A swimsuit edition.
A swimsuit edition.
More than specific photographers who have or have not been featured in View Camera (which is either water under the bridge or only 1-2 issues? worth of material) I?m interested in the "types" of article published.
Unlike a poster somewhere above (the Playboy guy) I?m not convinced that View Camera should offer more (or larger) photographs and fewer words; frankly, I?d kind of like to see more words. Pictures are available everywhere we look, and while numerous photos are obviously appropriate in a magazine about photography(!), the difference between a half-page photo and a full-page one is several paragraphs of enlightening text. I also find with photography magazines that are short on text that if I don?t like a set of photographs I get nothing out of that section. On the other hand, I may not be crazy about someone?s photographs but they may have a lot to say (Robert Adams leaps to mind; his book of essays "Beauty in Photography" is to me perhaps the single best photography book ever even though it has few photos overall and none of his own). Besides, many magazines will publish good LF photos, but only one magazine?View Camera?is likely to publish the story behind those photos.
First, what shouldn?t View Camera do? The magazine must acknowledge that the playing field has changed in the years since the magazine was founded. There?s no reason to cover material that?s easily accessible out there (or right here at this site) on the Internet or material that is well-covered in books (like Steve Simmons? own!). Many technical pieces fall into this latter category?especially articles for beginners (which strike loyal?i.e., longtime?VC readers as a waste of space). Even pictures can be viewed at photographers? websites in great detail and in greater quantity than the magazine is likely to offer.
So what SHOULD View Camera do? There?s still a lot that isn?t available on the web (or in books) and View Camera could use its gravitas to provide it. For me, the whole challenge of photography is "learning to see," and I?ve tried to think of what kinds of articles or feature series would be helpful toward that end. Five thoughts:
1. A feature called "People to watch," or "Emerging photographers" or "New eyes" ? This would be a single excellent photo and paragraph from an undiscovered, often unpublished LF photographer (like many of us on this site), perhaps 2 or 4 persons per issue (one page each). It would be cheap for the magazine, be interesting for readers (who would benefit from seeing strong images they might otherwise not have seen), and would be a big boost to amateurs (in both senses of that word). It?s not an unrealistic expectation, as to be published one would need only have a single home run, not an entire winning career.
2. Icons of photography ? Not people (who are well-covered in books) but images. I?m thinking View Camera would publish an image that is either well-known or strong enough that it should be well-known, along with a historical explanation of it? and then would have a variety of photographers and academics/critics/curators comment on the image, say, a paragraph each. (I see it as a "dead-photographer" feature because I think we could all learn more from studying the work of those who made our mistakes decades before we did). Again, the goal would be not only enlightening conversation and an exchange of perspectives but also "learning to see."
3. Multiple interpretations of the same subject by different photographers (yes, this could entail literally publishing a set of workshop pictures). Alternatively, an explanation of how one photographer solved the challenge of a single subject (snapshots from various angles, explaining the shortcomings of each, accompanied by a larger reproduction of the perspective the photographer ultimately judged the best?with an explanation why it works for him/her). Not a lot of space; perhaps a double-page spread every other issue or so.
4. More on books. Book reviews (both new and long out of print); book lists (personal favorites) by photographers, known and unknown (and by subject: landscape, architecture, etc.); articles on the book industry; interviews with authors, editors, publishers, and printers; excerpts from new books; stuff on collectible books (a huge sideline to photography collecting), etc.
5. An ongoing series of self-written (or ghostwritten, based on scratchings by the photographer) profiles of "working photographers," no more than one per issue: "On location with Susan Jones" or "In the field with John Smith." Each installment would show a few examples of the featured photographer?s work?enough to establish a common language with the reader, anyway?but would primarily consist of text to help the reader understand how the photographer ticks. (I like JPCaponigro fine, but instead of interviews I think he should be used more for analysis?seemingly his main interest; he could oversee #2, above?and of course for digital subjects.) This kind of series would let View Camera revisit the excellent photographers it has featured before, but without covering the same ground.
In terms of understanding the "working photographer" series suggested in #5, maybe it would help to think about what the average View Camera reader would talk about with the profiled photographer if they were to spend a day together (perhaps driving around scouting and not even taking any pictures). For example, many successful photographers claim they?re just "naturals" or that they?re "self-taught," when in fact (except for those who through trial and error figure out how to use a camera that washed up on their desert island) we are all immeasurably influenced in the way we see by countless other photographers. When I see a photographer?s work, I want to know how s/he got there, what they?re trying to say, and where they?re going with it. But I don?t want gaseous philosophy or excessive artsy-fartsiness of the kind that?s in art students? "artist?s statements" at a gallery; I?m talking nuts and bolts, what works and what doesn?t in real life, in trying to be creative and good and fresh every single day. Reality photography, if you will. Examples of the kinds of questions I wish these working photographers would address:
"How did you get into photography? How did you get into LF photography? Which photographers did/do you find inspiring? Even more importantly, what was it about these photographers and/or their work that you find inspiring? (EWeston?s compositional eye, for example, or Ansel?s subject matter, or Minor White?s "spirituality") What don?t you like about these mentors? oeuvre? Which photographers (especially dead ones) do you think are underrated? Overrated? How did you develop your own eye? Do you have a lot of photography books? Collections, technique, themes/places, or monographs? What books do you prize most? What other forms of artistic expression are inspiring to you? (Cezanne landscapes? Bach fugues? Bob Marley CDs?) Do you get creative blocks, and if so how do you overcome them? Do you like the "post-production" (darkroom/computer) part of the image-making process or would you rather be in the field? Do you usually know you?ve got a strong picture as soon as you click the shutter or do you find you make new discoveries, including cropping, in the darkroom or on the light table? When in the darkroom or at the computer do you like to work alone for hours on end until a project is done, or do you revisit it frequently on different days to see it anew? At these times do you listen to music or work in silence? How do you balance family and personal life with your photography? If you?re married, how does your spouse affect your work? Do you take vacations or trips without photographing? Do you have other hobbies? Do you have other artistic outlets (e.g., piano, sculpture, woodworking)? Why do you use the specific photographic tools that you do (monorail vs. folding, metal vs. wood, etc.)? Do you have any little tips about technique, composition, focusing in low light, keeping dust out of your holders, etc. that are by now instinctive to you? How do you transport your stuff around, both between locations and on location? Does your photography depend more on walking to places or flying/driving there? How do you find subjects? How do you get gigs? Any horror stories about failed assignments, through your fault or others?? Are you a good bookkeeper and marketer, or do you rely on others for help in one or both of those areas? How do you approach a familiar subject? An unfamiliar subject? Do you think you work best in an unfamiliar environment (e.g., a place you?ve never visited before) or with a subject you know inside and out? In a new location, do you start shooting right away to get your first impressions down, or are you a slow starter, wanting to soak in the place for a few hours or days first? Do you use any tools to help you visualize a scene before setting up your tripod or before shooting (viewing filters, polaroids, digital p&s)? How do you organize files of your past work? How do you preserve spontaneity in your photography (or don?t you, valuing contemplation instead)? Who is your best critic? Whom do you "run your images by" for comment? Do you rely on your spouse/significant other more for positive support or for clear-headed critique? Do you socialize more with other photographers or with people outside the field? Do you do other kinds of photography or use other formats? How do you say something new about a familiar subject? Why do you use black-and-white? (Or why do you use color? Or when do you use which?) What would you say you bring to a project that other photographers don?t? What makes a photograph "yours"? Who is your audience? Do you see the consumers of your photographs as different from yourself? Why should others care about your work? Why should they visit your website? What are your goals? How is your eye or your work evolving? Was there a breakthrough time in your aesthetic development, a Eureka moment? Did you realize it at the time or only in retrospect? How do you feel about your early work? When you see your new work as a viewer (on exhibit or in a publication), do you notice the work?s shortcomings or its strengths? Do you teach? Why or why not? If you were teaching, how would you find a middle ground between "just do what I do" and "do your own thing"? What do you think intermediate-to-advanced students are looking for? What?s the best format for teaching? Have you participated in workshops where you were not the teacher? What advice would you give to beginning photographers about learning to see? What do you see as the future of LF photography? Of photography in general? Of the still image? What about the role of digital manipulation; does it appeal to you or not?"
You get the idea. I apologize for going on so long, but then that?s the beauty of free bandwidth (and the drawback of no co
I know this might seem like a turn to popularism or might even seem lowbrow, but how a bout a critique of large format photos readers send in. A few of the Brit magazines have this feature and one in particular is very honest and sometimes cheeky - all for the beenfit of the photographer and the reader, of course.
As I still consider myself a "learner" in the field of LF, I'd really like to see more "how to" articles, especially on printing/processing. I must admit to being a little disappointed with the contents of some issues but on the whole I am eternally grateful to Steve Simmons for the publication. MY BIGGEST GRIPE IS THE TIME IT TAKES TO REACH US HERE IN THE UK!!!! Regards Paul
I like the idea of doing a swimsuit edition. I've heard that Playboy used an 8x10 view camera for their center-folds. How 'bout doing something on that.
How about an extreme approach! Edit VC like an academic journal by publishing only work that contributes to the building of what might be described as a "theory of large format photography." First, eliminate all articles on equipment and technique unless they can be tied directly to new and innovate work. These articles would be similar to scholarly articles on methodology. Second, Exclude all work that is derrivitive, redundant, or simply replicates past work. This would have the effect of eliminating most nudes, pictures of the national parks, sea shells, etc. Third, begin to eliminate work that can be linked to either the pictorialist or modern (f64) schools. If work can be described as "post-modern" or a similar category it would be included. Again, anything that moves the discipline forward! Finally, develop a new way of publishing the "journal" which eliminates the overreliance on advertising and the potential subserviance to equipment manufacturers. Beyond that, develop of system of "blind" reviewers who decide what work is published.
This is off-thread, and directed specifically to Micah about the post above: When I was studying singing at university, one of my greatest influences and guides was a book called "Great Singers on Great Singing" by bass Jerome Hines consisting of interviews with established and renowned artists about the "nuts and bolts" of their technique. It seems to ma a similar book about LF photography would be in great demand and fill a much-needed niche. Micah's post above could easily be adapted for serious interviews with notable LF photographers as a basis for such a work. All the right questions (and then some) are already there. How 'bout it Micah? Game for a literary project? I'm sure the potential interviewees would be willing. Just a thought. Regards, ;^D)
I want to give a hand to Steve for publishing a great magazine. It is very hard to publish an all inclusive magazine which meets the varied interest of a varied readership. I think there are some real interesting and worthwhile suggestions in this thread. One of the suggestions that I feel fell flat was the suggestion that the magazine throw out all material already done and only include seminal work that is new and cutting edge. I find the monikers "new" and "cutting edge" in describing work as very boring. Remember that at one time Michael Fatali's work and Michael Kenna's work was cutting edge. I like to revisit established photographers to see what new work they are doing. And I love to see the work of new photographers. I also really like to see images. The philosophy behind work and vision is very interesting but a picture is worth a thousand words. A lot of the philosophical writing says the same thing over and over. I like the photographer to talk about what the idea is about and how it evolved. Technique is nice also. And as old hands at photography, large format in particular, we need to remember that the magazine is published for us as well as the new up and coming large format photographer. Quite a few of us looked upon VC as a bible of sorts when we first delved into the format. So I say to Steve, keep up the good work but take some of the suggestions offered here and make VC a better magazine. My one real complaint with the magazine is the deteriorating quality of the images as printed on paper. James
I too think Simmons does an excellent job with View Camera. he has good writers who ask (usually) smart questions and who understand it isn't about gear but about vision.
An article I'd like to see is a follow up on the Fatali profile that covers at least the same length, the damage Michael Fatali did, both to the site and to the cause of photography in the National Parks, and perhaps damage caused by other over eager photographers who think common sense rules don't apply to them, that they are more special than the next person.