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Thread: "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

  1. #1

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    B&W, perhaps the fastest growing serious photography magazine (at least among those that don?t showcase equipment and supermodels), has declared that it will not feature "digital photography." (No precise definition was given, but the objection covers at least those photographs that were _output_ digitally.)

    In an editorial titled, "In Consideration of Constancy" in the April 2002 issue, B&W publisher/editor/founder Henry Rasmussen writes, "I?m a traditionalist, in awe of old-fashioned craftsmanship, and moved by history. For me, this has always been the lure of black and white--its connection to the past.

    "The practical ramification for this magazine is that, having now made our position clear and public, we will not widen our editorial scope to include Digital photography. This is not a judgment reflecting on the worth of practitioners of the new ways, but a practical necessity--it?s impossible to please both sides in the same forum.

    Rasmussen continues: "However, I will not be shy about expressing an opinion that keeps me in the Conventional fold: In that age-old conflict between change and constancy, Digital represents an element of modern technology while Conventional represents craftsmanship.

    "This difference does not produce a watershed when it comes to creativity. It does, however, present a contrast when it comes to the method of reproduction: Digital utilizes a machine, much like a printing press, that places the output on a par with an etching, a lithograph, a poster--works of art that do not qualify as one-off. Regardless, we may from time to time reevaluate our policy, and will keep readers informed of developments in the Digital arena.

    "I realize," Rasmussen concludes, "that the subject can be discussed endlessly without converts being won by either side. But I do hope that practitioners of Digital photography will not see our concentration on Conventional photography as a negative comment on their priorities, their integrity, or their creativity--only as a decision in consideration of constancy." (copyright HR/B&W 2002)

    Again, I have no idea how Rasmussen feels about using digital at an earlier stage of the process than the printing: for example, a photo that was shot on 4x5 film, scanned and digitally printed as a 16x20 negative, and then printed as a silver contact print.

    It?s easy to dismiss Rasmussen as a minority voice of the elite traditional-print collector crowd, of which many photographers are not a part. On the other hand, B&W?s circulation figures indicate that the magazine is reaching a far wider audience than mere collectors (when young photographers ask me what book to buy to aid in learning to see, I suggest they "Buy as many back issues of B&W as you can and just pore over them.") Every time someone in an online forum asks about magazines that go beyond the gadget/celeb variety, B&W is up there near the top among recommendations. So B&W is not without influence in the wider photographic community.

    Thoughts? Reflective (as opposed to reflexive) responses especially appreciated.


  2. #2

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    Men Oh Men! How many times are going to rehash this Digital VS Traditional topic on this forum? So one more magazine of the many that are doing digital and/or traditional and digital wants to do only traditional, to my knowledge there are only two, photovision and now B&W, is this supposed to be a big deal? Oh men, I hope Tuan gets rid of this thread!!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    Magazines can be a thermometer that tells you where the life cycles of Photography are at. It's interesting to me that this magazine is thriving in spite of what all the others have said "must" happen. Tells me traditional photography is quite alive and well at this point.

    I wouldn't want to have to walk the fine line that this fellow is creating for himself. Magazine production is completely dependant on digits these days isn't it. So obviously if someone sends in a nice 11X14 contact, he has to go to the PC and Scanner to get it into the magazine. But that's production, not creation.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  4. #4

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    I see quite a few digital mags not featuring convential (film based, enlarger printed) photography.

  5. #5

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    And I can see that every issue this magazine will highlight as treachery the demise of yet another B&W film. I wonder if there were magazines for glass plate photography?

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    What is Rasmussen going to do whan he realizes that this years Pulitzer Prize winning image is most likely going to be a digital image?

    If he publishes it, his credibility will be reach much lower levels that it just did with his editorial. Lest we forget that a magazine that publishes excellent photographer should be more concerned with the message and less concerned with the capture medium.

    Can you say "Egg on your face".


  7. #7
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    This year's Pulitzer-prize winning image will probably also be in color, putting it out of the topic of _B&W_ no matter what the medium, so that is hardly relevant. An award winning news photograph would only be of interest if it were available as a collectible print.

    If the editor has identified an audience that shares an interest in traditional media, what difference does it make? It's not as if there aren't plenty of venues for digital work. If the magazine were called "Pd/Pt" and only published reproductions of platinum/palladium work, would anyone be bothered?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Mar 2001

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    It's clear to me that Rasmussen just doesn't know enough about digital photography. Anyone who is an expert at both digital and darkroom printing recognizes that each medium requires just as much craftsmanship, artistry, painstaking work, etc. I have yet to meet anyone who is an expert at both, who disagrees. My experience is that those who say there is not as much artistry in digital are simply ignorant of the digital medium.

    Poor guy, I think he just signed the death certificate for his magazine.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    As a board member of a Photographic Museum I have to say that Rasmussen is being very short sighted and doing his magazine a disservice. We regularly show work by many traditional and digital photographers. When scheduling exhibits we are interested in the artists imagery quality and not necessarily the medium although both certainly need to be of the highest quality.

    I can somewhat see the position of a gallery with respect to archival issues (almost), but a magazine? A photographic image is a photographic image despite how it was printed. I am interested in the image if it is brillant, if it was shot with digital capture, or on celluloid it is still a brilliant image.

    Mr. Rasmussen needs to open his eyes, and stop smelling the fixer.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    "B&W" magazine says No to digital photographs

    Many of the seminal photographs of the early 20th century, including most of the masterpieces of Paul Strand, are available only as photogravures. Wonder if he will reject them?
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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