If there were ever a case about the sheer visual power of a black and white image it would have to include “Stretching Pelican”. Color is popular in the art world; there is no denying it. After all we see in color, dress by colors, and each of our world cultures have, in their own way, given colors specific meanings.
So why then is there such artistic fascination with the unseen world of black and white? What is the draw? We are able to see an object painted black or one colored white, but we don’t visualize the world in such a way.
This lack of an ability to simply turn color in the visual world off truly belongs to the realm of the artist. Artists love to take that which cannot be seen but by definition must remain imagined and bring them into the forefront of our understanding.
Thus we have Stretching Pelican. This is a typical brown pelican. Very much like its name, this bird really isn’t much to look at in its natural color. Its weird shape and large size draw more attention than the plain brown of the plumage. For lack of better commentary, it’s just a large brown bird.
Don’t misunderstand; the bird is graceful and powerful in its own right. There are plenty of fish in the sea that fear the mere presence of such a creature. Its wings spread out in the tropical sun, gliding over the surface of the water with eyes fixed upon the fish below.
But, the color! The color is a burnt brown. The wings are brown. The head is brown. Even the magnificent beak is nothing more than a shade of boring brown. Yet, if we take this image and remove the color an incredible sight opens before us.
The feathers of the wings become these awesome shades of blackness slowly contrasted with brilliant peaks of white. The feathers of the tail and body almost look rigid with the white sharp contrast set against the black interior of the feather. The feathers almost look like a metal armor.
Indeed, each feather suddenly renders a level of detail and structure previously hidden to the human eye. Such detail brings new ideas and thoughts into focus. We see armor plating where there is none; we see rigidity where there is only softness. The bird becomes artistic and open for interpretation. The feathers, wings and even head suddenly take on a new atmosphere. It’s up to the viewer to decide the overall meaning, but that is what photographic black and white photography is all about.
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