The Black and White of It All

Hilton-Asmus Contemporary . Chicago

People waste too much time talking and not enough time observing.  However, observation is truly the window to the soul.

Most artistic pieces typically capture attention through layers of color, funky manipulation of metal or sublime sculptures that draw your eye but, sometimes, you miss the higher meaning or relevance of what the artist is trying to convey.

So, what happens when the artist strips the color away from the images and removes the distraction and it’s manipulation?

I recently had a once-in-a-lifetime experience with world-famous wildlife photographer David Yarrow. Yarrow expertly grabs the essence of his subjects in the simple form of black and white photography. I was in awe of both the man and his works that were showcased in an exhibition at the Hilton/Asmus Contemporary gallery in Chicago.

Yarrow captures the wild soul of animals as if they posed for the photograph. To their great delight, the observers feel the primitive reality of animals in their natural habitat. From lions in the wilds of Africa to the snowy polar bears, each image beckons in its silent language to come closer, look into my eyes, observe what I am communicating. Needless to say, it’s thrilling.

With images so raw, yet contemplative, my mind began to hone in on how David Yarrow was telling a story from behind the lens with contrast and clarity that can not be told in color. How tapping into the wild spirit of ourselves empowers a soul connection through the use of photography in telling our own story.

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Wolf on Main Street II

My thoughts also went to the current challenge on Facebook where you are asked to post black and white images for seven days. The guidelines state that there be no people or  explanation of the photos, leaving the viewer to define their own interpretation. Is Facebook echoing something that David Yarrow inspired?

Why black and white? There’s no distraction when viewing a black and white image. Like an uncomplicated romance, it allows the unprocessed emotion of the subject to be on display. Depending only on light and shadow, the photographer shows us the drama and mystery of his subjects and like the Facebook challenge, it does the same – un-complicates and conjures up visceral feelings of recognition and remembrance.

What I learned and what I believe is that a photographer in the league of David Yarrow must rely on all the senses when shooting a photograph; sight to frame the shot, hearing to listen for changes in the animal’s emotion, touch to feel the camera, smell for the aroma of the land, taste of the air to know the pungency of the moment. But, the most important sense of all is intuition, knowing exactly when to take the shot.

Animal energy is a basic life form, and, as humans, we share many elementary instincts with wild animals. However, as humans evolved, we’ve forgotten how to tap into the most primitive insights – or intuition – we inherited through the ages.

David Yarrow reconnects us with those primary elements through his work. He brings the clarity of the animal’s soul into view, from the inside out, and shares it with the world.

If you ever get a chance to view one of Yarrow’s exhibitions, please do not pass up the opportunity.

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