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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.
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.
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!