The hands of philosophy professor Thomas Sullivan are shown as he delivers a lecture during a class at the Angelicum in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Mike Ekern '02)

Depth of Field: Black and White World

The first photos I ever took, with the intention of doing photography for its own sake, were on Kodak color film (of a type I can no longer recall) with my grandpa's old Miranda TM SLR. I think some bare trees and terrible midday light may have been involved.

You will never see those photos.

The first "real" photos I took, with even a bit of photo knowledge in my head, were on T-Max 400 black and white film for The Aquin and The Aquinas yearbook. For the next three years black and white was all I shot as I learned how not to make a complete fool of myself with a camera (thanks MO'D).

All of which is to say that black and white holds a special place in my heart. It's how I first learned to "see" through a camera, and even though the demands of modern marketing and publishing at St. Thomas require color most of the time, it still feels good to slip back into those old eyes. In fact, in some situations it's still the only thing that makes sense to me - like the photo (18) of English professor Matthew Batt for the upcoming issue of St. Thomas magazine, or the photo of sisters Blaire and Ava Pospesel (4), who let us publish the admissions essays they wrote about the death of their mother. Black and white strips away all the decoration and distraction, and lets us concentrate on the forms and expressions of the people telling us their stories.

Of course I'm not shooting T-Max anymore (that stopped my senior year at UST with the purchase of my first digital SLR), but the digital cameras we're using today allow me to create black and whites that I like even more than those produced on that Kodak film. It's as simple as removing the color from the file the camera creates - and as complicated as  interpreting that (usually) flat and lifeless image into the style of black and white you envisioned when you tripped the shutter.

These photos, I'll let you see.

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