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This blog celebrates the beauty of Asian men by illustrating the depth and variety that is so often missed by those who make foolish statements like "All Asians look the same." It is primarily a photo blog, but I will also occasionally write comments related to Asian men and gay life as it relates to them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Black and White

If you're photographing in color you show the color of their clothes - if you use black and white, you will show the color of their soul. ~Author Unknown

Those who, like me, are children of the 70's or later, pretty much take for granted the ability to photograph our world in color. But color photography was still a rather recent development when I was born, the first instant color film having been developed by Polaroid in 1963.

But today, years after photography has advanced to produce "living color," photographers still return to black and white images purposefully and frequently. Which causes us to ask, why this purposeful "regression"?

Simply put, there is a quality to black and white photography that captures the indefinable essence of a picture unlike anything that color can achieve. Color photographs are very detailed, accurate accounts of what happened; but black and white photographs strip away all the peripheral data and allow us to focus on the essence of the moment. Where a color photo would be a newspaper account about the tragic death of a child, a black and white photo would be a poem of lament written by the mother whose baby has been lost forever.

Take for example, the following color photos. In each one, there is some element of the photo that distracts from the person being photographed--brightly-colored shirts or shorts, beach balls, and foliage. True, they are accurate accounts of the moment. But click on each picture to see what happens when the color is taken away.

Suddenly, instead of busyness, you have simplicity. You find yourself looking in the eyes of the man, observing the definition of the muscles in his torso. The laughter of the first seems intense, yet frozen in time, as if it has yet to be completed. You contemplate the emotions of the last; is he pensive, curious, lonely?

I'm grateful for color. How fascinating the world is with all its varied hues and tones! But how quickly in life we allow color to block our view of what is truly important--what is inside us. Not that we should downplay the beauty in variety; in fact, we celebrate it. But we also realize that our colors are only what is on the surface; that which is real and lasting and meaningful--that which binds us together and helps us to see we are all on equal ground--can only be seen when we look beyond color to the deeper reality beneath.


Anonymous said...


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jimmy said...

one thing i've noticed on websites is the blanching / b&w'ing of photos belonging to men of color and other ethnic minorites with different shades of skin pigmentation. it's a very disturbing trend to me, as if minorities are ashamed of their pigmentation and that an option to attract online interest of other gay males is this use of color-negation in their photos. it's obvious too; these pictures have been altered or photoshopped to change the colorization of the original photo to bleach out the light (through color filters or other software tools) and make it appear that the individual is "caucasian" (no doubt, always chest shots or ass shots with out the heads because that would just give away their ethnic background at the get-go) and then when you go to click on their picture you find out that they're african american or another ethnic minority. it's very sad to me that these guys can't be themselves and that they alter who they are visually to make themselves more appealing to the mass notion of the typical guy next door. don't believe me? go on manhunt or adam4adam and do a survey of african american pictures and you'll see one on every ten photo altered in a way that is very unclear what race they are. i mean, what's to hide? i don't get the purpose of these alterations. just makes me sad and actually a little bit pissed off when i see this online. sends a terrible message.

i understand the beauty and purpose of the photos you've posted, a-grat, but there is an emerging pattern on gay online hookup sites that's disparaging to all minorities alike. who are they kidding? i just would'nt feel very attrative or sexy if i had to alter my photos to attract other guys to click on my profile under the guise that i have a typical caucasian body type.

H Y A K U N I N C H O said...

Jimmy's comment is spot on. But what A-Grat says about the soul being revealed is also true in general about black and white photography. Fortunately the photography on blogs that I link to has mostly been in colour - save for artistic shots mainly of caucasian men. Until his blog disappeared, Queer Factor would always include a beautiful photo on Fridays under the heading of "Friday Fondle", always of caucasian men. One Third Basketi has a mixture of colour and black and white eye candy. I guess it is possible to say that some blog postings discriminate by not showing the souls of non-caucasian men by having just colour photographs of them.
I know I have not seen everything that there is to see on the web, but fortunately, from what I have seen, I feel that the subjects have been fairly represented. Jimmy's comments are necessary and vital to bear in mind the next time we see a photo of any man. A picture speaks a thousand words, and of course, there is more than one way to view an image.

Michael said...

I have to be honest to say that what you mention is something entirely new to me. I have not personally observed the phenomenon of which you speak (consciously, at least), so I am going to have to give it some thought before I comment fully. Do you (and I'm asking this sinerely curious, not trying to make a point or anything) really believe that the black and white deceptive profile photos rises to the level of bing an "emerging trend"? Do you see it growing to affect more people due to some sort of societal influence that will entrench that sort of mind set?

Also, you said "I don't get the purpose of these alterations." Is it possible that, in your valid anger towards a disparaging racial attitude, you may end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater? For "colorless" photography, as I tried to point out in this post, can communicate very valid things that color cannot. So I would just say, if you see an ethnic minority using a colorless photo, don't immediately assume it is due to a poor self-image or racial self-hate. It may be that the person is simply artistic (we wouldn't remember the name Ansel Adams today had he photographed in color). Definitely some food for thought, though, so thanks for it. Perhaps I will post on the topic again once I can mull over it longer.

Michael said...

H Y A K U N I N C H O....
I know that, simply due to the purpose of this blog, some people will assume I am exclusively a rice queen who has no appreciation for men of other ethnicities (though hopefully my other blog, Auto-Gratification, will help to dispel some of those thoughts). This is, of course, not at all the case. I have a large photo collection of men of all races, and I have dated and been in relationships with men of every imaginable racial background. There truly is great beauty in variety from which we separate ourselves by focusing exclusively upon one "cookie cutter" definition of beauty.

But I think you make a good point when you say, "Jimmy's comments are necessary and vital to bear in mind the next time we see a photo of any man. A picture speaks a thousand words, and of course, there is more than one way to view an image." This reminded me of a quote by author/painter John Berger:

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this - as in other ways - they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.

Essentially, what we see in a photograph will always include some reflection of our own soul and self, and thus, as you said, there will always be more than one way to view an image. I hope that the images you see on this site will always be uplifting, fair, respectful and tasteful....and of course, hot! :)