ALL PHOTOGRAPHY WAS ORIGINALLY MONOCHROME. TO ADD A TONE TO THE IMAGE PIGMENT CALLED SEPIA WAS ADDED TO THE POSITIVE PRINT OF A PHOTOGRAPH. WE FORGET THAT ALMOST ALL FORMS OF VISUAL TECHNOLOGY START OUT IN BLACK AND WHITE SUCH AS PHOTOGRAPHS, FILM, TV, VIDEO GAMES, COMPUTERS, AND THEN SLOWLY EVOLVE INTO COLOR AS TECHNOLOGY PROGRESSES. WE NOW SEE B&W AS OLD FASHIONED, NOSTALGIC OR HISTORIC, AS THERE ARE FEW CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS THAT USE IT WITH REGULARITY.
Sydney based photographer Paul Smollen always had a camera in his hands as a child, while it may have rarely had film in it, it did allow him to see life differently while growing up. Putting the camera down briefly to begin a career in Health, he once again has a camera firmly in his hands. Paul states that he sees the world with more clarity while looking through a viewfinder then without. And what he sees is a world of many colors.
Even though we have come to know Paul Smollen as a photographer of male physique, he started out as a specialist in still life, flowers and landscapes. Especially those two last subjects have taught him to look at colors in a special way. He learned for example that the Australian flora and sunlight are harsh: “Australia is almost a desert country; the sunlight here is a harsh white light that creates a heavy shadow. The greens of the native trees in Australia are a lot more stripped of color, they appear duller than the greens of Europe and North America where the color is richer and the foliage is softer in appearance.” It was this observation that made Paul chose to photograph Joel Gartland in black & white. The place Paul selected for this particular session had 5 different shades of green due to the Australian native plant species at the location.
At 26 Joel Gartland is an advanced level personal trainer and martial arts instructor, who has a 2nd Dan black belt in Shotokan-Karate and a 2nd Dan black belt in Kickboxing. Joel has his own training facility to train people of all ages, shapes, sizes creed and colour and offering martial arts fighter training to Yumi Mumi fitness classes. But there are more sides to Joel than physical strength. When he was young Joel Gartland was heavily interested in drama and the performing arts. He did some work in theatre, most notably with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He was filmed for drama series extra work and children television programs. Obviously this work eventually led him to become a model. Other than that, Joel is also a father of 2, which shows a very different, much softer and domestic side of his character.
Confronted with the many shades of colors in the place he choose as location, Paul Smollen decided to shoot the entire series with Joel Gartland in black & white. Paul loves color but also realizes that it sometimes detracts from details whereas the stripped-back nature of black and white really allowed Joel to show different sides of him. Both physically and emotionally. “Compared to colorful designs where catchy colors help the design to stand out, in black-and-white the ability to stand out depends only on its ability to communicate rather than on its appealing visual presentation,” Paul explains. “B&W photography doesn’t attract with its play of colors. Here close attention to composition, lighting, perspective and the context are more important.” Paul wanted the viewer to focus entirely on Joel and not be distracted by all the shades of green around him. And that is exactly what he got. –BM-
PAUL SMOLLEN | BEAUTIFULMAG
JOEL GARTLAND | BEAUTIFULMAG