I now know the excitement that can be felt by archeologists working an excavation site, because yesterday I unearthed The Material Girl at the bottom of a magazine caddy, where she’d been hidden since 2001. I understand why that may not impress hard-core diggers, but it is ancient history in the world of photography, and especially digital photography. The proof was inside that well-preserved issue of American Photo (even the annoying tear-out subscription cards were intact).
Opening the magazine, a two-page advertisement for the Nikon F5—a top-of-the-line 35mm film camera—was the first tip-off. The ad copy also touted the abilities of Nikon’s Coolscan film scanners, and any doubts 2001 was still solidly a film-based world were further dispelled on page 13 by an invitation to Share Moments. Share Life. with Kodak’s Elite Chrome Extra Color 100 slide film.
In between those products the magazine featured two non-photographic vices—the first a twilight gathering of hipsters on a boat dock enjoying the Full Flavor of Parliament cigarettes, who might then be expected to cap off their evening with Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin (on the rocks, and on the following page). Absolut Vodka is a temptation on page 15, but thereafter the magazine gets down to business.
Secrets of The Masters is the issue’s theme, and works by well-known photographers and those who, at the time, were overlooked—Evelyn Hofer, Lisa Larsen, Herbert Gehr, Max Dupain, David Gahr, and Izis—are displayed. They’re followed by Irving Penn, Annie Liebovitz, Neil Leifer, Sebastiao Salgado, Brigitte Lacombe, Edward S. Curtis, and Bert Stern in a non-stop romp through visual history. I recognized many of the photographs, while others were pleasant surprises, again, and I’ve no doubt I’ll feel the same upon seeing them ten years from now. A timeless quality is part of their genius.
Photographer Fred Vuich, shooting for Sports Illustrated, was in the Spotlight on page 65 with his memorable masterpiece of Tiger Woods teeing off during the 2001 Masters tournament, taken with a Mamiya 7 range-finder camera. Planning, reflexes, talent, and film.
After I’d gone through the issue I realized what was missing—gear. American Photo isn’t normally saturated with equipment ads, but there was a page on PDAs, and a scattering of new electronic devices and P&S cameras, and that was all. (Viewing them I thought “Why does old stuff look so ugly and make new stuff look so good?” And will people render the same verdict on today’s cutting edge designs in 2020?) At the end of any shoot it is the photographs we remember, and the photographers who took them, and the cameras hardly at all.
Finally, and almost a footnote (on page 78), a discrete advertisement for the Canon D30 digital SLR demonstrated what one could expect from three megapixels in (their words) a whole new world of photography. A graceful wedding photograph by the late Monte Zucker illustrates the potential.
No predictions were made, but I believe we know how that’s worked out.