The A&I brand is the foundation of the A&I Café, drawing on a 50-yeár legacy of premium quality and service to Los Angeles’ professional and fine art photography community. A&I began its story as a small film lab founded by David Alexander (the “A”) and James Ishihara (the “I”), two expert LA-based photographers seeking a higher level of photographic film developing and printing. Located in Hollywood, A&I’s quality services and “insider” management quickly drew the elite ranks of photographic talents, legendary photographers such as Mel Sokolsky, Herb Ritts, Jeff Dunas and Douglas Kirkland, first rank names in fashion and editorial as well as fine art.
As A&I expanded its Hollywood facilities and opened offices in Santa Monica, renowned galleries such as Fahey-Klein and museums such as LA County Museum of Art, the Getty and the Hammer museums became customers. The major Hollywood studios also chose A&I for special printing of theatrical promotion art, motion picture stills and star publicity portraits. Through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, A&I became the center of West Coast photography culture, a place where every day you could find photographers, photo editors, fine art collectors and gallery owners hanging out, exchanging information on the latest trends and technologies.
The onset of digital imaging brought a revolution in the photographic business and A&I was quick to change with the times. Acquiring the latest cutting edge ink-jet printers, the company began delivering the highest quality digital printing alongside traditional film developing and chemical process printing. New ownership in the early 2000s, taking over from Alexander and Ishihara, expanded A&I further, consolidating the main offices on Highland Avenue. The new location featured an in-house gallery space where top photographers showed their work and major film, TV and rock music stars attended red carpet openings. The addition of Hewlett Packard Indigo printers together with an innovative online portal called BookCreator, moved A&I into position as the West Coast’s premiere provider of highest-quality print-on-demand photo books.
As A&I moved into the new Millennium, the challenge facing the business was growth: how to offer more high-quality products and services at premium prices its customers? The answer came when The Harman Press, one of LA’s legacy commercial printers, acquired A&I in 2014. Led by Harman Press president and third generation owner Phillip Goldner, the two businesses merged to form a multi-level company offering A&I’s high-end photo imaging products alongside the Harman Press traditional and well-known lithographic and letterpress printing services. As Goldner saw it, “Now our Hollywood studio clients could order A&I fine art prints for their offices, photo books for location scouts, high-end scans of their archival movie stills, as well as the movie posters, business cards and stationery that the Harman Press has been supplying them since 1947. And now A&I’s clients can buy business cards and other print products to boost their professional careers.”
Through Goldner’s visionary leadership, the addition of A&I to The Harman Press has blended two legacy companies known for high quality, dependability and custom service with an attention to detail and excellence that continues to attract the most talented artists. A&I’s Master Printer, Khodr Cherri, guiding the company’s experienced production staff, points out that “the photographic community’s fierce loyalty to A&I is something all of us care about deeply and it’s what motivates us on a daily basis.”
A&I has now moved operations to the Harman Press location, with the immediate results seen in increased digital productivity. While the coming together of shop cultures was challenging, A&I has become part of The Harman Press family. What both companies shared in common—the trust of its customer to work with sensitive material outside of the public eye—helped cement the relationship. The famous names that A&I and The Harman Press count as longtime clients–artists, movie stars, top Hollywood studio executives, public officials—are confident that their work is in the best hands.
A&I continues to sponsor the annual Palms Springs Photo Festival, and was a major exhibitor at Photo LA. At Photo LA 2016, A&I presented a special showing of award-winning photojournalist Tish Lampert’s work and sponsored a standing-room-only lecture by former UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury about how photography helps to influence policy making. Phil Goldner’s creative concept for the four-day event made the A&I booth one of the highlights of the popular show. This type of effort continues to be part of a larger mission to raise the level of brand recognition, and raising the bar to a higher level year after year. Without question A&I is taking its place in the photographic community in larger ways than ever before, with an eye towards expanding nationally and internationally.
Indeed, with its 50-year reputation for artistic excellence and customer loyalty, and as the well-established hub for a community passionate about creativity—going back to that time when photographers waiting at a little film lab to pick up their film chatted about the work that engaged their souls—the A&I brand under Phil Goldner’s visionary leadership is poised for greater things in the years to come.