and then opened her studio in Seattle. In 1913, the manifesto “Photography as a Profession for Women” was written. 

It is impossible to assign Imogen Cunnigham to a single photographic category. She did portraits, close-up photography of flowers, and street photography and she was one of the first female photographers to start nude photography. 

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Expressions through hands, by Imogen Cunnigham  


Probably the most famous documentary photographer who took an iconic photograph of a nomadic mother during the Great Depression is Dorothea Lange.  Dorothea was traveling the U.S. at the time, photographing an extensive documentary series for the Farm Security Administration about the impact of the economic crisis on ordinary residents. The project also included a portrait of a single mother who moved across the U.S. with her seven children in search of a better life. In this one portrait, Dorothea was able to embody the fate of a generation of Americans who lost their jobs and faced an uncertain future. The photo and the entire series had such an effect that they helped set in motion economic and social reforms in America.

Dorothea Lange’s body of work is much larger than just iconic photos from the American economic crisis. But her main legacy lies in something else. As a photographer, she refused to remain impartial and actively sought to contribute to social change. At the beginning of her career, she worked as a studio photographer but soon realized that her place was out in the field. Throughout her life, she tried to contribute to greater social justice through her photographs. 

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Migrant Mother 1936, by Dorothea Lange


Diane Arbus, although not as well known as Dorothea Lange, also had a similar influence on the development of photography. Diane refused to photograph conventional subjects, she was more attracted to people who were overlooked by society. She made portraits with unusual sensitivity of people society considered ugly, reprehensible, or deviant. Giants, dwarfs, transvestites, circus performers, or people with Down syndrome appeared before Diane’s lens. Never before had a photographer focused so strongly on minorities on the margins of society. Early in her career, Diane Arbus was harshly criticized for creating a “freak show” and denigrating the people in her photographs.

The New York photographer Diane Arbus opened a discussion and contributed to a higher tolerance given to otherness. Diane never did classic studio portraits. She approached people and spent a lot of time with them. Diane waited until they opened up and she could penetrate more below the surface with her photographs. She photographed people in their familiar surroundings without false glamor and with complete sincerity.  

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The Pioneer of a genre that is conquering the world and social media today is Cindy Sherman. Almost all of Cindy’s work is based on self-portraits. She stylizes herself in different female roles like a chameleon and imitates the representation of women in advertising, the Internet, film, and the entertainment industry in general. Often Sherman’s self-portraits are very provocative and criticize the fictional cult of beauty and youth. 

Cindy often plays with illusion. Some of her photos look appealing and colorful from a distance; at first glance, Cindy looks like something out of a fashion magazine. However, upon closer inspection, one notices a false background, false eyelashes, and a poorly made-up face. Behind the simple-looking self-portraits lies a deeper social commentary. 

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Looking at today’s photo scene, we will see that monochrome photography is indispensable in artistic photography. Remarkable films that find their audience in black and white also come to the cinema again and again. In Cannes in 2009, for example, the black and white film “The White Ribbon” was awarded a palm tree. But what is it that makes monochrome photography so appealing and persuasive? Technical and economic constraints no longer play a role these days.

Historically, for long periods, people have been concerned with getting to the bottom of the beauty of this art. However, it has never been possible to define this beauty using the techniques or principles described. The “golden ratio” is given as an example here; people could quickly see that the masterpieces of antiquity that were considered beautiful were designed according to the golden ratio. However, a work of art is not automatically a masterpiece if the golden section is used in the design. Objective standards such as symmetry, evenness, and balanced proportions fundamentally characterize Western art and culture. In modern art, it is rejected to work with the concept of beauty, as this is considered too superficial.

Only a beautiful photo is not good enough. The black and white technique has a prominent effect on artistic photography. The world-renowned photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto justifies his work in black and white photography with the words: “Color is too simple.” This statement has a real background in classic photography. Only with black and white materials could the film be developed individually. When enlarging, the photographer had different degrees of paper hardness and a variety of different surfaces available to increase the statement of the photograph. Today this is contrary to the perception that a black and white photo has a higher documentary value than a color photo.

With digital photography, color images could finally be edited on the computer in the same way we were familiar with black-and-white technology from the darkroom. Due to the huge boom that resulted from this, classic black-and-white photography fell out of the public eye. Digital photography has reached an impressive level today and many active photographers are returning to monochrome photography in its digital form. As a result of the saturation of digital technology, artistic questions now come to the fore. An indication that black and white image effects can be achieved that has a special charm.

If we look at the photos in the public media, we are often uncomfortable when presented with color photos of catastrophes, accidents, or victims of war. The impression often arises that hard facts are glossed over by the color recording. Good black and white photos show reality better, reveal structures, and allow the viewer to see the essentials.

“The high school of black and white technology is only mastered by a few experts. That’s why perfect black and white photos have become a rarity.“ Joachim Giebelhausen

Black and white photography is a timeless art. With the choice of the right subject, expressive photographs are created that have not lost their magic to this day. A perfect black and white photo cannot be replaced by a color photograph. This genre of photography will not lose its appeal in the future either and will continue to have a major influence on the visual design of works of art.

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Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 500, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec.

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Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 125, f/7.1, 1/160 sec.

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Nikon Z7, 24-70mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/800 sec.



Paris, Paul Almasy 

Black and White Photography, Michael Freeman

Schwarz Weiss Fotografie für Profis, John Beardsworth

Das komplette Handbuch schwarzweiss Fotografie, John Hedgecoe

Successful Black and White Photography, Roger Hicks

Die hohe Schule der Schwarzweiß Fotografie, John Walmsley

Black and White, Two color design, Lesa Sawahata

Elements of Black and White Photography, George E. Todd

Workshop kreative Schwarzweiss-Fotografie, Torsten Andreas Hoffmann

Die Kunst der Schwarzweißfotografie, Torsten Andreas Hoffmann

On the Other Side of the Camera, Arnold Crane

Avantgarde als Abenteuer, Germaine Krul

Grundkurs Schwarz-Weiß Fotografie, Thomas Maschke – Jochen Fiebig – Norbert Günter

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