« Color Picture | Main | Advertorial and its Discontents »

Friday, 09 May 2008


I really enjoy the magazine. The articles are high quality and the production values are pretty good. You can buy it at Borders and Barnes and Noble in most places in the US. I'm not sure why British photo magazines are produced with so much higher quality than their American counterparts, but they are. It's a shame that Mike doesn't have a regular column in one of the American photo mags, but I guess that is consistent with their other editorial decisions.

I buy that mag every month for the great articles and it's devotion to B&W in general. Those UK publications sure are pricey here in the USA though. Good luck to Elizabeth.

Phew, what a relief!
Black & White Photography has very unique position in the magazine world, maybe now its fall towards the normal commercial standard has been stopped.
Each month's new issue was annoying me more and more, I was close to not buying it in future. Let's hope it gets back on track.
To be fair to David Corfield he did enter into a spirited dialogue with his detractors on the APUG forum and I wonder how much that rather public battle had to do with his leaving.

Cheers, Robin

I, too, enjoy this magazine very much. I am not a manic black and white photographer (I think I'll continue to steer clear of that subject, thank you) but I very much enjoy the magazine's principal devotion to photography rather than to kit. i look forward to seeing Ms. Roberts' influence in the coming months.

It's hard for me to consistently find Black & White on a newsstand even in downtown Chicago. So over a year ago I started a subscription. I've been amazed at the consistently fine condition in which this magazine, and my other overseas periodicals, arrive compared with the condition of my domestic mags. PDN arrives looking like it's been in a doctor's office for a month. Black & White arrives looking like a wrapped printer proof. It must be delivered by a British mail carrier.

Elizabeth Roberts has been an excellent contributor to the magazine for years. She understands the magazine's ethos and direction, and writes brilliantly. I can't comment on the nature of his stewardship, but I found David Corfield's articles cringe-worthy at times. I've been a subscriber for years but found myself for the first time skipping sections of the magazine filled with amateur photographic clichés and directionless drivel. I'm sure he's good at what he does, and I wish him every success, but B&WP is a special magazine, and it just wasn't the right gig for him.

You didn't fancy the move across the pond to take up the reigns then, Mike?

Seems like McWhinnie lasted the longest. Why the high turnover?

"It's a shame that Mike doesn't have a regular column in one of the American photo mags..."
Oh, do we still have any American photo magazines? Oh yeah, there's Outdoor Plumbing.

Black and White Photography is an inspiring UK magazine that still has lots to say about film photography but has no hang ups about digital. Wonderful portfolios and images with excellent quality reproduction - not too much droning on about equipment - balance about right. It is also the magazine that introduced me to Mike's excellent blog. I, along with many I am sure, was really touched by the story of Zander's introduction into his life - heartening stuff!

I was considering ending my regular sub to B&W as I thought the mag had lost some sparkle since Ailsa left. I'll hang on and see. A really nice touch is that the subscription version of the mag is different from the shop version in that it only has the mag title in discreet font and the cover pic - no other busy graphics. The pic on Mike's example is breathtaking but spoiled by the 'noisy' cover, albeit that it is reproduced within the covers. I hope the magazine revitalizes under Elizabeth and await with interest.

Simon, Norfolk UK

I used to subscribe to this magazine from the US, having them shipped to me from the UK, and did so for about 3 years before stopping about a year or so ago. I've liked it ever since I came across one of the earliest issues years ago on sale in Hong Kong (business trip from Beijing where I lived at the time). To be honest towards the end of Ailsa's tenure I felt the magazine was starting to go seriously down hill. It was getting too "cutesy" and informal and started to seem like a lot of editorial content was being written by people with only a rudimentary knowledge of photography (I was beginning to fear an article on digital photo scrap-booking or some profile on a weekend soccer mom photographer was coming any time). I hope this new person gets it back on track and with a bit more intellectual foundation to the magazine's direction and content. Last thing we need again is another photo magazine pandering to the lowest common denominator of reader.

Best news I've heard all day.

I think the quality of the magazine and the editorial dropped after he joined. I was thinking of stopping my subscription, not now.

Same fault as all the other mags in the UK - too much cameras, not enough photography. But photography doesn't really encourage the advertisers as much as the latest super digital doo-dah.

BTW, does anybody else think the paper quality has dropped over recent months? Most copies now come with 'curled' pages that refuse to sit completely flat (quite important in a photography mag) and look even worse after a few months.

Older mags still appear perfectly flat.

"Seems like McWhinnie lasted the longest. Why the high turnover?"

Mike O'Donoghue,
Ailsa McWhinnie was the Founding Editor from April/May of 2001 (the magazine was bimonthly its first year) and she was at the helm for 76 issues, until September 2007. Liz Roberts is the third Editor in the magazine's 7-year history.

As I say I don't know why David Corfield stepped aside, I just have the impression that he has a lot of entrepreneurial pursuits and that perhaps the magazine work wasn't paying his time. But I don't know.

Still, I'm not sure the "high turnover" charge is fair just yet. If Liz doesn't stay long, then maybe.

Mike J.

I agree entirely with the opinions expressed above regarding the recent direction of the magazine, and in fact cancelled my subscription the other week as part of a cost-cutting drive - had the mag appealed more, I might have tried to make savings elsewhere. A shame, because I came across many great photographers through it and broadened my awareness considerably. I'm now somewhat gutted to hear that Elizabeth Roberts - consistently an excellent contributor in the past - is taking over, but at least I have the remainder of my current sub to see how things pan out and perhaps reconsider.

I could see the reasoning behind what David Corfield was trying to do - draw in more newbies to improve circulation and give a firm foundation for expanded content - but his own derivative articles let the side down, and the regular "advertorials" that suddenly started appearing were a huge turn-off. In the end, I decided that if that's what it took to make the magazine viable, it wouldn't have any worthwhile value to me.

Liz has been with B&WP for quite a while and she was acting editor before David took over. I can't say that I have been impressed with his editorship and here's hoping Liz can get it back on track.


Can't find it anymore in Antwerp. Not enough market for a monthly magazine that costs more than most paperback books. Subscription is, for much of the reasons already mentioned by others above, not an option. Overseas subscribing is ridiculously more expensive anyway.

So I have to do without.

I miss it though. Especially the darkroom bits.

This is good to hear. I had also noted a distinct fall-off in editorial quality over the last few issues. There are so few publications out there concentrating on the photograph itself (rather than gear, fashion, "beauty" and {gaaagh!} celebrities); Lenswork is virtually the sole example in this country. Black & White at least pays attention to the image itself. Here's hoping it finds its mojo again.

For those looking for another quality photographic magazine [also from the UK] take a look at AG, expensive but in IMHO the best there is , beautifully printed, well writtem.
Antibes, France/Mealagh Valley, Ireland

Great news. I guess we will see less pictures of cars taken with crappy digital cameras in the next issues...



Miss Ailsa terribly, but Liz is the editor we should have had all along. Time to renew my subscription methinks!

Magazine is must read every month. High quality paper makes good detail in photos. I like blend of old & new - tech articles including digital tricks with old camera collecting. Least liked is guests attempts at landscape shoots.
Note: Many magazine have different covers on subscription vs newstand circulation, in attempt to catch attention on crowded shelves.

"remind you of anything" - yes, it reminded me that I went to the Edward Steichen show in Zurich recently!

(Funny how it looks modern because it now resembles a standard photoshop montage)

Thank goodness. I was just waiting for him to bring in Willie Chung and then it would have been like any other magazine .... product placement for camera companies.

Interestintg. I've been buying this mag for about two years, and did notice a change after Ailsa left. However I continued to buy it for the articles by Lee Frost, Eamon McCabe, Les Mclean and Mike. It's the only photo mag I buy, unless I'm abroad somewhere, and spot something interesting. I never knew they did a graphics free cover for subscribers - that is enticing!

Black and White and AG magazines have been my constant companions and mentors through my transition to digital and each issues arrival was anticipated with relish.
BW gradually succumbed to the pressures of balancing advertising with editorial but still retained editorial sparkle.
Sadly the gloss dimmed with the arrival of DC and I found myself with each issue saying I will not re subscribe. The first 2 or 3 issues had huge pagination and content flaws and the first major article by DC was a review of the Leica MP which had been reviewed in an earlier issue.
It is very easy to be critical from the outside but I do feel that DC would have taken the magazine into a position where sales dropped and the publishers would have had to look at the the possibility of closing the mag.
Ailsa did a great job and Elizabeth was part of that successful team so maybe the compass will now point north.


Really encouraging to see so much praise from so many non-UK readers for what undoubtedly has been (and hopefully will be again) one of the more interesting photography magazines in recent years.
The clean covers on the subscription copy of B&W have consistently used brilliant image choices.

However, I have a two-year subscription which finishes this year and was certainly considering cancelling. Under David Corfield's editorship the magazine changed its feel for me - although how many of the changes were his or were imposed on him from above I cannot say.

It must be a tough job finding that middle ground that appeals to the seasoned APUG fraternity (of which I admit to being one) as well as attracting newcomers whose only experience is digital and yet who yearn to learn more about monochrome possibilites.

I wish Elizabeth well in her new role and will certainly be renewing my subscription again this year.

More comments in this RFF thread (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=58770) - see Roger Hicks's post for further info about what Liz intends to do. It's interesting to note the almost uniformly positive and relieved response to this development, which suggests that the magazine was certainly alienating its core readership without (yet?) showing any gain from elsewhere.

I hope the new editor bring the magazine back into shape. In my opnion, the quality of the magazine has deteriorated during say the last year. It's looking more and more like one of those regular glossy photo mags that pollute the newsstand. It seems to me like it has developed into a beginner oriented magazine like the rest of the bunch, instead of providing an alternative to the endless test and equipment frenzy of the other magazines. Once they started with the stupid photo critique, I stopped buying Black & White Photography. And I'm sorry for that, because at one point it was very good.

To Emm Jay. "UK publications are pricey here". Would me pointing out some other price differences between USA/UK help at all ?

Some examples of things I have been looking at recently - I have translated the £sterling into US$ for you:-

FUJIFILM FPC-100: $8.50 USA / $22 UK
5 pack of E100G 120: $30 USA / $50 UK
Photoshop CS3: $649 USA / $1100 UK

[I'd rather pay more for the magazines.]


I just look at the photographs.

Have to agree with Clive Evans — AG's a great read and well put together. A bit Mac-heavy, but I can live with that.

I agree with Kris. And more: the Editor does not used a film camera and always said something like this: I imagine this on mamyia RZ and TriX, etc, etc, etc...

To me, at that Magazine, it was a shame.


Glad to see I'm not the only one who's been a little discontented with the magazine in recent months.

I found my first copy in the UK, bought every issue during a 6 month stay there last year, then subscribed when I returned to Australia, just in time for the editor-swap...

Ah well, a different hand on the tiller will steer a different course - let's see how the new Skipper manages.


There's been much to enjoy in recent months but I confess I've found David's own contributions rather uninspiring. I like B&W because it takes me a while to read it. Back when I was a comparative novice it was the articles I didn't understand that attracted me. The magazine clearly had a depth that I could invest in.

Other monthlies are popcorn in comparison.

This is uplifting news!

Having enjoyed the magazine monthly for a few years, I stopped buying it shortly after Corfield took over. I will certainly give it another chance as soon as I see that Elizabeth Roberts is in charge.

I suspect Mike's column on digital equipment will continue unchanged - but you can't win 'em all... ;)


Yesterday, in a rare case of over-efficiency, I found myself with 40 minutes to kill before a doctor's appointment. Knowing there is a well-provisioned newsagents next to the clinic, I headed that way to see what was on the stands. I used to be a magaholic in my teens, but as a grown-up with a tight budget (and too many lenses on my wish list) I don't buy magazines anymore. Still, with all the talk about B&WP here at TOP, I thought this seemed like the right time to close my eyes, hold my breath, and plonk down $12 for the mag. I asked for a discount seeing as it was the March issue (and we're in mid-May), but at 9:20am the guy behind the register was in no mood for haggling (may John Cleese not read this).

Having never read B&WP, I must start off by saying that it is the best photography magazine I've read in a while. Admittedly, this isn't saying much, as my exposure to photo mags comes mainly from reading whatever selection I find at airport newsagents. Still, I found the photos of high quality, the adverts not as plentiful as in American mags, and the text well above the frat-boy slang I've come to loathe. Yes, there is some humour, but not enough to pull you away from the main point of the articles.

However (you knew there'd be one, right?), I agree that the features written by Mr Corfield were at the bottom of the quality scale. No prejudice here; I read the articles without looking at the author names, and gave a mental mark before finding out who wrote what. Invariably, Mr Corfield's articles were uninteresting and blandly written. Luckily, I loved the rest of the content! I was thoroughly impressed by the work of Martin Henson ( http://www.digital-monochrome.co.uk ) and Trevor Crone ( http://www.miragephotogroup.co.uk/TREVOR%20CRONE/index.html ). Andy Gotts's Hollywood portraits were none too shabby either. What consistently bothered me was the feeling that articles were being cut short; I was always left wanting to know more. Interviews with John Davies or the aforementioned Roger Crone felt unfinished. I'm sure these fine photographers had much left to say, and I wanted to read it! Am I maybe a closet reader, not a photographer? And can a magazine cater to my need for both images and the written word?

These issues notwithstanding, I want to make clear that if this is "bad", I can only imagine what the magazine will look like when it gets "good" again. I might have to reconsider my ban on magazine subscriptions!

As a side note, I found an article written by some smug-looking fellow (Mick something-or-other) trying to convince us that sensor sizes in digital cameras don't matter that much. How preposterous! What next? Will he try to convince us that you can take good photographs without a $2,000 lens? Really...

I have also read this mag on and off since its inception, lately though I have found it has become rather tired and this was before "the Corfield" took the helm. The interview with Bailey was symptomatic of its malaise, predictable and boring, and as for the photographs of him what a disappointment. They lacked impact and by comparison to his shots showcased looked extremely amateurish, what a wasted opportunity. The also seems to be a tendency for the content to be used as a promotional vehicle for some of the contributors, particularly Lee Frost, I appreciate some of his work is worthy but surely there must be other folk out there capable of submitting interesting and quality work. The sad reality is that it seems to have become an incestuous club run by a chosen few.

David Corfield has himself stated on an APUG forum thread:

"GMC decided to review their staffing and bring the editorship in house, which is entirely understandable. I stepped in when Ailsa left to fill the breech, and now Liz is sufficiently confident and inspired to step up to the plate. It was a freelance contract. My job is done - although I will still remain as a contributor to the magazine"

I was one of many feeling nervous of the direction he (or the publishers) might take the magazine. IMO it has dipped somewhat but hasn't declined too much, not enough to cancel my subscription to the only photo magazine I buy these days (more due to dissatisfaction with most titles than any form of self-discipline at the newsstands).

I have just received the subscribers edition of the June issue and have rushed here to mention it. This is the first issue with Liz Roberts as "Acting Editor" (I assume a temporary title) and the difference is night and day. All the annoying crud from the Corfield era is gone: the critique, the "how to shoot pictures" articles, etc. The DSLR listing has been replaced with a much more relevant and useful "BW materials" listing. Les McKean's darkroom advice column has been substituted by a roundtable with four regular contributors. And the included photos are fantastic. Definitely back on track!

I bought the June issue a couple of days ago, and I'm thoroughly thrilled! The magazine is back where it should be, full of interesting material.

...and I even, happily, have to eat my words from a few comments back: Mike's column is not about digital hardware, but an essay on photography in the style that used to have me turning to his column first! :)

The comments to this entry are closed.