Lunchtime Photo

I have a love-hate relationship with black-and-white photography. I want to note up front that I’m not talking about people who enjoy darkroom work as a hobby and therefore shoot black-and white. I’ve done plenty of that in my life, and it’s a lot of fun.

I’m talking about everyone else. Virtually all photographers shoot digital these days, which means they shoot in color. If you see a black-and-white image, it’s almost always a color image that’s been converted. This bugs me for a few reasons. First, shooting black-and-white is different. It’s not just color but without the color. Second, there’s often a bit of pretentiousness to it. Shooting black-and-white because that’s what’s available is one thing, but doing it even though you have an original color image is sort of annoying. Third, most photographers don’t really know how to shoot black-and-white these days. (I emphatically include myself in that.) Fourth, shooting in black-and-white seems to encourage a fascination with abstract shapes and shadows. This is occasionally interesting when done by someone really talented, but hardly ever when the rest of us do it.

On the other hand, nothing beats black-and-white for that gritty urban look. If that’s what you’re after, I’m all for it. It’s also magnificent in the hands of someone truly talented—both artistically and technically. I do still sometimes see some really good black-and-white photography, and it’s hard to beat.

But judge for yourself. Here’s a picture of a deserted country road at night. Below it is the same picture converted to black-and-white. I deliberately did nothing to try to enhance it. I just did the best I could to match the tone and levels of the original. Everyone has their own taste in these things, but I’ll take the color version.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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