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B&W vs Color Debate Is No Debate At All

In 2015, Leica released a beautiful, ridiculous ad. It was for a special product in their lineup; a digital camera that only takes black and white photos.  The  clip itself  is strangely compelling. Set to hypnotizing black and white patterns, a calm voiceover says B&W is purer than color. The hyperrealism of color, it points out, isn’t just overly crass, it’s unnecessary. Color is an aid for people without imagination: “In the color world, there’s no space for dreams.”  Of course this is wrong. If anything it’s the other way around: color is actual, we don’t see in monochrome. Insisting on black and white is often a pretentious turn. Leica’s ad rehashes one of the oldest debates in the history of photography: Which is better, black and white or color? The two do different things, the debate is fruitless. However, it helps to know about this *controversy* in order to understand how we and photography got here...  read more

In 2015, Leica released a beautiful, ridiculous ad. It was for a special product in their lineup; a digital camera that only takes black and white photos.

The clip itself is strangely compelling. Set to hypnotizing black and white patterns, a calm voiceover says B&W is purer than color. The hyperrealism of color, it points out, isn’t just overly crass, it’s unnecessary. Color is an aid for people without imagination: “In the color world, there’s no space for dreams.”

Of course this is wrong. If anything it’s the other way around: color is actual, we don’t see in monochrome. Insisting on black and white is often a pretentious turn. Leica’s ad rehashes one of the oldest debates in the history of photography: Which is better, black and white or color? The two do different things, the debate is fruitless. However, it helps to know about this *controversy* in order to understand how we and photography got here... read more