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The Most Innovative Photographers Working in Black & White

Whether they’re shooting film or digital, these 20 photographers don’t need colors to captivate.

Since the introduction of color film in 1958, black and white photography has taken on a classic, nostalgic feel. It’s a universal way for present-day photographers to create a retro look. It’s not an easy style to work with, however. Black and white photography can be extremely challenging to keep interesting and dynamic—after all, the final image won’t look like what you see through the viewfinder.

To celebrate the creative talent that’s opting out of color, we put together this list of 20 photographers that has mastered shooting black and white in their own style. They prove that you don’t need color to be captivating.

From English photographer Josh Nice who documents skateboarders across Europe, to New York street photographer Andre D. Wagner who develops his own film, these portfolios set the standard for what’s possible in black and white.

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1. Haruka Sakaguchi

Originally from Japan, and now based in Brooklyn, Haruka Sakaguchi’s black and white photography is full of life. Whether she’s shooting portraits or documenting her surroundings on travels across the United States and elsewhere, Sakaguchi’s images are powerful and carefully considered. She uses a classic serif font to give her portfolio a professional feel.

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2. Rebecca Naen

London fashion photographer Rebecca Naen often shoots on 35mm film, working with magazines like Coeval, Oyster, and Client. She offers a brief introduction to her portfolio with an overview gallery, and then organizes the rest of her work by dividing it between personal and editorial images.

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3. Agata Serge

No one can capture freckles as well as Agata Serge does. The Polish photographer, who is currently based in Łódź, Poland, excels at sharply focused portraits and editorial shoots. She has won a number of awards for her photography, including International Photographer of the Year in 2016, and she was included in New Dutch Photography Talent in 2014. Serge keeps her portfolio simple with a classic logo.

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4. Charlee Black

Charlee Black is a photographer based in the American Midwest. She specializes in gorgeous, up-close black and white portraits, and uses a vertically scrolling theme to show them off in a way that grabs the viewer’s attention.

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5. Josh Nice

This London photographer and skateboarder captures the exploits of a French skate crew beautifully in candid analog photos. His black and white photography feels especially classic. Nice introduces his portfolio website via a vertical scroll of his best shots, with a sidebar menu linking to different series.

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6. Charlotte Navio

Charlotte Navio is a French photographer based in Paris. She’s worked with brands like L'Oreal, Givenchy, and Lancome. Navio uses a vertically scrolling grid theme to display her portrait work, including lots of classic black and white shots. A floating, pastel-hued menu allows access to other portfolio pages without distracting from her work.

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7. Lieke Romeijn

Based in Amsterdam, Lieke Romeijn takes beautiful, delicate analog portraits, as well as photos of the places she visits. Romeijn organizes her images with a grid theme, which allows separate series to stand alone as whole bodies of work.

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8. Richard Rothman

New York photographer Richard Rothman has work in the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Rothman’s black and white photography is meditative and quiet, capturing unexpected moments of depth. He gives context to his work right away by using his About page as him home page on his online portfolio.

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9. Sarah Gallaun

Based in Austria, Sarah Gallaun is a portrait and fashion photographer. She mixes black and white and color images for a varied and interesting online portfolio. Gallaun has worked with Monki, and been featured in outlets like Cake and Contributor magazine.

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10. Andre D. Wagner

Photographer Andre D. Wagner works exclusively with analog film, developing his own prints in a traditional darkroom. Originally from Nebraska, he can now typically be found in New York City, where he excels at capturing street scenes that are full of energy. His black and white photos have a classic feel. Wagner displays his images one by one, keeping galleries short.

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11. Cinthya Guillen

Based in Southern California, Cinthya Guillen specializes in black and white analog photographs. In her Commuter Series, seen here, the most prosaic train stations seem interesting when framed in film photos. Guillen uses a minimal theme, without much text, to keep the focus on her work.

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12. Willemieke Kars

Highlights of this Dutch photographer’s portfolio include a compelling portrait study of author Bredje Hofstede, pictured here, as well as a black and white photo project called Looking At The Other, in which Kars asked fellow train riders in the New York subway system to take her photo. Kars displays photos one by one for a minimal, distraction-free portfolio.

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13. Rob Outlaw

Whether it’s photographing ancient ruins in Utah or mountains in Montana (as seen here), photographer Rob Outlaw knows what makes a landscape photo work. The established American photographer has been documenting scenery stateside for over thirty years. He creates an elegant online portfolio with a subdued grey background that makes his black and white images pop.

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14. Sebastian Cvitanic

Based in Seattle, Sebastian Cvitanic specializes in analog photography, capturing striking black and white portraits as well as lively street snapshots. Cvitanic aims to take photos that are beautiful in their simplicity, working in a classic, straightforward style. Organizing images into separate galleries of black and white portraits, color portraits, couples, and other categories keeps his portfolio site easy to navigate.

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15. Birdee

This enigmatic photographer doesn’t share much information on her portfolio, but her photos are stunning. In addition to two series of self portraits, she’s also shot black and white photos of a range of musicians. Her self portraits, in which she’s often floating underwater, are frequently superimposed over images of plants, giving the work an organic, abstract feel.

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16. Pernille Sandberg

Based between Berlin and Scandinavia, photographer Pernille Sandberg shoots fashion and fine art photos, mostly in black and white. Whether she’s creating abstract portraits or documenting backstage moments at runway shows, Pernille’s images are powerful. She uses a minimal sidebar theme to sort her work into categories like art, portrait, and fashion series.

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17. Darryl Richardson

Fashion photographer Darryl Richardson has shot for Brooklyn’s Flatbush Zombies, and done backstage shoots for brands like Hood By Air, Maison Kitsune, and Alexander Wang. He’s also shot street scenes in cities from Tokyo to Mexico City. Richardson separates his portfolio into fashion and travel photography, allowing for easy navigation of his diverse work. A super minimal menu gives his portfolio a modern vibe.

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18. Jean-François Flamey

Based in Belgium, Jean-François Flamey takes enigmatic photos on film. His black and white images are eerie, artfully unfocused, capturing brief moments in time. Flamey arranges his photos in a collage-like format across a horizontal scroll, exhibiting a number of different, compelling series.

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19. Lee Bullitt

New York photographer Lee Bullitt takes intimate portraits on analog film, often shooting in black and white. Bullitt introduces her work via one page which lists selected photo series, and includes separate pages for her bio and press mentions to keep things organized. Her unique logo helps make her portfolio memorable.

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20. Jack French

English photographer Jack French’s black and white photos are incredibly peaceful. “I’m interested in how to get closer and deeper into nature using photography,” says French in his portfolio bio. On his site, he presents three very simple galleries of work: Woods, Rock, and Water. The minimal style fits well with French’s quiet, contemplative photography.

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Cover image by Haruka Sakaguchi.
Want to see more of our favorite portfolios? Check out the best online portfolios by Format’s best…
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