Khmer boy in Black and White

For the past half year I have been spending my time in places with an abundance of sunshine and colour, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Australia. My images have therefore mostly been in colour and have been heavily processed. Although I have been studying a great deal of black and white photography I have not actually created many black and white images. Last night I finally returned to black and white processing and today I just wish to present a simple and gentle black and white image from Cambodia:


This boy overlooking the river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has a great profile and a gentle deep-in-thoughts look. I processed this image very gentle and simple, not wanting to hammer the contrast, with rich tones of grey and adding film grain for a more organic look. It has quickly become an image I love very much, I will be doing many more images in this gentle timeless look. Our eyes are used to digital look and processing, so this film-like image may look lacking for some. What do you feel?

21 Comments on “Khmer boy in Black and White”

  1. I’m not feeling this photo. Digital lacks the rich tonality of film, so it’s looking/feeling a bit flat to me, especially on the face. The tonal variations between sky, river, water clothing are even (i assume the light was fairly flat?), so there’s not a lot of separation of subject and background, until you get to the dark patch that’s his head.I think an increase in contrast or a more pronounced adjustment of highlights might help this along?

    My 0.02 ‘neeways 🙂

    1. Hey C, always really appreciate your 0.02 very much, I always await your comments the most. It is flat, the light was flat and it’s shot against the light and I brought out the shadows on his face and made it flatter 🙂 I just really like flat images at the moment, so no more contrast on this one, nope 🙂

      1. Eh, wait, let me rephrase that (my turn for ‘too early to be doing this’). Why do you like flat images at the moment? What sparked it off?

        1. Hehe. Anyway, I should clarify – in simple images, not busy, I like the look very flat. I like the gentle soft look of not hammering the contrast, of not stretching the histogram – unless it was shot in direct sunlight and is contrasty in itself. A lot of the landscapes from Kimberley, that I am working on now have lovely soft light and I have composed them very simple and very flat. Can’t quite say why, I just very much like that look. It is also reflected in the ‘polaroids’ I have been posting with that 50s look where I tint the shadows a colour so they’re not deep black. I just really like that 50s creamy look and one reason for sure, is rebellion against my old landscape style, which I really can’t look at at the moment.

          Had the background been busy, I would have worked to separate the boy a lot more but as it is now, soft and flat I like 🙂

          1. Yep, i get that with the simpler compositions with fewer elements. It suits some images and not others. I think the dark bit of boy’s head contrasting heavily with the rest of the lovely soft image just bothers me. But that’s just me. I’m weird 🙂

            I think I have just seen way too many of those slight desat and vintage tinted images in wedding photography blogs. They’ve been the rage among US and Aussie wedding togs for a good few years now (see anything in for an example). They come from cookie cutter actions supplied by commercial vendors, and I’ve seen them applied to anything from portraits to landscapes to travel, commercial and event work and have been a really popular filter for that lot for ages. Once in a while I’ll come across an image that has that treatment applied appropriately and think “wow”, but for the most part it’s “oh god, not again.”

            None of this is directed at you btw, just having a rant in your comments box again (what’s new eh). I guess I mean to say, while I totally appreciate and support your new direction, don’t leave your landscape legacy behind entirely. It has given you a keen eye for colours, lighting and balancing all those with your compositional elements that has fed all of the beautiful work you’ve done lately (Cambodian monk portraits FTW!) 🙂 That’s gotta be a good thing.

            1. I should also say, realising how it sounds after posting, that i reckon Amelia Lyon’s work is top class (she does some gorgeous, creative portraits).

              I do however, think it’s a shame she isn’t confident enough in the strength of her images to pull through in a basic post-process without having to resort to those TRA/Totally Rad actions.

            2. Your rants are the best, more ranting I say !!!! 😀

              It’s funny, I guess it completely depends on what one has been subjected to. Not having studied or seen any wedding photography, I had no idea that style was all the rage….and I quite like the style of Amelia’s processing hehehe. But I see your point, a while back I advised a friend that her very very contrasty edgy processing style has been done to death in America especially. Slightly desat and vintage 50s tinted for the win hehe 🙂 At least for now, untill we find the next hot craze/look/filter/processing.

            3. and you are right, without my training in landscapes I never would have composed those Cambodian monk art shots so well. Not ever leaving landscapes but evolving, shooting and processing them differently, more into creating art than documenting a landscape.

            4. I think photography by nature is documentary. Whether or not it is art is generally decided by others who are not the photographer – galleries, buyers, critics etc.

              Yeah I thought you’d like her processing 😉 She probably makes the best use of those vintagey actions as I have ever seen.

              I guess it’s a matter of what we are (or are not) exposed to. I am just disovering rich – not necessarily saturated, but rich a la McCurry – but natural tones and how they are applied to all manner of photos. Having been in the wedding business for so long, I think I am just a tad fatigued by the latest processing fads, as that’s probably the part of the industry i am familiar with, that picks up these things first.

              But always good to change, challenge and talk about these things though. I am always amused at how much discussion is had in your blog’s comments. Must be why i keep coming back 😉

            5. That’s what comments are for, I wish there were even more discussions, even more points of views exchanged. That is what makes a blog fun and interesting.

              I would imagine the wedding industry would be the first to latch onto any new processing fads, never thought of that before but now you mention it. Speaking of wedding photogs, I met James Schokman onboard True North on Australia Day, great guy and quite impressed with his work

              What I meant by ‘art’, wrong word, was created images and not taken images. Some of my not yet released landscapes have elements pasted together, textured, colourized etc, basically no resemblance to reality 🙂

              More comments, more discussion, that’s my hope for my blog.

            6. Ah a created image. I gotcha.

              One of the best wedding photographers I’ve ever come across is this guy from my motherland (this shocks me, because y’know, baggage and all):

              I think you’d like his processing. Go look in his galleries. Truly creative. He shot the wedding of a friend of mine. She posted the entire set on FB and I was blown away. Every single one of those hundreds of shots was amazing. It was inspired. Creative documentary without losing any of its traditional aspects.

              The greats in wedding photography that push my limits:

              Ben Chrisman – i am an unabashed of this guy. He composes and lights MAD good.

              Cliff Mauter
              Jonas Peterson
              Marcus Bell
              Susan Stripling
              Ryan Brenizer
              Paul Von Rieter

              I gotta say, however I feel about weddings, there’s just nothing like one of them to keep my reflexes sharp. Portraiture, event, sport, illustrative, landscape – all of these types of images happening in one day, and happening FAST. If you’re not running with it, you’re done. And I just assist. Bloody good exercise too, not that you need it i suppose 🙂

            7. I had a quick look at Feldberyl’s blog and was stunned. I have never seen wedding images done to the level of art that he takes it to. Truly creative and inspiring, amazing.

              I totally get you when you talk about weddings and how it’s the ultimate event for keeping you sharp, being able to anticipate what happens to get images. I would rather suck at it I think 🙂

            1. Hehe, never say never mate 😉

              I was just having a look at that. Will chuck comments in that box and we can have another long thread.

  2. I really like this Flemming. I really like your apparent lack of processing. I regard your work as very honest photography.
    I feel as though I much prefer your light side as opposed to your dark side.

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