Mark Seliger: The Power of Black and White Photography

Portrait photographer, Mark Seliger shooting with the IQ3 100MP Achromatic Digital Back

Portrait photographer, Mark Seliger, shared his thoughts on black and white photography. What the absence of color adds to his photography, and why he keeps returning to the form. The IQ3 100MP Achromatic was developed as a tribute to the art world. Phase One makes cameras, but the people behind our devices are the reason we do what we do.

We wanted to create a camera system that captured the timelessness of black and white photography in never-before-seen detail.

Thinking back to where photography began for you; was black and white always your passion?

“My first start as a photographer was in 1972 in the darkroom when I was 13 at a Jewish Community Center. I took an introductory darkroom class in black and white. That’s where it all began for me.”

Portrait photographer, Mark Seliger shooting with the IQ3 100MP Achromatic Digital Back

What does black and white photography do for your images?

“Black and white was always my passion in terms of print making, but I found my way into editorial from being able to shoot color. I keep going back to black and white, because it has renewed the idea of photography having an emotional impact. I see black and white and color as different paintbrushes. What each ‘paintbrush’ can do, depends on what the subject matter is. But for me, a simple black and white portrait can sum up all aspects of photography for me.”

What do you feel is the difference between a black and white and a color photograph?

“When you remove color from an image, it instantly feels more theatrical and elevated. In a portrait that is black and white, I find a certain elegance and gravitas. A black and white picture has the ability to transport the viewer into a different time and place. It essentially creates the illusion of a timeless experience.”

Portrait photographer, Mark Seliger shooting with the IQ3 100MP Achromatic Digital Back

What are your thoughts on Phase One creating a dedicated 100MP Achromatic Digital Back?

“Having a dedicated digital back for black and white seems like a natural progression in the age of digital. A dedicated system where the quality and the purity of a black and white image does not compete with layers of color, but just focuses on the purity of highlights, shadow and mid-tones. I think it was the necessary next step to bring the quality up to the standard and the expectation that photographers who understand what black and white film is.”

Read more about the professor’s experience with the achromatic here.

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Filed under: Portrait


Mark Seliger was born in Amarillo, Texas. He attended Houston’s High School for Performing & Visual Arts and East Texas State University. He was Rolling Stone’s Chief Photographer from 1992-2002, where he shot over 150 covers. From 2002-2012, he was on contract with Condé Nast where he shot regularly for Vanity Fair and GQ. Seliger now shoots frequently for Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and many other magazines. In addition, he shoots advertising work for Adidas, Anheuser-Busch, Levi’s, McDonald’s, Netflix, Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban and many more. Seliger is the recipient of such esteemed awards as the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, Lucie Award, Clio Grand Prix, Cannes Lions Grand Prix, The One Show, ASME, SPG, and the Texas Medal of Arts Award. Seliger’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. His photographs are part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the National Portrait Gallery in London.