Two Black-and-White Cat Photos

I stumbled across these cat photos. I have always particularly liked black-and-white photographs probably because they were the sort of photographs I took way back in the 1970s. I am nostalgic about that era; the era of Cartier Bresson and the Magnum photographic agency. Magnum were famous for high-quality photo journalism and many of their photographers were and still are famous (i.e Robert Capa).

Anyway, back to cats! The first one shows the supreme vulnerability of a newborn kitten:

Newborn kitten in a person’s hand

The second one is quite striking but not quite such a good photograph showing two black cats confidently marching towards the camera, one of them calling out. I get the distinct impression that the person photographing them called for them, perhaps calling to say that dinner is ready.

Two black cats

Regrettably, I do not have photo credits of his photographs (except you can see a faint credit embossed in the top photo), which is not untypical today on the Internet because photographs are frequently recycled through a myriad of websites. Pinterest started this destruction of intellectual property rights. Actually, it may have been Google who first started trampling over intellectual property rights by presenting the results of an image search, initially, on their website so that two clicks were required to go from the Google search result to the web page where the image is displayed.

As far as I’m concerned it was just a way of increasing hits on their site so that they can maintain the number 1 position in the world over Facebook.

On a technical point, I don’t think shooting in black-and-white on a digital camera results in quite the same image quality as using black-and-white film in, what is now, an old-fashioned camera. There is a certain quality that only black-and-white film can produce. I still have an old 35mm camera that uses film. Of course, with a film camera you don’t see what you’ve taken after you have taken it. We are used to that now but at the time you knew that you had taken a good photograph even though you could not check it.

There was also a lot of excitement after you knew you had taken a good photograph waiting to process it and then print the negative. In addition, the tactile aspect of old fashion photography has been lost. What I mean is darkroom work. Developing and printing negatives and working with chemicals and paper to create a little bit of art or a least you hoped it was something akin to art.

Back in the old days, fashion photographers used to use Polaroid film as a way of checking lighting etc. before then taking the photograph with, for example, colour transparency film. It was a more laborious way of doing things. It slowed things down and I wonder whether there was some advantages in that.

Today, photographs are, perhaps, losing their value because they are so easy to take and so many more photographs are taken with digital photography. In addition, because photo editing is so commonplace these days some of the intrinsic truth in a well taken photograph has been lost. Photographs are almost becoming like paintings pretending to be photographs.

One of the great benefits of a well timed black-and-white photograph (“the decisive moment” – Bresson) was that it presented exactly what was in front of the camera. It carried some truth although, of course, a moment in time does not necessarily reflect the truth of a situation unless it is a landscape photograph.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Your sister's husband must have many. Mine was an artist, mixed-media and acrylics, mostly. I was a street photographer, in the shadows. It is just amazing to me when I see a picture of a cat. Most of them, it seems from my experience with attempting to capture the essence of a cat who is not used to a camera/natural light, tend to be on guard. It's just so difficult, unless they are used to the camera. And that is one of the reasons that I especially appreciate these two photos of Barbara's late husband's.

    • I think there are probably more Caroline, I will have a look. We usually end up in tears looking through old photos, John was such a lovely kind man and a great loss to us and the world of cats when he died at only 57. Bryan and Ebony were beautiful cats, we miss them too.

  • Babz, Ruth, they are just so wonderful, and John, the photographer was brilliant! *!!!*

  • My late brother in law John (Barbara's husband) was a keen photographer too and took and developed his own photos, he tried out black and white ones at one time, he loved cats, these are of Bryan and Ebony who moved here with us, sadly both gone now.

    • wow that look that bryan is doing reminds me so much of cassy she did that same thing. must be in the breed. :)

    • Very elegant. I like B&W. It gives an added dimension today especially with the all the hyped-up and photoshopped images we see. B&W is pure and elegant.

    • Ruth, do you have even more? These are lovely; am so glad that you and Babz have them!

  • I don't remember using the silver metallic developing system. I used high quality photographic paper and standard processes. I liked darkroom work. It is quite creative and you are shut away from the world.

    I didn't have much money so used all kinds of ways to save money such as buying film in bulk rolls and loading up my own cassettes.

    I may have told you that I won the Ilford College Award in 1971, I think it was. The prize was an exhibition at The Photographer's Gallery which at the time was near Leicester Square, London and was the place to exhibit in the country.

    I always liked photojournalism. I should have tried doing it for a living but didn't have the courage or ambition. I think I would have been as good as any of them.

      • I love old-school photography. What about Eugene Smith. Awesome photographer. Perhaps the best.

        • Bourke-White, Smith Steiglitz White Cameron...who else? :) Your PoC son is very young, but he seems to have soaked his hands in chemicals! <3

          • Eugene Smith was better than the others you mention. Don McCullin in the UK is a more modern photojournalist who is respected. He was a war photographer. He used Nikon and Tri-X I believe. Camera lasted 6 months.

          • What is the most fun photographic process you have ever used for capturing an image? (Marc?) Did you make a pinhole camera? Do you have any images [of cats]?

          • Fish-eye was good. Remember the fish-eye lens? I used 10x8 for a while. I was more interested in getting the picture than messing around with photographic processes.

    • wow michael thats amazing you're very clever . Way before i was born about 4 yrs anyway. ive definitely developed a new love for photography and art.

  • gorgeous black and white kitties i remember at school doing that old school dark room photography was fun and doing print work was the most exciting part doing art.

  • Michael did you ever develop on fibre based paper using the old silver metallic developing system? To be honest I don’t remember exactly the details - but I used alot of fibre because I liked colouring the photos after with water colours or various inks and paints. Of course it’s harder work because of the whole drying part and preserving the flatness of the paper.

    Old B/W photography is it’s own thing. The development process is akin to other forms of light sensisitive printmaking processes - such as photo emulsion on silk screens. I think the darkroom should remain a medium but perhaps be categorized as part of printmaking in the context of fine art or design. It is print, technically speaking.

  • We know this famous photographer as Cartier-Bresson, but we call him Bresson. He is in the same league as shhoot, my bebe, Margaret Bourke-White. <3 xxoo!

    • They were different types of photographer. Bresson is a legend. I wondered though if he set up some of his photos. It looks like it sometimes.

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