American Photo

I'm in the market to buy a digital camera -- and the choices are overwhelming. I did the usual research, Consumer Reports, asked friends, then headed to Adorama on West 18th, the ultimate camera bazaar, expecting the hard sell. Instead, when I lobbed a quick question about Canon's G-9, the salesman snapped: "I can't show you how to work the camera. Do you want it or not?" Customer service, like Lou Dobbs' objectivity, is gone.

If you just want tips on cameras, try Popular Photography. It's got rankings, choices and a user-friendly approach that spells out the technical expertise involved in high-end purchases. However, if you value the art and culture of photography, give American Photoa look-see.

In a past life, when I sold photos to publications, I took classes and pored over books, a regular F. Stop Fitzgerald. Then, my beloved Minolta X-370 broke. I sat shiva -- and never touched another. Now, the allure is back -- and it was rekindled by AP, starting with its opening review of "Man Ray," the new exhibition at The Jewish Museum. A noted Dadaist and Surrealist, he was born Emmanuel Radnitzky but reinvented himself -- a nifty rebranding story that should inspire many print magazines.

In fact, the pub opens with an overview of exhibitions nationwide, then "Focus," a quick-hit of artists, with tech tips thrown in for good measure. The amount of knowledge and skill necessary to produce creative images is staggering. Like Olympic ice-skating or screwing up health care, it only looks simple.

An artistic shoot takes time, careful planning and the right equipment, explains celebrity photo stars Markus Klinko and Indrani, who will give viewers an inside look at their sometimes tempestuous 15-year working relationship in a new Bravo reality show tentatively titled "Double Exposure." They also shot model Naomi Campbell for AP's cover in a parking lot in London.

Here's the crazy part: They were stunned to discover people wanted to park! Or as Klinko recalls: "Don't you realize this is Naomi Campbell, and we're not going to move her just because you want to park your car?" Given her record of assaults, three to date, I suppose the drivers can count themselves lucky they left with windshields intact. Though I'm sure broken glass would appeal to the "gritty and raw" look Indrani wanted for the shoot. And who knows? Campbell might look great in prison orange.

Such coverage is not the only creative hook in AP's arsenal.

There is a terrific story called "Instant Gratification" on the artistry of camera-phone photography. Seriously. The iPhone, introduced in 2007, is the second most popular camera of any type. (First place belongs to the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi.) The reason is the apps -- and many offer filters.

In the right hands, the shots looked amazingly good. Robert Clark's book "Image America" was shot entirely with his cameraphone, while Chase Jarvis, a pro who finds the medium inspiring, released the book "The Best Camera Is the One That's With You," which blurs the lines between high and low art.

The "Skill" and the "Gear" sections were helpful; the latter clearly detailed the difference between the Olympus EP-1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1. Perhaps camera reviewers should revise the health care bill! I doubt it will take them 1,000 pages to obscure meaning. They'll produce a pro/con list: What serves the public and what doesn't.

Photography is a metaphor for life: It pays to get perspective before you snap.


Publisher: Bonnier

Frequency: Bimonthly


3 comments about "American Photo".
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  1. Neil Binkley, November 18, 2009 at 2:54 p.m.

    I have to give you kudos for possibly the best photography pun I've heard. "F. Stop Fitzgerald" gave us quite a laugh at the office. And being a photography agency ourselves, we hear them all!

    I also think it appropriate that you mentioned Robert Clark's book shot entirely by cameraphone, since he was the first photographer commissioned to do so. Not to mention his over 12 National Geographic covers. You can see all of his work at Full disclosure: he's one of our New York photographers, if you couldn't guess.

  2. Judy Sisneros, November 18, 2009 at 9:05 p.m.

    not exactly an original use of "F. Stop Fitzgerald"...just ask the well-known San Francisco punk photog who has been using that since the 1970s

  3. Helen Oster from Adorama Camera, November 19, 2009 at 8:29 a.m.


    I was concerned to read your comments re your experience in the Adorama store. At present, I can only offer a deep apology and assure you that this is not the standard of service we expect from our sales agents.
    If you could please contact me directly, I would welcome the opportunity to look into this matter, and to welcome you back to our store to experience the standard of service upon which Adorama prides itself.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

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