“Is photography art?” was discussed for over a hundred years. The photo-secessionists, like all pictorialists, thought they had in some way to ape painting to be acceptable. Perhaps more success came when photographers accepted the strengths of their own medium and people like Paul Strand, and then the Group f/64, got to work. But then you got the situation where very sharp, high contrast black and white photography was art, and nothing else was. Perhaps thanks to digital, color is not only accepted as capable of being art, but there are now some questions about the validity of b & w.
And it suddenly struck me that there has been b & w art throughout history – it just wasn’t, isn’t, called that. For example, engravings and etchings by not only people like Albrecht Dürer but also JMW Turner and in the 20th century painters of b & w abstracts. And painters like Turner and James McNeill Whistler were earlier demonstrators of how an artist can work in both color and black and white.