Bill Pierce 
Nuts & Bolts 
"An Indecent  Proposal"
When Jonathan Swift wrote his satirical "A Modest Proposal" some readers took his suggestion that the poor of Ireland sell their children (increasing income and decreasing expenses) seriously. This misunderstanding of satire continues today. 

In his column "Screw Black & White" (an indecent proposal) Jim Colburn suggests photographers shoot only in color, specifically a 35mm 800 ASA color negative film. Some readers took Jim, like Jonathan Swift  before him, seriously and became quite upset, not recognizing that this was a brilliant satire.   

Why would Jim ever want you to give up black and white, or even think a single type of color film would be universal. He's far too intelligent for that. He's a photo editor. 

Photo editors do not want the most important events and issues of the day to be shot on a material that can be among the most fugitive and short-lived. They want an important image to live for many generations, and when appropriate, to be seen with the clarity of an original print, not a reproduction on a page produced by a high-speed press. 

Photography editors take the long view of a photograph's life. Anyone who uses freelance or agency photographers knows that one-time usage in a single publication is minor league. Editors don't see a photograph as some disposable image that appears on the page of their newspaper or magazine and then loses all value. 

Beyond this, editors being insiders at newspapers and magazines, know the real reason that in the last few decades newspapers and magazines have added color capability. It's economic. It's for the advertising pages.   

Perhaps it is for the wrong reason, but photo editors at newsmagazines like black and white because it makes their job easier. Color has a strong effect on the viewer of a picture. In journalistic situations you can't control the color, you accept what is there. Unfortunately, it is sometimes more than inappropriate--it is a distraction. Do you really want to trouble your editors with sunny day, happy-snap color of the funeral? Can you really think of a color palette that wouldn't weaken Don McCullin's "Hearts of Darkness" or Bill Brandt's "Shadow of Light?" 

Photo editors are paid more than photographers because they are more intelligent, better looking, and know more about photography than photographers. Give Jim Colburn a break--stop taking him seriously.

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