Yesterday, I got word that after some 80 years in print, Popular Photography is closing the doors and turning off the lights. For the better part of two decades I’ve worked in the photo industry as an editor, editorial director and publisher and in those years, “Pop” as it was colloquially known, was a competitor. And not just a competitor, they were the big kid on the block.
In my 20 years, I've seen huge upheaval in the photo world. Yes, we all know the that the Internet came and changed things for publishing, but that was far from the only disruption. We saw digital arise to supplant film, desktop printers replaced neighborhood photo labs, cell phones replaced basic compact point and shoots and platforms like Instagram have fundamentally changed the way the world sees and takes photos. Through all of it, Pop was there, sometimes leading the charge and sometimes struggling to keep up---but always setting the standard and looking for ways to inform their passionate readers about what was happening and how it would make a difference to them and their photography.
Popular Photography helped launch the photo press and led it for decades. And over their long run, Pop was a friend to Sony and all of the manufacturers who strove to make photography better. In their coverage of cameras, lenses and techniques, the editors pushed the the industry forward. It’s not an exaggeration to say that even in this wildly-splintered photo media landscape of publications, websites and social channels, most of the leading writers and editors are at least a couple degrees closer to Pop Photo than most people are to Kevin Bacon.
Photography is booming like never before, but the economics of magazine publishing has been turned on its head. It was the economics of paper, printing presses and postage combined with the increasingly difficult fight for advertising dollars that doomed Pop, not their dedication, enthusiasm and love of photography. The Pop Photo editors and writers that I’ve known live for photography. Their dedication and energy devoted to sharing their expertise and insights with the Popular Photography and American Photo audience is an enduring legacy. In a world where we all scroll fast, I’m taking a moment to pause here and reflect on the passing of an epoch.
-Christopher Robinson, Editor, AlphaUniverse.com