Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Onyx and Alabaster

image borrowed from thisnext.com

Onyx and Alabaster

“There is something really appealing about the simplicity
of black & white images.”--Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 

Most formal affairs,
weddings, funerals or balls,
demand black & white.

Do we dream 
in color--or is it
just mysterious shades

of the full
spectrum of black & white;
all black roses.
& white lions, 
onyx jewelry
& alabaster statues?

Pondering this inquiry, I find it difficult
to pinpoint, to absolutely define;
perhaps dreamscapes are sepia-soaked, 
or washed out starlit colors?
I am positive, though,
that I daydream in color,
all azure eyes, pink nipples, & red convertibles.

Growing up in the 1950’s, so much of what I recall
       is definitely in black and white, from our first B&W television,
                 with its 12” perfectly round screen & its heavy oaken case,
                           still looking like a living room radio, to the Saturday
                 afternoon Hopalong Cassidy Matinees at the local cinema.
        Oh sure, by 1955, we had all heard of Color TV, but only a few
friends from wealthy families had one--and there were only
a few select programs that were broadcast in color, WALT DISNEY
HOUR, variety shows, BONANZA & such.

As a kid,
it seemed to me that
the colors were

super-saturated & way overdone, with hot lighting, over-bright clothes
& sets, bizarre make-up & lipstick like the movies of the 20’s, feeling
very unnatural to my 11-year old sensitivities--much like I feel about
the modern craze of photoshopping color images, shifting them from
realistically-hued into the realm of abstract. So I was happy to
retreat to the majority of TV shows, comfortably presented in
stark & sharp-edged B&W.

Color was still a bit of an oddity, a weird & special treat; like that 
                 one roll of color film for birthday or holiday parties;
                 I mean the horror movies & all the classic Noir
                 crime films were exclusively in black & white,
                                    all wet brick & cobblestone night shots,
                                    harvest moon & rampaging werewolves.
                                    & villagers with torches & pitchforks, as
movie studio cinematographers made those
classics of light & shadow into an Art form.

                 By the 60’s & 70’s fewer & fewer movies were
                             shot on black & white stock, & those few
                                     that were by Stanley Kramer, Peter Bogdanovich
                                                 and Woody Allen conjured up a nostalgic,
                                                 gritty & realistic view of the past. I cannot
                                                 even imagine TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
                                      in gaudy technicolor.

Today, in our techno-savvy digital imagery world, it becomes an artful
& joyous experiment to showcase both our photoshopped color photos
& their black & white version/counterpart side-by-side. It is kind of
fascinating to me how many of our youth enjoy that juxtaposition as
we boomers & duffers recall the glory of decades past cataloged &
framed in glorious black & white.

Eyes are designed
to process color, but black
& white is restful.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

would you like to hear me read this B&W poem to you?



X said...

Ha. When you look back at coloration of the old movies they look so off, def overcoloration. I remember watching black and white shoes at grammas house, back when we were the remote and they sent us to spin the dial. There is a peace to black and white. I wonder if I dream in color.

Claudia said...

there's much beauty in black and white - and yeah - it's restful - maybe because it allows us to focus on the real important things - the outlines - texture...

brudberg said...

There are definitely stories that I cannot imagine would improve one single iota by color... Imagine Casablanca in color...pfft.. maybe the limitations had to put the focus on other matters such as the story and acting. hmm Today it has to be 3D to get people to the theaters.. yet I would love to see an old B&W film every now and then

De Jackson said...

Awesome spill of memories here. Love your take on the prompt.

Mary said...

Interesting post, Glenn. I can identify with much of the history you shared. I remember my parents first black and white television. Also remember that programming only began after school - about 4 pm - and it was black and white cowboy shows at first. Smiles. And I too remember when color film was an expensive rarity. And as for the classic horror films, ha - I think that the Wolfman and Frankenstein were much scarier in black and white than they would have been in color!!

Grace said...

Those black and white films are classic noir inspired and horror movies ~ I would concentrate on the dialogues and acting then as I was not distracted by colors ~ But I love colors, and I hope I dream in colors, smiles ~

Thanks for linking in and wishing you happy Tuesday ~

Anonymous said...

Your title and picture made my heart jump. Both are so gorgeous.

Ooh, I love this: "black roses. & white lions" ... You must have very interesting dreams!

More goodies:
"azure eyes, pink nipples, & red convertibles" (Ha!)
"wet brick & cobblestone night shots,
harvest moon & rampaging werewolves"

Anonymous said...

I believe I dream in colours… every now and then I wonder if I really do.

kaykuala said...

It was such excitement when color TV came to the scene. And for quite sometime the prohibitive pricing deprived many. Now one marvels at colors so readily seen including little color printers cheaply peddled. In fact craving for black and white photos is in fashion now! Great lines.Thanks for the memories Glenn!


Anonymous said...

Nothing like a good ol' b&w movie... I wrote some time ago about my sepia dreams, so this really resonated!

Gabriella said...

When I was five my parents acquired their first TV set and it was in black and white. For a long time, I took photos in black and white too but no longer do - I seem to prefer color ones. I liked how your poem made me reflect on the way I look at and see the world.

Unknown said...

My wonderful Brother, what can I say. To be able to go through this time lap with you again really was quite a thrill. You amaze me. I love you so much.

lynn__ said...

Yes and this was a restful stroll down memory lane! You captured the history of TV changing from black & white to color...and photographs going back to B & W again :)

Victoria said...

Glenn, I enjoyed this so much...as a child of the 50's and, yes, our first TV was a 12" black and white, too...all 3 or so stations. But then there was the black and white fuzz. Clever idea to unfold the role of black and white over the years of "our" lifetime. So well done.

Unknown said...

my grandma was late getting a color TV, so even though I'm only 23 I have memories of watching her old Remoteless black and white hunk of trash when I went to stay at her house on the weekends... oy. but now as I've gotten older, I do appreciate black and white television and I am also a huge fan of black and white photography. I've learned not everything needs color to be beautiful.

Anonymous said...

ahh, Bonaza! Loved the ending.

Truedessa said...

I am a dreamer and usually dream in color. My dreams are very life like. It sometimes feels like a movie. Dreaming of black roses and white lions..hmm..what could that mean I might have to look into that.

Unknown said...

And don't forget those horrible colored strips you could put across the TV screen to give it "color"....black and white truly is restful. For years after we bought a color TV, I lugged the b&w one up to my bedroom and even now, will adjust the TV to black and white. B&W photography is still one of my favorite art forms.... A friend of mine collects images from the old box cameras and uses plates to take some of his photography. Beauty that defies the years! I simply cannot imagine Psycho in color....

vivinfrance said...

Children's television is way too bright and vulgar these days. You are absolutely right
"Eyes are designed
to process color, but black
& white is restful"

I loved the early technicolour films, though I agree that too much colour/contrast is wearing. But the trend currently is towards sombre, black and grey rather than black and white, so that I strain to follow the action. They had it right in about 1970.

annell4 said...

Interesting thoughts of black and white.

Anonymous said...

this was rich Glenn... this reminds me of seeing Casablanca and The Seventh Samuri in black and white in the theatres...

Marina Sofia said...

Didn't they go through a period of recolouring/retinting old movies? Sadly, my own kids don't much like watching black and white movies, they feel something is missing, but I adore them (plus everyone looks better in black and white).
I was a child in the garish 70s and remember the colours almost hurt my eyes!
I was particularly struck by the two lines below - they'd make a great title for a collection of poems:
perhaps dreamscapes are sepia-soaked,
or washed out starlit colors

Katie Mia Frederick said...

Oh.. so true and insightful too.. that black and white is
a restful night of TV as well.. there's something too..
about imagination more.. where emotions
grow greater.. where special
effects of color do fall
instead of glow..
but oh.. when
colors first hurt
my senses.. it is
a warning that something's
up.. and soon black and white
is all i can tolerate.. turned down
to lowest bright.. of computer screen..
and then my dreams become all
black and white rolling
text.. truly better though
than just trapped
in one mind
for two years
Stress is a somewhat magical
thing.. in terms of the dark thorns
it can afflict on
a human life..
OMG if only people
understand the necessity
of mind and body
balance before
it is
too late
in less


kelvin s.m. said...

I love taking selfies, and applying filters on the photos I took. B&W is often my filter addiction for its simplicity & classy effect when applied to one of my photographs. I believed, the classics &/or "throwbacks" are more appreciated today than during its time. Thanks for the poem!

vb holmes said...

To take your black-and-white tv comments back a step, I recently listened to Orson Welles' radio broadcast, "War of the Worlds". It is difficult to believe people panicked and fled their homes as a result of that show--until you close your eyes and let your imagination fill in the blanks. Then, even with our current sophistication,anything is possible.

Sreeja said...

that was so interesting.... enjoyed reading every line....and yes..Eyes are designed to process color, but black & white is restful!!

Anonymous said...

This was an enjoyable journey of vivid images..both in colour AND in black and white. Perhaps we dream in black and white and recall it in colour? I really try to avoid any editing when I take pictures. Reality is under rated!