I grew up in an age when everywhere you looked the reproduced world was very much two toned - black and white. Be it television, anything but the newest films, newspapers (any ageing paper boy or girl will remember the smell of the ink and the smudges on their hands and faces on a cold morning) and most of the family pics too; all were rendered in marvellous monochrome.
Colour film had been available for decades, even before the Second World War, but it was expensive. Perhaps more significantly, even when it became cheaper and more readily available, it was looked down upon as somehow unworthy, to be used only by the trashiest end of the photographic spectrum. Advertising. Black and white remained dominant and colour was used for selling toothpaste, cars and for special family snapshots at birthdays, high days and holidays. Whereas black and white meant artistry.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the William Eggleston portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Eggleston is probably not best known for his portraits but for his pioneering use of colour film at a time when it was not taken seriously. Serious photographers shot in both colours. Black and white. Eggleston's photographs used colour to turn the mundane elements of everyday life into works of art. His portraits, taken over several decades and presented to us in large scale at the gallery, can only hint at the shock that they must have produced at the time. Check out my William Eggleston Pinterest board to see some of his work.
Webb's use of colour and of light and contrast is stunning. The deep contrast in his shadows and the bright tones of his colours are reminiscent of American artist Edward Hopper. I have always loved his paintings - particularly Nighthawks. The deep blacks, the strong colours and the isolation of the figures somehow struck many a chord with me.
Both Hopper and Alex Webb use frames and layers to great effect in their work and I have had that very much in mind in my photography recently.