If you want to view outstanding photography outside Orange County, head south to the Museum of Photographic Art in San Diego's Balboa Park. The museum, which opened in 1983, has exhibited photography's elite, such as Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, W. Eugene Smith and Henri Cartier-Bresson. It also supports lesser-known photographers by sponsoring workshops, lectures and tours.
Equally as impressive as the museum is its bookstore, which stocks 5,000 books on photography, the largest selection of photography books outside of New York City. "(Photography books are) a way for people to collect art who can't (normally) afford it," said bookstore manager David Kenny. "Photography lends itself to reproduction better than any other medium."
Kenny notes that when paintings are reproduced in books, you don't see the brush strokes or get a feel for the dimension. Photographs reproduce better, which adds to the popularity of the books.
The bookstore manager categorizes buyers into three distinct groups: the tourist who wanders into the museum; the person who has an interest in photography as art; and the photographer who is technically interested in how-to books.
Books range in price from $7.95 to $150.
"These are books you're not going to find at B. Dalton or Waldenbooks," Kenny said. "Then again, I don't carry novels or plays, just photography. We haven't published a catalogue, but I do mail all over the country."
Since many photography books never make it past the first edition, they go out of print quickly and become collector items. Then there are books from recognized photographers--Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Jerry Uelsmann and, of course, Ansel Adams--that continue to sell.
"It's very important for photographers to have books because of the recognition," Kenny said. "It gets their name and images out. It somehow establishes that enough people thought they were a good enough photographer to support a book.
"It's not always the case," Kenny admits. "The book may not sell."
The Museum of Photographic Arts is at 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego. For more information, call: (619) 239-5262.
For those who prefer staying at home, JAX Photo Books specializes in mail-order service. Owner Jack Qualman offers a large selection of how-to photo books and more than 250 video tapes. The retail outlet is located inside the Writers' Book Store and Haven at 3341 Adams Ave. in San Diego. For more information call: (619) 268-1727.
The Photography column, which runs Saturdays in Orange County Life, is intended to help both the serious amateur and weekend shooter.