Photography / Features

Pop Photo and Me

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After 80 years in print, and as an online entity, Popular Photography magazine and its sister publication, American Photo, have taken their final bows. This news is no doubt weepier for those who grew up during the pre-Internet Dark Ages when Pop Photo was the premier photography magazine in a field of about a dozen competing photography publications.

Fun fact: Once upon a time, the last 40 or so pages of Pop Photo were nothing but advertisements for cameras, lenses, and darkroom gear from B&H—including the latest prices!

I crossed paths with Popular Photography shortly after I began taking pictures, while attending the High School of Art & Design. By the time I was a Junior, I had become a regular visitor to the Pop Photo offices, on Park Avenue and East 32nd St, which was a convenient three stops away by subway.

Norman Rothschild, an odd but wonderful man who went to great extremes when testing cameras and lenses, would always welcome me and, along with the other editors and members of the art staff, would offer me constructive advice on how to improve my craft.

In January 1969, six months before graduating from high school, my first published story was featured in Popular Photography, which gave me the crazy idea that being a magazine photographer might be what I should do when I grew up. Over the next two years, I had two additional feature spreads in the magazine, and I had put the money they paid me toward tuition at the School of Visual Arts.

My first published photographs, Popular Photography, December 1968

About 15 years later, American Photographer (later renamed American Photo) published a portfolio of my work, which went on to winning a Best-of-Show award from the New York Art Directors Club. The opening photo featured in the winning entry was later included in an advertisement for Nikon.

American Photographer, September 1984
Nikon Ad featuring the lead photo from the American Photographer spread

About 16 years ago, a paper I wrote about fine-art inkjet paper found its way to Mike McNamara, who was the Senior Editor of Pop Photo at the time. He liked my writing style and knowledge of photography. Next thing you know, I was adding Writer to my list of Pop Photo firsts, and I continued to write a monthly column for the magazine for several years. Just as I had kick-started my career as a photographer using my credentials from Pop Photo, I quickly grew as a writer, based on the early columns I wrote for the very same magazine.

If you’ve never read a copy of Popular Photography or American Photo, I fully understand. These magazines were the websites of their day and, like all technologies, they’ve had their day. Magazines, like film photography, will always be around in some form and, despite claims of their demise, there’s a magazine shop down the street from our office that is chock full of glossy publications from all over the planet.

Is it sad to see these magazines fade from view? Absolutely, but truth be told, I haven’t cracked a page in either publication for quite some time. I will, however, always be grateful for the opportunities that both publications offered me… not once, but twice!

RIP Pop… and thanks for all!

Do you have any connections to Popular Photography or American Photo(grapher)? Let’s hear about them!

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All this on Popular Photography...???? { used to read it for many-many years }  Hits me hard.. when taking pictures was a huge part ,and took up many years of my life... I enjoyed the heck

out of it...  Started in about 69,, or 70....  When I unatherizedly  took my dad's old camera out of his closet { sitting there for a long tyme }  ???

He claimed he purchased it while he was in Service.. over sea's I belive... A relic of a minolta it was... he claimed it was broken...{ 35 mm film }

I found that the shutter would stick on it,, well.. being young,, I used very light sewing machine oil on it.. and Hell.. it started working.... from then on I was hooked.  The camera worked great for about 2-years....  but went back to the shutter sticking and this time, I could not help it. Camera shops realy did not want much to do with it.. so I took it apart with plans to repair it myself. { like I said. Plans }  Muttled through the follow years with kick of the feet camera's... { some of them worked well.. suprizingly }..  About 13 years later,, I met my Now Wife...  in our early years of romance, she apparently noticed my Photo involment.. and took me shopping for a camera.. { a gift from her for valinetines day } Back Then... the minolta X-700 was the peach of my eye... and with a huge smile ,, hug,, and Kiss.... it was mine....{ another dream come true }... Years of that camera must have been harsh on it... But it was true blue.. and never failed me.     Entered many photo contests.. and won a few.. but none of them were big time contests.. as I have to admitt.. I had a confidence problem ...  my intrests were more of oddidies found in lifes travels,, or the waiting for " The Shot "..  { long exposures of night skys.. ect.. ect }...  or giving a whirl at my own illustion shot...    Well years went by... and the camera was put down for the events of marriage,, car,, some day a house.. You get the PICTURE..!! { had to do that }..    About 7 years ago.. attemted reliving some of that phto shootting... a good friend of mine hit me up one day and said.. " let go to the park early morn... and get some pic's ..!!     OK... but it was short lived...      I shoot from time to time...  I even purchased an Olypus digital  camera... { the now day thing }...

 I still like using the X-700.....  All the lenzes.. filters and what not....  as a matter of fact... on the first outing I went on with my Buddy...he says..

Where the hell is your olypus you said you bought...  Honosty I said --------  ##!@##&***%$###$@!!!   that thing... Digital cameras are ok.. along with the never ending up-grades to photo enhancement software.....

I say.. Enjoy your photograpy No matter what tools you like to use.....

Your journey says it all Mike - Thanks for sharing.

AW

I started taking photos in the late 1940's. There were several national photo magazines back then - Pop Photo and Modern Photography and Minicam [sic} which was absorbed by one of the above. Later Modern was itself absorbed into Pop Photo along with Norman Rothschild.  I lived for the monthly arrival of those pages. Writers like Bill Pierce and others were my gurus ( I would like to name more but my recall is slowed by my 83 years.) I went from a Busch Pressman, Ikoflex, Canon Leica copy, Olympus OM, Nikon film, to now Nikon D800 and Sony Nex/A6XXX. The darkroom of my youth is now Lightroom, Photoshop and Epson.

Through all those chanages there was Popular Photography.  I knew something was up when the magazine no longer showed up on lmy Zinio. It's been a fun ride, but there is much good stuff ahead with today's technology.

My earliest memories of reading magazines was probably about age seven, in 1945. Popular Photography was the magazine. My father was a photographer and either had a subscription or bought it at the newstand every month. It whetted my appetite for photography. I think I've had a subscription most of my adult life. I had several months to go on my present (last) subscription. My first camera back in the 40's was one of the earliest box brownies, patented in 1898 or thereabouts, with the shutter release being down for the 1st image, up for the 2nd, and so on. I will miss PP. 

Ahhh another old-timer!

Thanks for sharing Roderick!

AW

I started reading photo magazines like Popular Phorography and Modern Photography back in 1969, while serving in the Army in Vietnam. In recent years, I stopped reading them as their focus turned to digital photography while I still shoot film. But I read them for many years.

Sounds like you slowly drifted away from the newstand like the rest of us... oh well...

AW

Ok, Weitz is Right.

Today the Bonnier site has a new page at the very bottom saying that Pop ceased after the March/April issue.

this is a real loss for all us old timers (I'm 76, and Pop was my first photo magazine, though I came to like Modern under Herb Keppler more.

I always preferred ModernPop was, well, too pop, though I did like some of the columnists—Norman Goldberg and Simon Nathan were two. The Pop annuals were pretty good in the late-’60s and early ’70s.

Pop & Modern Photogrpahy were equally good but I have to admit I always had a swwet spot in my heart for Pop.

Aw

On a warm summer afternoon in 1959 I took my first photograqphs.  The camera was a Kodak Brownie  that belonged to my father. He had used this camera in the South Pacific theater during WWII.  With great patience, he showed me how to load the 120 B & W film into the body which was not more than a box. I was immediately transformed into a "camera bug".  We did not have much money and there was no way for me to get any classes at that time in life, I was 12 years old.  My education was grasped from the pages of Pop Photography. My meager resources came from the few dollars i earned by distributing Avon catalogs and Fuller Brush catalogues from the local agents. I would read PP from cover to cover. I would dream of the day I could buy one of those wonderful cameras advertized in each issue.  I still have that Brownie camera. i keep in view on a shelf in my work room.  Many of my daydreams have become reality because of PP.. I made a career taking picturs, teaching photography to teenagers and recording my life with my family and dogs.  PP opened the world to me..  I now can say that it has enriched my life beyond imagination. I still read it from cover to cover, in print. I will very much miss PP. RIP

Like you, my first images were captured around then. They were photos if neighbourhood friends and schoolmates, mostly. The camera was a Brownie Starflash, which I still have in a storage room. Paid for by chores for my parents, it was a prized posession. 

I went on to buy many more cameras, old and new. But that Kodak was the first. 

Great heartfelt share!

Many thanks my friend...

AW

Thank you for your lovely reminesence. Just by chance, I was reading some of Jonathan Schneider's articles about classic cameras earlier today and so the era of these magazines was much on my mind. And I recall poring over all of those ads trying to decide how to make my meagre funds go the farthest. Funds are now better, and online information is certainly far more complete - but it isn't quite as much fun.

Richard

I agree with you but since I earn my living writing for the web and hosting the B&H Photo podcast let's keep this between the two of us... OK?

Shhhhhhh....

AW

Very sad news. I've been reading Popular Photography for about six decades since I was a kid. Bought it in a newstand then. For years I renewd my subscription. Now is no more. Another change of the times. Another remembrance for the days remaining.  Many things are not forgotten. Never forget the first time I saw an image on white paper printed from a film negative slowly developing and appearing like chemical magic in a dark and smelly photo lab.  I learned a lot and saw many great photos from Popular Photography. But seasons change. Times evolve.  Always learn your history. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. So now I'm having  fun with digital photography. Maybe teach a couple of things to my grandson... life will go on. So will photography.

Yup, all things must pass but there's always something to take its place.

Thanks for sharing...

AW

I remember living in Nyack, NY, just up the river and working with a couple of NYC based magazines, if you studied their content and good do a good job, you could get work in those days, I began in 1970 with freelance work, in the days of tons of magazines in every 'mom and pop' convenience store. If you did knitting with a special wool, there was a magazine for you, I you wanted to know more about border collies, there was a magazine for you. My first visit to one of the magazine offices took me to a 50 story building on Park Avenue where inside the lobby was a wall of directions to a hundred different publications, just in that one building. The impact the internet on the entire magazine business is stunning having come from that era.

Back to Popular Photography- I once got ambitious enough about something I read in the magazine some 40 years ago and wrote in. I was amazed to get a handwritten letter, not just a note, from Burt Keppler. To me, it was a sign of the personal sensitivity to their audience that I enjoyed. Sorry that times have changed.

Great share Paul - I love it.

And you're right - there probably was a magazine specifically aimed at border collie enthusiasts

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and rememberences...

AW

    Oh, no. So much printed culture is going away. Printed photos, printed publications. I like stuff I can hold in my hands; stuff that ages. Stuff that shows, w/ "dog-ears" & rips & stains, that it has been loved. Held. Held onto. Shared, passed around & passed down. My Dad developed film in our tiny bathroom that he'd blocked the one window with aluminum foil. Showed his kids the magic of the process. He made us stand still, staring into the sun while he adjusted God knows what w/ his 35mm camera. All I know is I'd say:I'm closing my eyes & when you're ready to shoot, say OK or smile & I will open my eyes. He didn't get it that his children had light eyes (structural blue w/the light bouncing around in our irises) & couldn't handle bright light. We'd sneeze & tear-up. Torture then. Fond memories now. A drawerful of 50's & 60's B&W. Faded-out colors. Sharp memories there for as long I I want them. As long as I seek the comfort of holding & sifting thru' them. I can literally hold on to the past. And it is passing so quickly now. As if people can't wait to get shed of "old technology". Why can't they see what we see as we & the medium age & fade & finally disappear? Thanks for the forum to lament the loss. ewb

Elizabeth,

The trick is to print digital photos and make sure your hardrives are backed up with images that are easily identifiable and retrievable by those who follow us years from now.

And for what it's worth, many people lamented the passing of horse-drawn carriages... 

AW

Great work Allan!

Thank you Midtown!

AW

I was a subscriber of Popular Photography during the 1980's. I remember the film reviews/shootouts, camera reviews. Back then, the life cycle of professional cameras was 10 years. I still use my Canon A-1 that I bought in 1980; I bought a used F-1N in 2013. But I haven't seen a Popular Photography magazine in a display rack in a few years. Newsstands have disappeared in my area and brick-and-mortar bookstands are few.

It's sad to see Popular Photography close its doors. I do use the web to read, research, and learn; but there is nothing like the printed word. I've bookmarked places in books. Books and magazines were where I learned photography; there was no world wide web.

Now, in the magazine rack of local grocery stores, there may be two photography magazines; Outdoor Photographer is one.

I don't know. Two days ago the Bonniers website said that Pop had shifted to an every other month, six issues per year, schedule. But they were still taking subscription orders.

What's actually going on here?

pz

Ralph,

It's time to find a better grocery store, or better yet, go to Barnes & Noble - they have a pretty good selection of photo publications.

AW

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