Black-and-white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is a term referring to a number of monochrome forms in visual arts.
Black-and-white images are not usually starkly contrasted black and white. They combine black and white in a continuum producing a range of shades of gray. Further, many prints, especially those produced earlier in the development of photography, were in sepia (mainly for archival stability), which yielded richer, more subtle shading than reproductions in plain black-and-white. Color photography provides a much greater range of shade, but part of the appeal of black and white photography is its more subdued monochromatic character.
Since the advent of color, black-and-white mass media often connotes something "nostalgic", historic or anachronistic. For example, the 1998 Woody Allen film Celebrity was shot entirely in black-and-white and Allen has often made use of the practice since Manhattan in 1979. Other films, such as The Wizard of Oz (1939), American History X, Pleasantville and The Phantom of the Opera (2004), play with the concept of the black-and-white anachronism, using it to selectively portray scenes and characters who are either more or less outdated or duller than the characters and scenes shot in full-color. This manipulation of color appears in the film Sin City and the occasional television commercial. Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire uses sepia-tone black-and-white for the scenes shot from the angels' perspective. When Damiel, the angel (the film's main character), becomes a human the film changes to color, emphasising his new "real life" view of the world.
Since the late 1960s, few mainstream films have been shot entirely in black-and-white. The reasons are frequently commercial, as it is difficult to sell a film for television broadcasting if the film is not in color. Monochrome film stock is rarely used at the time of shooting, even if the films are intended to be presented theatrically in black-and-white.
Movies such as John Boorman's The General and Joel Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There were obliged to be filmed in color by their respective producers despite being presented in black-and-white for artistic reasons. Clerks is one of the few well-known recent films shot in black-and-white for no artistic purpose; because of the extremely low out-of-pocket budget the production team could not afford the added costs of shooting in color. (Though the difference in film stock price would be slight, the store's fluorescent lights could not be used to light for color; by shooting in black and white, the filmmakers did not have to rent lighting equipment.)
Some modern film directors will occasionally shoot movies in black and white as an artistic choice, though it is much less common for a major Hollywood production. This is also true of black-and-white photography, where many photographers choose to shoot in solely black and white since the stark contrasts enhance the subject matter. For example, the movie π is filmed in entirely black and white, with a grainy effect until the end.
Some formal photo portraits still use black-and-white. Many visual-art photographers use black-and-white in their work.