Inside this issue
Len muses over why he is so attracted to monochromatic photography
Leonard Metcalf is the director of Len’s School located in Sydney that specialises in innovative small group offerings for dedicated amateur photographers who wish to grow. Len exhibits his photography regularly and is widely published. His intimate portraits of people and nature show a unique and very personal vision of beauty of the world though his photographic art.
When you enter our house, you are immediately confronted with a huge watercolour painting of distinctively Australian gum leaves. I completed it over 35 years ago as part of my high school leaving certificate. It is over a metre wide. It is a faithful reproduction of one of my photographs. It is of dead dried leaves scattered on the ground. Hints of Wabi Sabi, exploring the dying, forgotten and decaying. Beauty in things seemingly past their life. It is a monochrome watercolour painting and is painted in sepia. The watercolour paint is made from a mixture of carbon and umber, painted on cotton rag paper. I look at it and am reminded that I have been pulled towards monochrome, carbon on cotton art ever since my youth. Unknowingly. This is a beautiful painting, which was given a highly commended at the Lloyd Reece Youth Art Awards. Meeting Lloyd before he passed was indeed an honour, as is an award with his name. To think I was still a scruffy teenager of 17 at the time. Some things don’t change.
This one painting confronts me. How did I know as a teenager that this is where I would end up? A stark reminder of my early vision. I have gone in a huge circle. Actually, it’s really lots of smaller ones. From black and white photography, through painting watercolours, drawing (with pencils, pen & ink and charcoal), colour photography and large format photography, only to end up again where I started. It is a journey through monochrome. A medium I absolutely love. What follows is a discussion about why it affects me so. Perhaps, some of these reasons will connect with you, and even inspire you to play with it some more. This article is the first in a long series on monochrome, and is really the introduction. The foundations of our practice. For it is important to ponder the why, and figure out what really drives us. For something that may start out as an experiment in self-development may become a passion.
One of the arguments that often surfaces is the perceived difficulties between photographing in colour versus creating in monochrome.