I've decided to start another thread because neither of the existing ones deal with the real issue.
The fundamental problem with View Camera Magazine is that there is no apparent attempt at editorial direction or quality control.
This is a particularly serious problem for this magazine because the contributors are photographers rather than professional writers.
Because Mr. Simmons consistently says that he wants specific comments, I am going to focus my remarks on the current issue to illustrate what I mean. He won't like what I've got to say, and perhaps others will also take exception, but so be it.
Norman McGrath is an accomplished architectural photographer. While he has a book to his credit, on the evidence of the two pieces that he wrote for the current issue for View Camera, he is not a writer. That understates the problem. Either he had a great deal of editorial guidance while writing the book that he published some years ago (which is perfectly normal) or his current articles for View Camera were tossed off without any regard for the people who might read them. Unfortunately, he did not get the advice of a trusted friend before he let View Camera publish these pieces. To put it bluntly, they are embarrassing. They are rambling, disjointed, anecdotal and amateurish to the point where one has to wonder whether Mr. McGrath was stoned when they were written. The fact that they were published is staggering, but is also not ultimately his fault. As noted above, he is a photographer, not a writer. He needs to have people around him who will say, as should have happened in this case, that the material was unpublishable, and he certainly deserved an editor who would ensure that the material was in decent shape. One of two things happened. Either the editor at View Camera does not know how bad the material was, or he or she doesn't care. Either way, the magazine failed Mr. McGrath, and the chief victim of that failure is Mr. McGrath himself.
There is a different problem with the staff-written articles that introduce the portfolios. The problem is that the narrative portion of each of these articles has no apparent function other than to bridge various quotes, themselves of little insight. The writing of these introductions is at high school level, and would not recieve a grade higher than C from a generous teacher.
As in the case of Mr. McGrath, I think that Mr. Barlow was badly let down by a complete failure of the magazine to exercise an editorial function. I am going to pass judgment on whether there was any point to the project that he undertook (an issue that he raises himself). I am simply going to observe that the articles do not allow one to draw any meaningful conclusions and, more importantly, that he makes repeated statements about people who donated materials that are not just ingratiating, but fawning. There are statements in his articles at which I cringed out of embarrassment for him. I am speaking specifically about references to sponsors referred to as "Kind Mr. so and so" and "Gentle Mr. so and so". Where on earth were the editors when Mr. Barlow was impaling himself like this?
I was stunned at a two-page "review" by Ellis Vener on a Sekonic light meter. Mr. Vener's article is not a review. It is a two-page description of features. And what is on the back page of the magazine? A full page advertisement for the meter that Mr. Vener spent two pages describing. From the point of view of a reader, the obvious conclusion is that Mr. Vener is now in the business of writing what is commonly known as a puff piece. If I had been him, I would have told Mr. Simmons to find a staff writer to fulfill this function. Mr. Vener has a reputation to protect, and offering himself as an advertising copywriter for Sekonic to further the interests of a magazine that will print blatant puff pieces can do nothing except undermine his reputation. Why on earth would Mr. Vener put himself in this position and, more importantly, why would View Camera put Mr. Vener in this position?
So why do I read View Camera? When I buy the magazine, it is to obtain the articles that Kerry Thalmann and others write about historical issues. Mr. Thalmann is no great stylist, but writing an article that sets out historical data about a company or a series of lenses does not require style. He and the others who do this yeoman work do it competently, and they can write a sentence in English. When View Camera runs an article of this kind in which I am interested, I purchase the magazine, photocopy the historical material, and throw the magazine itself in the trash.
I would have a higher regard for View Camera if it had an editor who had sufficient regard for the photographers who write for the magazine to ensure that they do not embarrass themselves in public. Unfortunately, that is not currently the case.