The Intrigue of B&W Street Photography

Untitled by Peter Corbett


These images are shot in the streets of Europe, India, and Turkey. When looking for images I try to bring out the left field of an everyday situation. When all the right elements come together, the picture captures a defining moment in time, never to be repeated and always intriguing. This intrigue comes from people in their environments doing ordinary things, that through the lens become extraordinary and full of humanity and depth. We want to know why the accordion player is smiling, what the relationship between the men on the steps is, and why a man is laying sprawled on the grass – he certainly isn’t sleeping. The boy clinging to the tram is playful as he engages with the lens and so are the four young boys in an Indian street. They are part of their environment, comfortable, joyous and rendered instantly likable by the lens.

The image of the corner house is a departure from the playful and maintains a haunting, otherworldly quality. A young figure stares blankly through a barred window at the lens as if wanting to engage with the outside world but cannot. The shot of Mumbai Station is almost overwhelming in the detail it presents to the observer. The two figures in the foreground provide a contrast to the chaotic background, with one in motion and unknowable, and the other, still and bemused within his space.

The absence of color allows us to focus more on the subjects with no distractions other than texture, tone or negative space. Black and white give each of these images a timeless quality. There’s very little to show era or historical reference. Light is integral, subtle and sometimes startling. The direction, the quality, and the degree of light become elements of the picture.