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Photographic portfolio in black & white
A damselfly lands on a plumeria leaf in my garden right after I watered the plants. A color version of this photograph appeared in the National Gardening Magazine about three years ago. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The Dec. 16 and 17 editions of the Manteca Bulletin were special to me for 45 reasons.

The number refers to the black and white photographs submitted by readers who responded to the newspaper’s invitation for submissions. I enjoyed them all.

Black and white images have a quiet beauty that is innate in this photographic genre. There’s something really magical and mysterious about them which make me want to look at them longer, to linger and think and not just cast a quick glance. I suppose that’s because of the theory that less is more. That if you leave something to the imagination, you can see more, discover nuances and details that would otherwise be ignored or missed when viewing pictures in a visual cacophony of vivid colors making it harder to concentrate on the things that really matter. The symmetry of the still-life subject’s arrangement, for instance. Or the delicate and fascinating play of light and shadows on a simple subject matter. No garish colors to steal or lure your attention away.

I found some of the people photos quite moving. @middas3’s submission with the caption, “My granddaughter Hadley, when she was a few hours old,” is so engaging and touching. What a great shot, was my first thought, with the two people in the picture sharing a joyful moment, and the photographer capturing that moment for posterity.

Equally touching are the photographs submitted by Tamara Foreman, Cynthia Wolfe Epperson, Eric G., Asta Cheesman-Brasil and @matthewsrns. I learned, while I was writing this column, that the picture of a father holding his 18-month-old son’s hand while pulling a Christmas tree loaded in a cart was taken by the proud wife and mother of the subjects. The photographer is Tamara’s daughter.

The father-son bonding time photograph from Epperson is made even more powerful by the look of complete trust in the young boy’s stance as he leans against his father whose arms are around him while he learns the art of angling. The same emotions are evoked in Cheesman-Brasil’s picture of another bonding moment between a father and son. In this image, the son is shown enjoying a ride on his father’s shoulders while being surrounded by the long shadows of the trees around them.

Deeply moving to me is “My grandma’s last days,” a photograph submitted by Eric G. A picture paints a thousand words, so goes the old cliché. But there’s nothing even remote to cliché about this image.

Then there are the dramatic shots shared by Israel Rodriguez, Laura Vegas, and Miguel Quellar. Rodriguez’s swirling-light photo is a rare image that would look dramatic when viewed in color or black and white. The drama in Vegas’ picture of a young girl posing in a blooming almond orchard lies in the snow-white floral elements. I probably would have positioned the young girl a little off to the right or left of the picture so she does not look as if she is wearing a crown of blooming almond trees. Cuellar’s untitled shot of an animal’s skull is something reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefee’s paintings of the same subject. The lighting lends a dramatic effect, while evoking a sinister look at the same time.

The photograph taken by Dee Wackerly in the city of Skagway during an Alaskan cruise reminded me of a quote by master black-and-white photographer Ansel Adams: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Speaking of Ansel Adams, I’ve always wanted to see up close his photograph, “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. I have read that this was his most popular and collectible photograph. A 1948 print of this iconic picture sold at an auction in 2009 for $360,000. Last year, during a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was finally able to get a close-up look of a print of this image made by Adams himself. It was quite an experience, actually looking at an original photograph instead of a glossy print in a text book.

Today, there is proliferation – to put it mildly – of picture-taking devices, from smart phones and pocket cameras to, vibrantly colorful photographs have become so ubiquitous in our society, not just in the United States but in far-flung and previously mysterious corners of the world and in hitherto unknown worlds in space, thanks to the literally out-of-this-world intergalactic photographs beamed back to earth by the Hubble Space Telescope. We are deluged by photographs, the majority of which is in Technicolor.

I guess this is why it’s like a special treat looking at black and white photographs. There’s something really nostalgic about them, if not poetic.

After enjoying the Manteca Bulletin readers’ black and white photographic creations, I thought I’d share some of my own culled through the years.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, email or call 209.249.3536.