Paul Melcher's selection
Most might remember American Photo as a glossy magazine, lonely beacon of photography in a sea of various consumer magazine. Launched as the US clone of the french Photo Magazine, it soon became obvious that it couldn’t, and should not, remain identical. It thus quickly took a personality of its own and while edited by the same publisher, never looked back on its far distance cousin from the old world. During the film years and far into the digital ones, it still remain a lonesome exception. It was the only place where one could see true photography via portfolios. They were other photography magazines but they were just barely practical. Between How to’s and new equipment reviews, they hardly spend any ink and paper on what is after all the core of our passion, photography. American Photo gently sailed away in its own ocean, exploring by showcasing, taking its readership thought a fabulous journey of discovery , revealing edition after edition, an amazing array of photographic authors. Since it was the age of film, it made sense to be printed on paper.
Digital came, cards replaced rolls, and websites became the must have of the publishing world. While some magazines loved the transition, other resisted, unsure, unconvinced that this was the future of periodical readership. American Photo had a website but it was a sad website : A pale and sickly reflection of its shinny paper self. It was more a storefront peddling subscription than an online magazine and it lacked any passion or emotion. It was there because it had to be there, forced by some corporate boardroom, not by enthusiastic editors. And then, the magazine changed hands: The older French based publishing house sold the magazine, in a package deal, to an old Scandinavian competitor. The website, obviously, came along; not the staff. The print magazine still comes out, once in a while, as a happy go lucky image of its old glory trying to imitate with a new crew the exploit of its predecessors. Its readership is unknown and probably dwindling rapidly as it desperately tries to compete against the onslaught of places where one can discover and browse photographic work daily.
The digital edition, the American Photo website, is another story. Recently relaunched in a beautiful format, it is starting to look more like the original publication, full of places to discover, in a very appealing format. It is still about photography only, no equipment review here,but nice portfolio layouts, interviews and articles. It is still trying to sell you subscription to the print magazine, but at least it does it in a beautiful style. The question now is how frequently will it update its contents and can it sustain its current quality ?