Paul "Buggy" Buff, of Nashville, Tennessee, passed away on March 14th at his farm in Alabama, at the age of 78. A friend of Frank Zappa's who ran a West Coast recording studio in the 1960s and one of the last of the inventor/entrepreneurs, he is best known to photographers as the folksy founder and owner of the photographic lighting company which bears his name. He manufactured and marketed several lines of studio monoblock flash units that were innovative and powerful but always bargain-priced, such as the "Alien Bees" line.
Studio "strobes" as they were traditionally called have became less important to many photographers as ISOs skyrocketed in the digital age and on-camera flashes became more powerful and controllable and began to double as off-camera flashes as well (the concept behind the well-known enthusiast website Strobist.) Monoblocks (as opposed to pack-and-head systems which separate the electronics from the flash head) remain a flexible and simple-to-operate option, portable and versatile as well as fun to experiment with.
The company will continue in business.
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Michael Tapes: "Paul Buff was one of those genius people that grace the world. He made tremendous impact in the world of professional audio as well as photographic lighting. I only knew him casually, but used his products, both as a youth in the recording studio (he designed the first noise gate which was called Kepex), as well as in my photographic exploits (he broke apart the studio lighting price/performance world with his White Lighting strobe lights).
"In addition to being a great product designer and music producer, he was also a marketing genius, again, breaking traditional molds and creating innovation. I almost went to work for him several years ago to head production, but we did not come to terms (and I doubt that I would have moved to Nashville). Like most genius type of folk, he was eclectic and eccentric. Thanks for your stuff, Paul. R.I.P."