Today I’m comparing two black and white photos of basilicas. Recently I drove to the end of a street leading to a bushwalk up a hill and found a Ukrainian church near the beginning of the path. It’s very appealing, a pretty Byzantine-style church that looks larger than it is. It was closed that day but I walked around the whole structure and found it’s about the size of a large room.
Its eastern European architectural style reminded me of the basilica in Heliopolis, Cairo, in the photos from Egypt in my WWII collection.
A comparison of my photo of the Ukrainian church with my father’s old photo from about 1941 shows how much photography has improved in capturing detail. The leaves on the trees in the newer photo are individually visible in the foreground while the trees in the old photo look impressionistic.
I find that the soft edges and slight blur of the old photo evoke an emotion, a wondering, whereas the sharpness of every brick and leaf in the new one evokes a feeling of truth, as though the older photo is concealing unnecessary or ugly details while the new one wants us to know it all.
The Ukrainian church is made of creamy-orange bricks and is set before dark green bushland, and these colours give the image life. So my conclusion is that this image is not best in black and white. By contrast the church in Heliopolis, which is cream (I can see this in modern colour shots) in a setting of streets and colonnaded buildings, is best in black and white which emphasises the geometry not only in the church itself but also in the numerous arched windows and doors in buildings around it.