I found B&W Magazine while struggling to determine the best search term to locate film-based fine art photography magazines. To be clear, I was not looking for magazines about how to do photography or that offer gear suggestions and reviews. Instead, I was interested in seeing examples of fine art photography, and I wanted those examples to be film-based, if possible. Further, I wanted to read about successful fine art photographers. Last spring, while searching for black and white photography books, I came across a few listings for B&W Magazine. Using Google, I learned it is still being published. A little more research revealed its content and focus met my criteria.
B&W proclaims itself to be a magazine for fine art collectors—exactly what I was looking for. B&W began in 1999 as a quarterly then went bi-monthly. Since my interest was in film-era work, getting what I wanted required buying back issues from 1999 until 2008, preferably 1999-2004. Amazon wasn’t helpful, so on to eBay. eBay pricing for magazines is all over the map. Sets of three to six magazines were selling for 25.00 to 70.00. Individual issues were going for 10.00-25.00 and up. Eventually, I made deals for six issues from 2002 and another six from 2008. Issues from 1999-2004 were (and still are) scarce.
Happily, B&W Magazine has lived up to my expectations. Each issue is loaded with examples–even the gallery advertisements are worth studying. Photographer profiles and interviews have been helpful—especially layouts that present a set of images within a specific project or body of work. But mostly, I love browsing the photos. The photographs are well-done. They cover a variety of themes and concepts, and a few have made me stop and consider them at length. Having been pleased with my first two batches, I search every month or so to see if my preferred years appear at a reasonable price. They seldom do, but a few days ago, things went my way, and I got a batch of 12 covering 2003-2007 for 22.00!
As I had hoped, this magazine and the Garrett books have inspired me. I’m developing a list of subjects, backgrounds, and scene ideas—all still life—for my next round of shots. Testing will be expensive because I’ll be using a lot of 120 film. The good news is that Fomapan 200 will work for testing (now that I pre-wash the green away).
Since I will be experimenting, each session will use only one subject with different combinations of camera angle, exposure, DoF, background, and lighting. Each subject/session will likely consume a roll of film. Overall, I feel I’m in a good place to get started.
It has taken a couple of years, but I’ve finally amassed a decent set of books and magazines with the kind of content needed to help me move forward. Having page after page of examples allows me to identify appealing aesthetics that resonate with my sense of style and idea of beauty. Issues from 2000—which I have yet to see available— may show up on eBay one day. I’ll keep watching while dreaming up masterpieces (a guy can hope) for my wall. And to the editors of B&W Magazine, I say—THANK YOU!!!