While indulging in the debunking of an oft heard quote-"The best camera is the one you have with you."-Mike Johnston highlighted a reader's comment which read (in part)
"Color pictures have to work harder to mean anything." I like that line. B&W cuts to the essence of a subject ...
iMo, Johnston should have debunked the reader's comment while he was in a debunking frame of mind. Of course, Johnston has an oft stated preference for BW pictures, both the making and viewing thereof, so he might be hard pressed not to second that idea.
On the other hand I have no such preference so I have no difficulty at all in writing that I believe the idea of BW's supposed superiority over color in getting "to the essence of a subject" is utter nonsense. Now I certainly think I could write quite a long essay regarding why I believe the aforementioned idea is a load of self-serving crappola, but I won't. Instead let me proffer just one particular point.
BW picture making as the pinnacle of picture making is a concept which has come and gone. Prior to the advent of modern-era color film, making pictures with color film was an iffy proposition inasmuch as the early color films were less than perfect. The colors produced were not very accurate-some greatly exagerated other non existent-relative to real world colors and extended exposure latitude was the stuff of dreams.
As a result, "serious" picture makers worked within the confines of the BW picture making genre. Results could be tailor made - film contrast / tonal / grain control with the use of various developers and an veritable cornucopia of paper choices with a wide range of characteristics were the order of the day. "Serious" picture makers most often had their own special recipe for getting exactly the results they desired and they were/are as obsessed with getting their work flow "right" as any digital color picture makers of today.
All of that written, no matter the genre-color or BW-one chooses to work in/with, it is not the genre which works hard to get to the essence of a subject. Rather, it is the picture maker who needs to work hard in order to "master" the genre with/in which they ply their talents. In either case, a picture maker who has "mastered" their genre has the ability to make pictures which successfully represent the esssence of his/her subject. And have no doubt about it, "mastering" either genre-color/BW-is an skill / art unto itself.