Do Old Men Dream In Black And White?

I recall, many, many years ago, having a discussion with my brother, Roger, as to whether we dream in colour or black and white. I was a young lad taking photographs, with a budget that could not even imagine the expenses involved in colour photography. He was older, wiser and a “proper artist” with tubes of watercolour paint of every hue. “Of course we don’t dream in black and white, black and white is a completely unnatural way of seeing the world brought about by the technical inability of you photographers“. ┬áThe conversation took place sixty years ago and therefore I might not have remembered it word-for-word, but it went something like that. And no doubt, before the day is out, Roger will be correcting my faulty memory from the other side of the world.

We may not dream in black and white, but it is the palette of choice of my memory. I took this photograph fifty years ago on one of those little afterthought terraces up Southowram Bank in Halifax. Surely the grass must have been green, the stone brown and the sky blue: but I don’t remember it like that.

There is an enthusiasm at the moment to colourise old photographs. To do so, you make judgements about the correct colours to introduce to a scene. Sky is usually blue, and there is a fair chance that grass is green. But when I was a young, the sky was usually a mucky grey colour, and the grass could be as black as coal or as white as an old man’s beard. The world was monochrome …. and I still dream of it that way.

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