Contact Sheet 27 — Monochrome

Contact Sheet is an irregular column of selected photographs and portraits from Residents of Second Life and other virtual worlds. All rights to featured images are reserved to the artists under appropriate copyright laws. Click on the links as necessary to go to the required blog, Flickr or Koinup page. Please go to these artists’ pages in any case to leave comments, (as well as comments here), if you have an account on the appropriate service.

Suggestions are appreciated; please send descriptions and links to me by in-world IM, notecard, E-mail to, or leave a comment below.

NOTICE: Some of the photos/links may contain nudity or other NSFW situations. Viewer discretion advised.


Black-and-white used to be the form of photography, as in the only form.  It took years for an effective, portable and inexpensive color film to be invented and produced in quantity, as you can tell by reading the brief mentions of how color film slowly crept into the pages of National Geographic [1].  In many artistic circles, monochrome is still the color scheme of choice.  To some, black and white makes the viewer focus on the image and what it’s saying instead of the colors and how pretty they are.

There are monochrome enthusiasts in the virtual worlds, too.  It takes a few GIMP tricks to make a color photograph into a black-and-white, but the results can be astounding.  One of my most popular pictures was of me posing as Rita Hayworth in Gilda; it has nearly 400 visits (as of this writing) at Koinup, and nearly 100 at the harder house (for me) of Flickr, with clutches of favorite marks at both.  I’ve done others since then, which are also popular.

But I’m not here to talk about me, but about other people’s work.  When groups were opened up at Koinup, I founded the Monochrome group explicitly for two-color pictures (I’m not fussy about if they’re b/w, sepia, blue/white, etc.).  Here’s just a small selection of some of the best in my opinion.  (Please note that many names on Koinup are more opaque than you’ll find in other photo groups; we’ll have to settle for more of an alias than normal, except in the few places where I know the photographer.)


Pure geometry and the effectiveness of simple light sources are fundamental in photoliv42’s Geometrix_1.  Beyond the simple rendition of color into black and white (doable with just a few clicks), this took some addition of a “reflection” of a building or similar source — perhaps the squares themselves — onto the surface of the sphere.  This could have been done either in post-production, or by photographing the squares themselves and layering the shot as a texture over the sphere.  Either way, very cleverly done!


Frequent “contributor” Connie Arida gives us After Helmut, which is inspired by the nude photography of Helmut Newton.  Myself, I think this is rather more tasteful than what I’ve seen of Newton’s catalogue, but your mileage may vary on Newton’s lack or not of excellence.  As far as I can see, this self-portrait works.  As does Nude Study by LoweRuno, a more intimate setting between a man and woman avatar.


More, including this column’s feature photo, after the break….

Copyright 2010 by Hiroko

As Connie just showed us, the interplay of light and shadow are incredibly important in monochrome photography.  In Second Life, we have more versatility to play with light, since some “light” effects are achieved with particle projections or other methods.  As I used myself in my tribute to the late Lena Horne a few months back, non-light particles can play their part as well.  Hiroko’s Downpour illustrates this very well — what would have been a boring picture of a rainy day in color, with the transformation to black-and-white becomes a moody piece of reflection.  The cones of light from the streetlights interact with the shadows and the pelting rain and the figure with the umbrella to create a piece that catches the attention.


Light interplay is an essential part of this photograph as well.  Ono_003c by rocapc is a simple, even bucolic piece in ways aside from the dress and hairstyle of the model; the light rays coming through the trees are what make this piece more than just average.  As a final argument, just think of the need in RL for lighthouses to warn shipping away from dangerous locations, and then take a look at LagNmoor by bark; see how the “rays” of the lighthouse beacon (actually a prim cone set to full bright and glow) communicate the needed urgency in this gloomy situation.


Zhele by VadimLevonenya goes to the other extreme in my discussion.  A straightforward, face-on model portrait becomes something extraordinary with the shadow across the model’s eye from the locks of her hair, as well as her clutching grip on her pearls.  It gives her a mystery, a potential, that would not have been present in a more evenly lit photograph.


That’s the closer for now.  Be sure to check the group for more pictures, as well as the other b/w groups on Koinup and Flickr!  Catch you here next column.


[1] If you’re interested in the article, go looking at your library for the October 1963 issue; they even have photomicrographs of early color film emulsions, such as Dufaycolor and Agfacolor.  Or check the Wikipedia article on the process; standard accuracy disclaimers apply there, of course.  You can also listen to a discussion of the principal B/W film, Kodak Tri-X, on NPR.


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