Black and white beauty
“Mounter’s television shop”. My aunt recalled, shop by shop, the businesses that lined the main street of Langport in the 1960s. Reaching the corner opposite the post office, there was a shop that never failed to capture the attention of a young boy of the time, “Mounter’s television shop.”
It was in 1967 that the first colour televisions appeared and the only place where most of could have watched them was through the window of Mounter’s television shop. The colour television sets were huge and the cost of put them far beyond the reach of most ordinary people. However, if colour television sets were visible through the windows of the local electrical shop, then some local people must have been buying them. To have had a colour television set must have been a source of constant fascination, to see things in a way you had never seen them before. Even to stand in the street and look through the plate glass shop window, watching the images cross the screen, was fascinating for a boy. No sound was necessary, the pictures were entirely novel.
In our house, we still had a black and white portable as our only television until November 1990. I remember precisely because it was a month after our son was born that our Mitsubishi set was bought: it lasted until 2007. Admittedly, monochrome television was a bit passé by 1990 and the television licence people seemed to express increasing suspicion in their correspondence each year, the black and white licence being considerably cheaper than the colour.
In the 1970s, with the advent of the automatic photo booths, black and white photographs were the stuff of romance. Thirty or forty pence would buy you a strip of four pictures that might be shared with favoured friends. The shadowy innocent photos of one’s amour were a far remove from the digital images that are now instantly shared. Monochrome photography has not not gone away. Black and white still seems the preferred medium of many photographers; it has qualities, a capturing of nuances that polychrome pictures somehow miss. Monochrome pictures can transform scenes from being mundane to being artistic; there is not the starkness, not the cold reality conveyed by full colour.
Politically, perhaps a monochrome world was easier; black and white pictures were more effective in concealing the worst of unpleasantness, rendering harshness in shades that could conceal the full ugliness of a sometimes violent reality. Perhaps, if colour pictures had been earlier available, history might have been changed by a full realisation of the horror.
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