Curatorial essay for “Vignettes: Between Light and Dark”, a black and white photography exhibition of nine visual artists from Asia – July 25 to August 8, 2013
Born from the womb of the daguerreotype in the early 1800s, photography’s earliest and only vision of the universe was in monochrome. Black and white photography notably bore witness to the unfolding of American history under Roy Stryker’s Farm Security Administration, hence serving as the cradle for humanist and social reportage. Black and white. Authoritative. Unyielding. Unchallenged. It was only with the advent of colour photography in 1935, mass production of colour film, complete transition of press photography to colour in the 1980s and digital revolution in the 1990s did we start to turn our gazes towards the aesthetic that once mirrored our world. Is the practice of black and white photography now merely an archaic premise of nostalgia? Where is its place in the contemporary? How can traditional aspects of photography still play a role in informing current artistic processes?