a flower in black and white

This post is dedicated to my blog friend, George, who has taken a great interest in black and white photography recently. Personally, I love color. But there are some unique qualities to black and white photography too. And it doesn’t surprise me that in this digital age, there are some who wish to explore the possibilities of shooting monochrome.

a very early photo of mine

This photograph was taken on my Horseman 4×5, a camera I’ve loved dearly for many years, but now hardly ever use since the switch to digital. I miss it. The camera, though a tool, became something like a friend to me. It was the second most reliable tool I ever had. The first being a Swiss army knife, that I carry to this day in my pants pocket. It was expensive when I first bought it. And I didn’t know if I could afford it. And then later, it was often too heavy and too slow. It was work just carrying it around with me. But it accompanied me through so many stages of my development, and I’ve never met a camera that was better than this one.


I believe that an artist has to be pretty selfish or self centered in order to produce work. I have always been quite sensitive; sensitive to what’s going on inside other people… to moods, thoughts, feelings… and emotions. At some point, I discovered that it was difficult to show my work to certain people before I was finished with the production of that work. Because hearing the response of that person, would influence the way I worked. Often, I didn’t have to hear. It was enough to feel. Sometimes, it would cause me to stop working altogether. Others may have had similar experiences, and built a thick shell around themselves in order to protect themselves from too many influences. I felt that the sensitivity itself was a gift, and so rather than build walls around me, I kept learning how to be more sensitive.

However, in order to survive as an artist, I learned that privacy was necessary. And I built a back room in my mind, as a mental work place, where I wouldn’t be disturbed. In order to maintain my ability to work as a creative artist, I have maintained this back room all through life, and it now exists on my computer too. On the computer, it’s not a place of work, actually… it is a place for ideas.

Our holiday of Passover starts tomorrow evening. There were things I planned to write about on Friday. But because of the death of my friend, I have been in another mood for the last few days. I’m going with the flow. It is against the rules of our religion to mourn on a Sabbath or holiday. So I will make the most of these in-between days, and then make the most of the holy days, I hope. Best wishes to all.

Please Note: Some readers have made a connection between George, to whom this post was dedicated, and my friend David, who died last week. There is absolutely no connection. George is a blog friend (http://thefuzzyfoto.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/faux-ilford/), whom I’ve never met personally, who is interested in black and white photography, is a fine woman, and I wish her a long and healthy life. David is an old friend of mine for more than 40 years; never read one of my blogs, didn’t know English, and never used a computer in all his life.


86 responses to “a flower in black and white

  1. So sorry to hear of your friend’s passing…..
    Is somehow very reassuring to read about your positive attitude to being very sensitive, and I understand exactly about keeping works in progress in a ‘safe’ place to avoid the process being damaged by other people’s reactions to it.
    Hope your Passover goes well – will think of you during my final week’s journey to Easter…. Wishing you all the best, Rosie.

    • Thank you for your condolences, Arose. Yes, I am sure you understand about the necessity for privacy when working on art. I hope your own is progressing well. Passover was very beautiful this year, if a little different. That is one of the pleasures of tradition, that you come back yearly to a similar place, but it is always different.

  2. I sad for you loss my friend.

  3. I’m truly sorry to hear of the death of your friend Shimon. This is a very beautiful photograph and what a wonderful camera. I found your description of your need for privacy in the creative process interesting. I am very single minded and self-absorbed when I’m out taking pictures. I’ve been with friends and had the opportunity to take pictures on a day out but it’s been hopeless. I can’t be selfish and self-centred in company.
    I’m very much favouring the dawn when there really are no other people about and I am able to concentrate everything I have on making pictures. I need to be alone it seems. I’ve had a couple of sunset trips where I have been alone and they have been successful but the last couple of times I’ve been out at sunset, with the warmer weather, there are a lot more people about and so more distraction and I’ve come away having taken no pictures at all. I can’t expect to be always alone on such a crowded little island so I guess I’m going to have to learn to build some kind of invisible barrier around myself or a place in my mind where I can go and not be disturbed.
    My best wishes to you my friend in your Passover celebrations.

    • Yes, I understand what you’re saying about being selfish and self-centered in company. That was often my experience with friends and family. But I did go out on photography expeditions, occasionally, with groups of students, and fellow photographers, and that was simply delightful. I have some wonderful memories of such trips with students. Thanks for the good wishes, Chillbrook. It was a good holiday, and I almost lost touch with the internet… but now I plan to catch up again.

  4. Sorry to hear about your loss, Shimon. It’s horrible to lose a friend. I loved reading about your relationship with your camera. The B&W shot is beautiful.

    • Unfortunately, Richard, as I get older, I learn to understand the ever closer shadow of mortality. Thank you for your comment. Glad you liked the picture.

  5. Good morning Shimon….I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

    I understand completely when you talk about needing privacy and a place in your mind…computer etc. where no one else can enter. Although I come across as a social sort of person, I have had to cut myself off from many people over the years. To some this might have seemed selfish, but it’s the only way I can function. I am very careful who I spend time with, and if I do sense negative vibes or someone trying to sabotage my space and work….I simply remove myself. No malice, just pure necessity.

    I love the black and white image on this post, and wish you and your family beautiful Passover celebrations.

    As always, a big hug for dear Nechame:)x

    • I am sure that you know just what I’m talking about, as I have a similar feeling when I’m reading your blog… which I do love very much. The holiday was very good for me. It’s important sometimes, to just detach… to step outside of ourselves, and contemplate. Thank you for the big hug for Nechama. She got it, along with some very fine pieces of fish, and other goodies. My best wishes to you always, Janet. It is always such a pleasure to see you.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Shimon. What a beautiful picture though – so simple yet so beautiful x

  7. I am sorry too dear Shimon. Rest in peace your friend.
    Dear Shimon, I can understand your feelings, not easy days for you, but I miss to hear you . All my best wishes for you, how beautiful this photograph, I love colour ones too but black & white is something more than to be a photography, you can see the dance of the light and shadows; the boudaires of the B&W touches. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    • Thank you, Nia, for your kindness and friendship. Yes, it is strange, that despite the fact that color is inexpensive these days, and people can even make video clips with their cameras or telephones… there is still something special about B&W. I suppose it is the poetry of photography. Not to say too much, but to say it well.

  8. best wishes Shimon, nice to hear from you again..

  9. What a gentle post Shimon, I feel the love here for your old friend the camera, and your friend who has passed.Both are obviously dear and familiar to you. I’m sorry for your loss, it’s hard to part with dear old friends.

    I love the flower and the picture of your camera. I too understand the need to have a special place in the mind that nobody can see or touch.xxxxx

    • Yes, Dina. What you say is so true. It’s hard to part from dear friends. And strangely, I was sure that that camera would last me all my life… and then the profession changed, and all the tools with it, and in old age I had to adjust to a new reality. But, I suppose, as the wits say, it’s better than the alternative… Thanks for your comment. Always good to see you.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss, Shimon, and can hear some of your grief in your description of your relationship with your Horseman, who helped you translate your earlier art into being…the photograph is beautiful. Some of my photos tell me they’re meant to be black and white and others say their spirits are best represented in color.

    I create my art in solitude and am reluctant to share works “in process,” because I’m too sensitive to others’ energies and they can “corrupt” my vision or alter the flow, which is usually more confusing than helpful. The sensitivity helps when I’m working as a chaplain or spiritual companion, but not when I’m birthing my art into its fullness, I guess.

    I wish you great peace and healing joy, Shimon. A blessed Passover.

    • That camera is really amazing. I don’t know whether to talk about it in the present or past, though. But it has more than one back. So I could switch between color film and B&W, which made it that much more convenient. I even had a Polaroid back, and used it sometimes to check if the picture would come out the way I wanted it. Now all of that is so easy, and we can see everything right away. But the most important work is in our heads. What you say about sensitivity sounds much like my own. Thank you for your comment, Kitty.

  11. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your friend Shimon and wish you peace and comfort during this time. To draw such a thoughtful and insightful post out of this time is a gift to your readers. I so appreciate (and empathize) the thoughts and window into your process as an artist. That you have “kept learning to be more sensitive”, rather than raise a wall… ah, enough said. Be well Shimon, and thank you for this writing.

    I wish you all the best,

    • Very glad that you appreciated the post, Chris. This was a good time to take a holiday, and now I’ve finally decided to try and come back to the regular life again. Thank you for your very sweet comment.

  12. I’m sorry about the loss of your friend Shimon ….

  13. My sympathies to you on the death of your friend, Shimon. It is always hard, always sad to have someone you care for depart. I really liked this post, not only because I love the depth that black and white photography conveys, and I love your photo of the flower looking almost like a Spanish dancer with a swirling skirt, but also for the reflective tone of what you have written about creating, about being an artist. I think the same thing carries thru in other facets of life as well, it is good to be sensitive, even if at times painful; it is also good to have a private space in which to create where the influence of others cannot reach us, that way we produce what is truly of our own vision.
    I wish you the blessings of Passover my friend, and also comfort for your heart.

    • Yes, I agree with you, that what I said about art can be true about life in general. But strangely, for me, art and the creative work, is closest in my life to prayer and religious devotion. And there, I find great comfort in the closeness to other people. But in art, I usually find myself quite alone. The Passover holiday was very good, and now here we are, getting back to the ‘real life’. Thanks for your comment, Josie.

  14. My best wishes and sympathy for your loss, Shimon, and for the necessary grieving that should be done, both for our own sakes and also in honour of those we’ve lost. I’ll be remembering my father this week, who died on our ‘Good Friday’ 3 years ago. A bitter-sweet time.

    Blessings for this holy season of Passover.

    • I can imagine that it’s still difficult, remembering the passing of your father. But I believe that after a while, the memories of the whole life become such a pleasant thing, that on the anniversary, we can actually feel pleasure in the memories. Thank you for your good wishes. I didn’t manage to answer in time, or I would have wished you too a very deep and meaningful Easter. But the wishes were in my heart, Gillyk.

  15. There was a time that I believed black and white was too limiting, and stark, and bare of emotion, but then, through the lens of some deft and generous photographers, I discovered black and white as a palette of subtle shadows and contrast, rich with depth, and vibrant with emotion. It wasn’t that I learned anything about the art of taking a black and white photograph; but rather, I learned something about appreciating beauty when it is presented in every form, including (and especially) when in black and white.

    I adore color, and the energy that color can lend to a photograph, but as the years have progressed, I’ve also come to appreciate black and white photography (as an observer, not as a photographer). One of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen was in black in white, with just the tiniest hint of color thrown into the mix for contrast. It woke me up to the idea that what we imagine, and what is possible, are both limitless.

    I’ll be holding you in my thoughts during these next few days, and as you enter into your Passover holiday. Someone in another part of the world is sending shadows of peace and tranquility in your direction. In every color.

    • Like yourself, N, I adore color… and it gives us a lot of added information. But I think that sometimes limiting ourselves allows for greater depth. And though I don’t shoot that much B&W these days, I see it as something like poetry in the area of photography. I truly appreciate your coming by, and your comment. I know that lately you’ve had a lot of things to deal with, and it’s not always easy to use the internet. I do hope that life is improving now in your new home. Best wishes.

  16. Oh Shimon, that is a spectacularly beautiful photograph. A wonderful tribute to your friend. My condolences. I wish you a very good Pesach.

  17. I’m sorry for you loss, Shimon. May your friend rest in peace.

  18. May I offer you my condolences for your loss?I am sorry you lost another person from your life.The photograph of the flower.. a lily ..is beautiful and looking at beauty is something I find helpful.I was also interested to discover how you adapted to life or made it adapt to your temperament.Being sensitive is essential for creation,so i believe.. as long as we don’t get overwhelmed and it’s wise to step back.I don’t think it’s selfish to avoid certain people who cause you to become negative about your art.I wish that more of us had that wisdom and the courage to live by it
    I am not very knowledgeable about cameras.I found them frightening as I never understood them but I can sympathize with how we get attached to certain tools,books and rituals.The camera looks most impressive
    to me!

    • Thank you very much for your condolences, Mary. I don’t think the flower was a lily. I think it was a gladiola. And I agree, beauty is a great consolation There are many thoughts on the creative process, and having known artists most of my life, it seems to me that one can be selective about sensitivity. But I’m not even sure that one needs sensitivity to be creative. It seems to me that the most constant characteristic is imagination, and the ability to relate to a subject abstractly. I believe that creative art is something like dreaming… we dress our thoughts a bit differently. Thanks for your comment.

  19. L’Chaim, Shimon. The monochrome picture is a delicate and beautiful memorial to your friend George. It is a flower that will not fade, you have given it not just an ethereal quality, but a long life because of your ability with
    the lens of your camera.

    Have a good Pesach and enjoyable seders with friends and family.

    • The picture was dedicated to George, and though she is a friend. That wasn’t the friend who died. I suppose I should have made that clearer. I added a few lines when I saw that it confused some people. Sorry. And thank you for your comment, Menhir. I’m glad you liked the picture. Passover was very good. Here in Israel, we only have one seder night. I don’t know if that’s better or worse. But once is definitely enough for me.

  20. Thank you for posting an early photograph. I am amazed by the clarity and purity of tone. Such a smooth, silky image. This photograph surely represents the best of black and white. Now I understand the standard by which I should view the analogue photographs to be the same standard by which all art is evaluated. Thank you for the gift of the illuminating image.

    I sensed the existence of your back room. For most of my life, I believed that I was the only person who kept one. I considered my own sensitivity to be a flaw. I am confident that you understand the ways in which I continue to protect myself and retreat into that back room.

    I am genuinely sad to learn of the death of your old friend. I understand the absence of those whose lives are bound to our own. Each loss diminished us somehow, but the contribution each made to our lives remains. We are but pebbles in a pond, after all.

    • Very glad you enjoyed this picture, George. Yes, I think I do understand you quite well, including your impatience with BS. Agree with what you say about each loss diminishing us. There is much in us that rises to dance with inspiration and friendship, and when our friends around us leave us, there is less reason to dance. But I try to keep going, and taking some time off was very positive. Always enjoy your comments.

  21. Shimon, always a pleasure visiting.Truly, something about black and white wont just go away. Kind Regards.

    • Glad that you enjoyed the post. It is very interesting to see the renewed interest in B&W. People used to say that it was a matter of expense or difficulty. But now, one is no more expensive or difficult than the other.

  22. I know why I love black and white, because I can imagine and impose on it any color I want. It frees my imagination.
    May your friend David rest in peace. Seems like both of you were lucky to have each other.
    Happy Pesach!

    • Yes, it was a very good Pesach, and I was sort of disconnected from the internet, most of the time. I think that B&W is so special, because we reach greater depths when we limit ourselves, even if just a little. But there is something in what you say. I feel the same way about reading a book in contrast to watching a movie. Thanks, Rachel.

  23. Lovely b&w photo…Shimon!May your heart embrace the comfort of others in your loss..

  24. I think we remember in black and white. We know our friends in colour but when they are gone, they enter the sepia world.

    Sorry that your friend passed away.

    • I have come to learn that people think in many different ways… some are more visual than others; some put more emphasis on color. I believe that memories too, are very individual. Sometimes, the past can return to us in a dream that is very lifelike. Thanks for your comment, Bill.

  25. orlando gustilo

    How true, Shimon, our need for a bit of God’s silence where we can just sit and listen and be refreshed.

  26. As you described yourself, I was thinking….wow, this is me to a T….and, of course, I’m all for healthy selfishness, otherwise we would not create! Lovely Iris pic, shimon.

    • Glad you liked the picture, janina. I think a lot of us who enjoy creative work have similar problems. But I had a girlfriend once, many years ago, who was a wonderful artists, and an inspiration for me. Even when we were at a party, with a lot of distractions, music, and social interchange… no matter, she would keep on drawing. I never reached her level of freedom, but her inspiration stayed with me.

      • Shimon, I’ve never regarded myself as a ‘problem/’ as I’m sure neither have you! Us creative types are different and often outsiders by our very nature of being different, but I think that allows us to see a lot more than others, whether good or otherwise, and informs our work and is character-building. I’m glad who I am right now! I’m also glad you remember your friend in a very encouraging way and I will take it as a sideways compliment! Best of good cheer to you, 🙂

  27. Wonderful connections between the photograph and friends – both personal and mechanical. Blessing to you during this time … and Chag Pesach Sameach (I hope that is the correct greeting).

    • Thank you for your comment, and your very kind Pesach wishes, Frank. Your greeting was correct, and I admire your ability to voice your good wishes in a foreign language. I’ll tell you something humorous about the Passover wishes. Throughout our history, we have always wished one another a happy and kosher Passover. Because the kosher laws are so stringent on this holiday, that it makes it quite a challenge. But nowadays, that there are a lot of non-religious Jews, one has to tiptoe between the raindrops, so to speak, and I am always careful about offering wishes for the holiday, not wishing to impose on someone who has chosen not to worry about kosher.

  28. this sentence – “I believe that an artist has to be pretty selfish or self centered in order to produce work” – is all about what i am dealing with now. to see one’s thoughts expressed elsewhere is a good confirmation that one isn’t nuts. thanks for sharing. and condolences for the passing of a friends.

    • No, you’re not at all nuts, Rich. And I think what you’re dealing with is a pretty serious problem. Though you might not be successful yet, at the role you would like to play, you have become a very successful blogger, with an enthusiastic following. The more successful a writer or artist becomes, the more expectations are built around him. Sometimes, people have a really hard time when a favorite entertainer changes his direction. You might remember the way the crowd booed Dylan when he started playing an electric guitar. I’ve known artists who were boycotted when they tried to make changes in their styles.

  29. I’m terribly sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend Shimon. The beautiful flower in black and white seems such a lovely and fitting offering.

    • I must have presented this poorly. I dedicated the picture to a fellow blogger, and mentioned the death of my friend David, because I was grieving his loss. The two are unrelated. But I appreciate your words of consolation. I think I will soon say goodbye to him on the blog. Thanks for your comment, Spree.

  30. My favorite black and white photo that I have taken is of an iris. Is your b&w an iris too? I am very sorry for your loss.

    • As best I know, the flower in the picture is of a gladiola. But an iris is a very beautiful flower too, and I’m sure it would make a very good B&W picture. Do you have the picture on your blog? Thanks for the comment, winsomebella.

  31. “I built a back room in my mind, as a mental work place, where I wouldn’t be disturbed.” I do this, too, but had never thought of it that way. It’s a great image, and a perfect explanation.

    Good Pesach, Shimon. I’m sure David will be on your mind a lot.

    • Glad you liked the illustration, bronxboy. I have to admit that my friends have been thinning out lately, and it diminishes the quality of life… but as you describe so well in your beautiful stories, I suppose we all have to go through endless adjustments as we make it through…

  32. “I believe that an artist has to be pretty selfish or self centered in order to produce work.” Yes, Shimon, but sometimes there is an interim break: a death of a good friend, Passover rituals – but I’m sure you’ll come back to your art one day …
    Shalom and a fine Passover to you and yours!

    • Your right, Dietmar… and in any case, I would say that it’s more important for me to live life well, than it is to produce art. It was a fine holiday, and now I’m finally coming back to the day to day existence, and trying to catch up with a lot of what has piled up on my desktop. Thanks for your comment.

  33. Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I think you’re flower picture is lovely but I’ve always felt that monochrome pictures capture a mood or a moment better. Have a happy & safe holiday

    • Thank you very much for your good wishes, Dallas. The holiday was very good, but I’ve been a bit slow and out of touch with blogland. Now I’m beginning to deal with all the stuff that has piled up on my desktop. There is something special about monochrome… maybe because it doesn’t try to replicate the world, which is one of a kind.

  34. You do find the beauty, Shimon…and what a nice share for our friend George.

  35. A lovely black and white photo, a wonderful tribute to your friend.
    May you find peace during these holidays.

  36. I’m sorry to hear of your loss of a good friend. Beautiful photo, and a lovely camera. There is beauty in the digital world, but sometimes the old methods are refreshing. Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday.

    • I don’t know about ‘refreshing’. It seems to me that the old style of photography was a lot more work. And in most cases, we can get to very similar results with the new tools. Thank you for your good wishes. Good to see you again.

      • I guess I just like old things. We have a lot of old cameras sitting around and have built pinhole cameras out of various things. I remember fondly developing in a dark room and watching the pictures emerge. This has been passed to my son who also likes old things and uses a typewriter from the 50’s when he needs to focus on writing without distraction. It is more work, true, but there is a beauty to things that take time in a world of instant gratification. Just a thought, take it for what it’s worth, which admittedly, isn’t much.

        • I spent a lot of time working in the darkroom, and worked with a lot of different cameras. Around the start of this millennium, all of a sudden I found that I had to replace most of my tools and my methods, and it was really hard to deal with. I agree with you about the disadvantages of instant gratification, but I have come to admire and respect the work of computers. You’re opinion is certainly worth a lot to me, Hardin. I value your comments.

  37. I have been in a bit of a struggle to write recently also, dear Shimon…I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, David. This post is a beautiful tribute to him. As I read your post on Passover, and having celebrated the feast of the Last Supper last night, in my own church, I would love to reblog your Passover one onto my blog. I think I’ve only done that once, but, I’d like to try if I have your permission. My friends would benefit from reading these traditions. Sending my light and prayers your way, dear blog friend.

  38. My condolences on your loss.

    I understand the need for privacy. Although I enjoy being with other people, I need solitude and do not function well without it.

    • Thank you very much for your condolences. I read an article recently that claimed that there are quite a few introverts among us, but that we are constantly encouraged to act like extroverts… or else! Privacy allows us to integrate what we’ve learned and to think things out. Thanks for your comment, yearstricken.

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