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Wednesday, 08 March 2017


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The magazine business is in deep trouble. They are so desperate to shore up circulation that I received free subscriptions to Pop Photo, Wired, Fast Company and Inc.

They also offered Playboy, but I had to refuse. You know things are bad when they can't even give free porn away...

You get better and more timely information from the Internet, so it's no surprise Pop Photo went under (and actually a surprise it didn't happen a decade earlier). I do miss Keppler's columns and his wide knowledge of the camera industry.

My fault. I start buying a magazine regularly and they shut cease publication. It's happened four times (iirc) in the last couple of years.

Sorry. :(

I loved Modern Photograhy's annual profile of the top cameras that was a feature in every December issue. As a teenager in the late '60s, I'd spend hours reading all the descriptions and dreaming of owning one of these exotic cameras. Finally in 1969 I could afford my first good camera, a Minolta SR-1S with a clip-on light meter.

I felt a great pang of nostalgia reading that, I haven't bought a magazine in years so I guess I would be one of those people to blame, but I remember fondly coming home with a magazine, putting on some music and first looking through all the photos then going back and reading the articles. When my grandmother died 7 yrs ago at the age of almost 100 yrs I thought, wow how the world has changed in her lifetime. But in my 47 yrs its probably changed even more as it will in the next 50. Maybe we need to slow down.

It seems like a good time to re watch the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Also in posting the Magazine cover of the 2 1/4 X 2 1/4 special got me thinking, they missed a trick by not making the magazine square as well. Mind you it might have slipped down behind all the other magazines.

Hi Mike;

I always looked forward to reading Bill Pierce's stuff in "Modern".

My favorite tip from Bill was his putting his camera bag in an old dog food bag when riding the subway in NYC.

I always own at least one camera bag that will fit into a shopping bag.

The printed page is going quickly. Not a good thing.

My uncle the doctor was a serious photo hobbyist, with his Nikon F and a spare room literally filled with boxes of Ektachrome slides, so whenever I visited I dug through his tall stacks of Popular Photography, Modern Photography, and American Photographer magazines, poring over all the articles. I didn't know it at the time but I was getting a education in photography that I'd put to use years later.

The current incarnation of Pop Photo is too elementary for my needs, but I still enjoy each issue. It's just so much fun to read. I'm really sad to see it go.

Popular and Modern were perhaps in their heyday, or at least solidly ruling the roost, in my early years of photography, let's say 1968-1979, and I learned a lot from them, and spent a fair amount of money at places that advertised there. I even clipped articles and kept them in a notebook for years, but I'm pretty sure I don't have that any more.

That magazine went way back. Here's evidence that my father subscribed back in the 1950s. I'm the one wearing the cowboy boots, and I'm holding a copy of Popular Photography.

Also, I once worked in an R&D firm with a fantastic library. One day I found an out-of-the-way room that housed the very old issues of photography magazines, including early issues of Popular Photography. I spent a several evenings after work reading them, and enjoyed looking at the ads for older equipment like Speed Graphics. Those are very fond memories.

It's sad to see such magazines succumbing to the convenience of the internet.

Crap -- I just renewed my subscription for 3 years and now need to get the charge refunded. I was ambivalent about renewing it but figured I would see how things progressed. Unfortunately, they did not.

I have been reading Pop/Modern since the 1960s and wasn't very satisfied with the direction it was heading -- cutting the number of pages and then progressively reducing the number of issues each year from 12 to 9 to 6, and now to none.

I just let my subscription to Shutterbug to lapse for similar reasons (partly because of the continuing series of phone calls I get to extend my subscription without anybody being able to tell me the price). The straw that broke the camel's back for me was a wrap around paper cover extolling an exclusive renewal offer that turned out to be several dollars a year more than the new subscription price on the blow-in cards inside the magazine.

In 1974 I bought several magazines to help me decide which camera would be my first good one. Finally decided on an OM1, and two of them were all I needed for twenty-five years.
In 1999 I bought a stack of magazines to decide on which digital to buy. The advice was not as good this time- I decided on a Toshiba, but did not find one so wound up with a floppy disc Sony.
I still have the second stack of magazines stashed away. Will have to go through them again to see how people raved about a full megapixel (extrapolated).

That Peter Gowland / Barbara Osterman Modern Photography cover although not either's best work is amazing if for only how often it gets copied.

They did another variation for Popular with this

In the mid-80s, George Schaub, then Executive Editor of Popular Photography, lived directly across the street from me when I was working for The Absolute Sound magazine.

Although our paths crossed only occasionally, I do recall that we had a few interesting discussions about the challenges we faced working in our respective corners of the "buff book" industry. And this was long before the internet became the disruptive force it is today.

I can scarcely imagine what challenges those people who are still working in the magazine industry must be facing now and I'm glad that I'm no longer one of them!

Maybe because I began avidly reading POP and MODERN way back in 1962, but I associate Keppler entirely with Modern Photography and have almost no recollection of the merged entity. For Popular Photography I think of Norman Rothschild, Vestal, Bill Pierce, and others whose articles I vividly recall but names, not so much. I read POP more than MODERN anyway. I guess I stopped subscribing to either of them sometime in the eighties.

I grew up reading Popular Photography-

My two magazines of choice in high school were Modern Photography, and one called, I think, simply Photo, which was based on something in Europe, mostly featured photos as opposed to gear, and had a short run, maybe three or four years. Popular Photography struck me even then as too commercial and pandering - but both Popular and Modern put out Annuals that consisted only of select photography, which I bought with my saved-up allowance money and lived on all year.

I remember being pissed off in later years, when Modern and Popular merged, but it wasn't long before I was thumbing through Popular at the newsstand, and usually taking it home if I thought no one was looking.

Early in this century I had a couple of fairly major surgeries, a couple of years apart, both of which required that I be on my back at home for two weeks at a time. I prepared for these by buying current and back issues of photo magazines - Aperture, Photo Techniques, Shutterbug, and Popular Photography. During both these recuperation periods I had nothing to do all day but lie on my back, smoking cigarettes and reading these magazines cover-to-cover, two or three times, including the ads. That's when I found out what a delightful character Herb Keppler was, what an influence he had on photography in the U.S, and and how much he had to teach about it.

It's tempting to think the death of Popular Photography has some significance for photography. But when you look at the popularity of, say, dpreview.com, this blog, and the multitude of other sites on the web, you realize this can't be the case. Instead, and for whatever reason, Popular Photography couldn't make the transition from print to web - and very soon it will be gone. I can't really complain about that, given it's been more than ten years since I've bought a copy, but I'm glad it was there when it was.

I grown reading old issues of Popular Photography that my dad purchased. Near the end of 90´s I had one of my photos published in one of the issues of American Photo about photos sent by readers. I had too a discussion by email with someone of Popular Photography because they didn´t had files about a reporter of an article about I was wanted to know more, If I recall right the subject was Sid Grossman. One of my colleagues got some years ago one of the old issues of Popular Photography Annual 1959 that published the edition selected by Eugene Smith of his essay about Pittsburgh for what was paid a fraction of what offered Life magazine because Smith wanted total control of the layout. I still remember the emotion to review that issue. I´m from Argentina, that makes an idea of the scope of the edition, first issues I read were edited in Cuba and have a very bad translation to Spanish. I read and experimented a lot particulary in the darkroom on base of the articles I read in their pages. Evidently this mark a end of an era, something left from 20 Century. Inevitably this make me feel a bit sad, probably because I know that half of me is from that time.

I do subscribe via Zinnio. It isn't the magazine that it was, but what is? Perhaps take a look at Amateur Photographer. It's from the UK, it's weekly, and really quite good. Also very expensive. Again, I subscribe via Zinnio. I don't know what mailing it to the US would cost.

I suspect that one of the reasons for B&H's success is, as customers aged into presbyopia, its back-of-the-magazine ads were set in larger and larger font, even at the expense of paying for more pages and/or displaying fewer items per issue.

In my early teens I subscribed to Popular and my friend to Modern. We would swap after an appropriate time. The real thrill was the publication of the Annuals. A thick all photos magazine, that became an every man for himself affair. I kept them for years, and referenced them often.

I loved Popular and Modern Photography magazines. In fact thumbing through a stack from the 60's and 70's would be a grand way to spend a winter afternoon.
Mike, if from time to time you could work the term "slrdom" into a piece just for us old farts it would bring a smile. I believe Mr Keppler used it from time to time.
I can't even begin to guess how much I learned from these two magazines. Getting old and feeling it.

As you say, a run of almost 80 years for a magazine is a remarkable achievement. I was trying to think of other comparable examples: two which come to mind are Railroad Model Craftsman (1933) and Model Railroader (1934).
Then I checked on the British Amateur Photographer and discovered that its first issue was in October 1884!
I fear, though, that special-interest magazines are more and more in danger of falling behind the web when it comes to really good journalism; I know that whether I want good up to date information or deep inspiration, I am more likely to find it on TOP than in Amateur Photographer. And I say this with regret, having read the latter on and off for more than 50 years.

Geoff, They did respond the way you suggested, and started their web presence way too late , but Pop & Modern Photography were always 'Gear Mags' 'What's new' and 'this vs that' was their primary focus (and why I stopped subscribing when they were still healthy) .
They were magazines that you tended to outgrow.
With the rise of the internet they were 'scooped' on nearly every story.
They became publishers of yesterday's news.
You are correct in observing that they COULD have changed their focus to a more value added less time sensitive type of content, but I suspect that was not in their DNA
At least that's my take on it.

By the way, is curious that none of the sites mention the end of both publications.

As a ten year old in 1964 I would bicycle to the shopping mall to buy the Popular Photography magazine for 35 cents. It was my introduction to Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and others.

In the 60's each issue had a centerfold printed using sheet-fed rotogravure, a superb way of printing photos.

I regularly bought Popular and Modern Photography magazines, as well as View Camera Magazine published by Steve Simmons.

But the magazine I miss the most is Camera Arts that was published only for a few years. What a wonderful magazine about photographers and photography. I still have every issue.

The passing of this once-great magazine is sad indeed. But it is also true that there hasn't been enough in it over the past decade or so to warrant my subscribing. I would pick up the odd copy now and then - most recently the January-February 2017 issue in which the Fuji X-Pro2 was named camera of the year. Beyond that one piece, there wasn't much else that held my interest.

Frankly, I'm finding a similar situation when it comes to the automotive magazines that help fuel my other passion since the 1960s. I dropped Road &Track first, then Automobile and finally, I allowed my subscription to Car and Driver to lapse only last month. However, it looks like they're still sending it to me, free of charge.

The problem with all of them is that the high-quality moto-literature and journalism is largely gone, replaced by short and shallow pieces. The only thing that kept me reading C/D was the columns. It doesn't help that most cars are pretty boring these days.

Being a part of traditional media (broadcasting), I understand the challenges facing old-school print, radio and television. We are clearly still in the "destructive" phase of "creative destruction." But the response from almost every quarter has resulted in a diminished product and/or the death of many venerable mastheads and brands.

And because most digital outlets don't have the same level of journalistic chops or financial resources that old media once had (remember, it's dollars to dimes with the switch from print to digital), we have a less-informed populace and a weakened democracy. Where does it end?

While any of us could have seen this coming, it is no less shocking and sad. While we have seen some publishers succeeded in redefining their product (TEN is an example with their luxurious shooting/outdoor/survival magazines), we've seen so many more chase their own tails to the bottom and eventually cease to exist. RIP Pop Photo, you have enlightened, entertained, and educated this amateur photographer for nearly four decades.

About 5 years ago I posted a comment that I still read paper magazines because it was awkward to read a tablet on the toilet. Alas, I got used to it. Sorry, magazine publishers...

Pop Photo like other US magazines has that annoying habit of splitting articles so you have to "turn to page 101" to read the last few paragraphs. Done purely to expose the reader to more ads. Personally I found this annoying enough that I no longer purchase any magazine that does the same.

I like photo magazines. But I'm not going to buy something that makes it as difficult to read as possible.


Just looked; i receive three magazines, two for being a member of groups (Radio Amateurs of Canada and Bytown Railway Society of Canada which publishes Branchline both bimonthly) and the third is a magazine I enjoy from the US as a gift from a friend; Railfan and Railroad. Otherwise nothing else. Any news i Iget on railways comes from some trusted internet sites. Mind if any or all of it died tomorrow, would not really miss much of it. At age 71 have seen most of the news in one form or another, before.

Alas, I long ago lost my International Society for the Preservation of Black and White Photography membership card. Was it Modern or Pop that did that?

I remember thinking in the mid seventies that Modern and Popular Photography were as good as photography magazines got.

Then I discovered volumes of Camera magazine in the college library- what a revelation!

When I worked in the US in the mid-1960s, I liked Modern much better than Pop photo -- mainly because of Herb Keppler's informative lens reviews. But I found Camera 35 even more fascinating, with Arthur Kramer's discussions of developer formulae, causing many experiments in the attempt to squeeze out every last bit of resolution from low-ASA 35mm films. Experiments stopped only after I got a Rollei and settled on Agfa 100 and Rodinal 1:50.
Back in Germany after 1966, I continued to subscribe to Modern and Camera 35, and it was only recently that I had to dispoae of huge stacks of both. Happy memories.

I've been an off and on subscriber for my entire career. For some reason, I always liked Modern better, but the dirty little secret abut Popular Photography over the years is that it was cheap to subscribe to, and they were A-1 for technology knowledge. A lot of professionals subscribed to it, and just hid it in the back room of their studios for what I like to call "bathtub" reading!

My current subscription just ran out...

Its a difficult time for magazines. The British Journal of Photograhy is good but too expensive for me. Black and White Photograhy I used to get but too much for iphone etc for my tast ...but maybe they are right.
I like Outdoorphotograhy here in the UK. A good balance of pro photograghers images and ideas, letters , bird and nature photgraphy and just a bit about gear.
You can get it on lune but I really enjoy reading a proper magazine. I will now cherish it while I can.

Self-induced failure is especially tragic.

Downward spirals are negative feedback monsters with an insatiable appetite.

There was a time when the camera companies published their own in-house magazines.

I had a few copies of Olympus Age, not widely distributed in the US, but sent to me by Olympus in Japan.

Nikon World was available on a subscription basis, but sadly closed down a while back -- I ended up getting a refund check but never got formal notification of its demise.

Tucked away in the corner of my basement are 10 or so copies of Minolta Mirror from the 1980s and 1990s -- beautifully printed to feature photos taken with their cameras and the photographers who used them. They even featured Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine once, vaseline on the lens and all, if I recall.

Canon had a magazine for CPS members, hard to come by (I got my copies at the Photo Expo in NYC).

The only one remaining, I think, is LFI for Leica photographers, with two offshoots -- M for Leica M users and S for Leica S users.

There are a few independent magazines left that are devoted to Canon (two) and Nikon cameras, all published in the UK.

Not that I ever could buy a magazine in the US, but it's my fault too by proxy: I prefer reading on the web (like TOP for example). I must say though my formative years were by reading magazines like this to learn, they represent a very worthwhile medium to cultivate knowledge -- to a certain extent. And then after that point... I kind of stopped buying.

I didn't need equipment advice anymore, I knew what I wanted. I returned to looking at the photos I guess ...


Magazines are best for niche markets (sorry Time, National Geographic and Newsweek)and if their content is unique (interviews, or nuanced commentary) I don't see why they can't exist in some form. Is TOP a magazine? I was always surprised at the way US magazines contained adverts from the major car companies- perhaps ideas above their station. Also, US magazines were slow to adapt to the desktop publishing revolution, which partly explains why most magazines in my local shop are from Europe and the UK. Continued on page 57.... is not very appealing. Leica Fotografie International (LFI) is one I subscribe to, but I'd like to see more mainstream magazines on photography rather than equipment- that are not in French!

Steve Sint was the Kirk of print.

Times have changed and they haven't changed.

I picked up a handful of 1940s and 1950s Modern and Popular Photography magazines from an antique shop, and there were frequent ads for "MAKING MONEY WITH YOUR CAMERA" and articles discussed "HOW TO GET OVER YOUR FEAR OF SHOOTING STRANGERS", sort of the same we're talking about today.

And of course there were 8x10 girlie photos for sale. Just because.

Interesting to me the same issues in photography are still being discussed as they were then.

Whenever I pick up a photography magazine these days they seem to be full of articles aimed at ensnaring beginners with no idea what to do with them once captured.

I used to subscribe to both Pop and Modern, from the mid-70s on. I still have a copy of the last issue of Modern.

I felt that I needed both; as others have said, Modern was more for gearheads who wanted tech-heavy camera porn (I still remember their teardown of the Canon A-1, probably their longest camera review article), whereas Pop Photo seemed better for 'how to improve your pictures, regardless of the camera'. Pop Photo also had the gorgeous sheet-fed color rotogravure sections.

I subscribed to Pop Photo until around the end of 2008, when due to financial issues I had to cut back to the bone on magazine subscriptions. The only "photo magazine" I still subscribe to, indeed the only magazine, is National Geographic.

Back in the '80s I worked in a camera store. One day we were told that they were installing a mini-lab, so we had to clean out the basement, which had become a kind of Aladdin's Cave of discarded photo marketing detritus. I found a dusty shelf filled with bound volumes of Pop Photo and Modern from the mid '50s to the mid-60s. They were going into the dumpster, so I liberated as many volumes as I could carry home on my bicycle, and I still have them.

By the way, I found out that the Toronto Reference Library has a nearly complete run of both magazines. Ask your local library if they have them too, if you feel like spending an idle afternoon thumbing through the past...

The Best of Popular Photography is a great book, with a lot of interesting coverage of equipment and famous photographers. Well worth finding a copy. But I used to buy Modern Photography at the news stand and especially liked Jason Schneider's articles about older classic equipment. I may have his Rolleiflex article somewhere around my papers. And do you all remember the yellow advertisement pages from Olden Camera in New York? You could instantly find Olden's pages by looking for the yellow sheets. I bought from them in the 1970s but they degenerated into an outfit that preyed on the uninformed.

I have always considered Camera 35 to have been the very best of the photo mags. However, a month of TOP and a month of Kirk Tuck's blog posts have more good stuff than could be found in a half-dozen print magazines in any given month.

I was introduced to the Internet around 1993, I think. I visited a friend who had an animation business, just then turning to digital, and what did he show me on his new Mac? "Here, you can look at Popular Photography on the internet!" Which I did. Can't say that I imagined what would follow, though.

Through a series of circumstances, my passion for photography was reignited by a simple question from my wife in 1997, "Do you want to buy a camera?" She meant a point-and-shoot. We walked out of the camera store with a Nikon N90s, zoom lens, and flash. Popular Photography was the first magazine that I subscribed to and it was a great help to get me back on my feet. However, after the death of Herbert Keppler the content was decidedly dumbed-down, and I dropped my subscription. The change in content was that dramatic to me. I wonder how many other enthusiasts did the same.

I shoot Olympus to this day because of a 1984 Popular Photography review of the OM-2S that had just come out. It was also because of this magazine that I became a gearhead, obsessing over the different features of SLRs from review to review before deciding which one I wanted and which one I could afford. I think the OM-2S body, with 50/1.8 lens and a no-name camera bag came to $250, a princely sum for a young guy just starting out. I was under the impression that Nikon was the Cadillac of the photo world, but their equivalent SLR was $50 more, which was effectively in a different league.

Hard times for magazines, alas. I guess DP Review is the, uh, analogue for Pop Photo in a digital age.

As sad as the passing of the Corvair.

As a teenager in the 1960's I lived for my monthly Pop Photo and Modern Photo issues. Especially the annual photo issues (with actual info on what cameras, lenses and exposures were used) and the annual equipment overviews. Of course even then I knew that few of the pictures presented in these magazines were any good at all, especially those by the columnists. And that the exposure data was largely guessed at. But there was also the softest of porn in the Peter Gowland ads for risque negatives.

I did recently get hold of a copy of the 1969 Modern Photography Equipment Review (my senior year in high school). I am happy to say that almost 50 years later I have every one of the better cameras from that era that I couldn't begin to afford then... including the Pentax 67 previewed in that issue. And they take far better pictures than the magazines of the time suggested they might.

What finally killed the last big mags? I would say Flickr... where you can actually see thousands of incredibly good photographs every day (if you know how to find them)... and with a reproduction quality that surpasses any magazine. All for free.

And those bright yellow pages of the Spiratone ads....

If the internet is killing magazines, can someone explain to me why there are so many photography magazines from England on the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble? To me Popular Photography was a camera review magazine, more than a photography magazine, and I'm just not in the market for a new camera often enough to shell out my money for it.

[Someone also said that Pop's circulation was 320,000 at the end. Granted that may have been heavily propped up (there are many mechanisms to support greater circulation, not all of them sensible or healthy for the publication, or profitable), but given that I struggled mightily to raise the circulation of Photo Techniques from 22k to 38k--with a goal of 50k which we never reached--I find it amazing that 320k is not enough to support the magazine. --Mike]

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