Working in Black & White

A Local Library Loan (Book Review)

2 min read by Dmitri.
Published on .

The pandemic has forced my local library to close its doors for months, allowing only quick drop-bys to pick up online book reservations. Though the virus is far from being extinguished, the building has recently opened its doors for sit-in visitors and those who want to browse the shelves in person.

I’m lucky to have such a fancy space at a local library. This is how it used to look before the pandemic.

Bored with browsing for titles online and in the mood to save some money, I went into the building to scour the shelves marked “Photography.” A few books caught my attention, one of them titled “Working in Black & White” by David Präkel (2008).

Working in Black & White covers a variety of methods for producing black and white images. The book mixes thirteen-year-old digital wisdom alongside established and new analogue photography techniques.

It covers most of the topics anyone interested in monochrome would want to learn and includes many ideas that I found novel and useful.

Basics aside, it spends a couple of pages on converting colour to monochrome, more than one chapter on a variety of development and printing techniques with chemicals, as well as a decent coverage of filtering options.

There’s so much to learn when it comes to monochrome that all the information on the topic could make a library of its own. This book is an advanced introduction to the topic; it is well laid out and easy to read. That being said, a few concepts it has mentioned were missing references, which I was expecting from this publication as that is what I would use to find a way to dive deeper.

The advice given on digital photography is undoubtedly dated, though still not useless. I would have preferred it stuck to film as that knowledge, for the most part, hasn’t had a chance to completely expire, despite over 100 years of history. Today, it almost only makes sense to read blogs — not print — to keep up with the digital world.

Overall, I found the book to be useful and an easy read. Though I would certainly expect more if it was republished in the 2020s: references, focus on a single medium, and, perhaps, at least a few non-white, non-male photographers as models and examples.