You might remember the 1998 Gary Ross movie, Pleastantville. The movie is based on a couple of boys in the 1990s who get caught inside a 1950s sitcom where the characters literally live in black and white. Think of getting transported into Leave it to Beaver and getting stuck there!

Funny thing for me is that when I was young, I always thought of my parents having grown up in black and white because that was what I saw in old photos. I guess Gary Ross must have thought the same, as he created a movie about it.

Of course, everyone shown in these old photos lived in color, even though the photos and the motion pictures and TV shows portrayed only black and white.

The past few weeks, it was my privilege and honor to create a slide show on the life of my father-in-law, who passed away in August. I was provided with many photos, courtesy of the family. The ones that most resonated with me were the ones in black and white. They portrayed a young man whom I didn’t fully recognize. While I knew the man for 41 years, I’d never seen pictures of him in his youth.

I’ve always been drawn to black and white photography. There’s something in the imagery, lighting, and style that incorporate depth and substance. As I worked with these old images, I found myself imagining Pop (as I knew him by) living in black and white, just as I did with my parents.

As we continue to live in a digital world that’s fully in color, it feels like we are missing something.

Photos are ubiquitous. I think I’ve got almost 2,000 in my phone alone. They are easy to snap and in many cases, are almost taken carelessly, knowing that they can easily be discarded and reshot, if needed. Admittedly, I personally enjoy the ease of taking photos and having them immediately accessible.

But if you’re anywhere near my age, you may recall the care that photo taking used to require.

  • You were more intentional with the setup of the shot because you wouldn’t know until later if it was any good.
  • Developing pictures required time and skill. I fondly remember the smell in those darkened film rooms in my junior high photography class.
  • Sharing photos wasn’t simple. You had to make duplicates (or more) and actually either bring them to family events (and pass them around hands to hands) or mail them to relatives in an effort to keep them apprised of your life. And of course, it cost money to develop them.

While progress has been great and I fully take advantage of it, there is value to “black and white” that correlates with our businesses, careers, and lives.

We are often in too much of a rush to be intentional in our relationships. Maybe too often, we are content with discarding those relationships and associations that aren’t perfect. I don’t ever recall taking selfies before phones; perhaps we’ve become more selfish. And I confess that I don’t often go back and even look at the photos on my phone!

Black and white photography has depth and distinction. It reminds us of a way of life that was definitely less technologically advanced, but required more effort in building relationships.

So how can we live a more “black and white” life in our businesses and life?

Here are three thoughts from me:

First, be intentional in your relationships, whether they be employees, co-workers, friends or family.

Second, focus on depth. Don’t get caught in superficiality. That’s been made easier due to social media, so fight against the urge to rush to judgments.

Finally, we all have history that’s formed who we are. Invest time in taking the best and the worst of those experiences to help you grow as a human throughout life.

You may just find that going “old school” by living more “black and white” will help keep you focused and with great depth of character.

Okay…here’s a bonus for you – learn from those people that lived in those old black and white photos. I wish I’d talked more with the people in my life who are now gone. There’s a lot of depth and stories available to us if we just invest the time to ask.

Keep chasing unleashed.

Quote of the Week:

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

~ Thomas Edison

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