It’s November 2, 2013. 15 years ago, on this date in 1998, I created Photofocus. I framed it as an “online magazine” because RSS hadn’t been invented yet and “blogs” were something still in the future. I did attach audio segments every quarter, but these couldn’t technically be called podcasts because again – podcasts require RSS. But many of the elements you see today were there 15 years ago. Just not nearly as refined or cool or valuable as what you see today :)
I published once or twice a week at first. Within a year I was publishing every day. Then I merged with a now defunct camera site and show called MYPHOTOTRICKS. That ran for three years before I went stand alone again until TWIP came along. TWIP (This Week in Photography) was started by my pals Alex Lindsey, Frederick Van Johnson, Ron Brinkmann and me. But it almost didn’t get off the ground. We had a false start. I had a contractual conflict with a client that wouldn’t let me be on the show so we tabled that incarnation of the show for a year. Fortunately that resolved itself because TWIP became an important milestone in my online career.
We officially launched TWIP at MacWorld in San Francisco. Alex and I cornered photo journalist Steve Simon and we did our first live TWIP episode. I remember Steve asking us what a podcast was. That was a fun day. TWIP was born and I merged the Photofocus blog into TWIP and for a year we ran the two as one. Various contributors joined TWIP over that year and the years following. I have even occasionally been on the show since leaving to rebrand Photofocus as a stand-alone website and podcast. Frederick Van Johnson has been a guest on Photofocus – and does a great job of hosting TWIP now.
Photofocus broke off from TWIP in January of 2008. Despite rumors to the contrary, it was a totally amicable move. Ron, Frederick, Alex and I are all still friends. We’ve stayed in touch all these years.
In almost six years as a standalone site, Photofocus has generated about 2800 posts and run dozens of contests. We’ve produced hundreds of podcasts and videos and had guest columnists representing a Who’s Who of photography. But now things are really going to get exciting. Because I am leaving – well mostly.
If you look at the Photofocus site today you’ll see a huge difference between it and what I started 15 years ago. I’d be embarrassed if you saw what the site used to look like. Just sort of get a picture in your mind – if a blog could have a hairdo then the old 1998 Photofocus wore a mullet. You get the idea.
Now my pal Rich Harrington is the publisher of Photofocus. I am relegated to founder status – a euphemism for “old guy.” And that suits me just fine. I’m proud of the direction the site is taking. We brought on the incredibly talented Melissa Niu as editor. She worked in broadcast media before starting the Framed Network and then coming on board with us. If you look up to the right side of the page on any post you can scroll over the bios of eight people who now regularly contribute to the site.
Like I said things are changing. We’ve started doing Google Hangouts. We’ve started posting several times a day. We’re looking into webinars, live appearances and all sorts of new avenues that we can use to interact with our audience.
Photofocus used to be a static site that I hard programmed (using text edit to write the code) which primarily featured me and my views. But now there are many voices. The site is a living, breathing, dynamic place which is constantly changing and improving. Adding these new voices has proven to be one of the best changes. And these new voices will give mine a rest. I am retiring (or my version of retirement) as of today.
As far as Photofocus goes, mostly I’ll be just like you – reading and listening to see if I can learn something from the site/podcast. As “founder” I no longer have any real responsibility at Photofocus other than to offer advice when asked and to play the role of gray haired old man in business meetings when that’s called for.
But I will still opine here on Photofocus from time to time when I am so moved. I may show up on a Photofocus podcast episode once or twice. But this is really happening. I am retiring. Really. Primarily, I am retiring from assignment photography and most of my business obligations as of this date – to pursue my passion – which is motor sports and my car hobby. I’ll be living in Europe most of the year but will come back to the US from time-to-time so I can see friends and run some US tracks.
Wherever I am, I’ll continue to do a bit of teaching and writing, (I just finished my eighth photography book) but I won’t be making many public appearances or speaking at many big conferences. I won’t be picking up a camera for money for the first time in decades. I am VERY much looking forward to doing something many of you get to do now – which is picking up my camera for fun. I’ll only shoot what interests me – not my clients – and I’ll no doubt still be connected to photography in some manner for the rest of my life. I just won’t HAVE to do it. That not HAVING to do it is the load off my shoulders.
My duties, responsibilities and obligations here are done. Bit I’ll still be a small part of the Photofocus team. You just won’t hear from or see me as often and I am sure that is good news to some of you :) It’s a great relief knowing that as of today, it’s someone else’s responsibility to see that there is a post up every morning at 6:00 am PT. It’s still my baby, but I have hired someone else to raise my child!
As for the new team? What a team it is. I have had the pleasure of watching many of the contributors grow and flourish over their careers. Some I know well. Some I don’t know at all. But I do know all of them are dedicated and talented. In a few cases, I’ve had the honor of doing a little mentoring here and there with a few of these folks. Either way, the results are stunning. These are some VERY talented people and thanks to them, I am absolutely certain the site is going to be MUCH better than it was when it was just mostly me.
I will be around less often but am always willing to help if I can. I look forward to still hearing from some of you and finding out what photographic excitement awaits both of us.
Things are changing. And that’s scary for some people. For me it’s exciting. Change usually means growth. And Photofocus – entering its 16th year today, is morphing and changing again – just like it has several times before. And each of those times, it’s improved. The site continues to grow, along with the audience. It continues to help visual story tellers in a meaningful way. And I hope you’ll stick around and help Rich, Melissa and their crew make Photofocus the best resource of its kind on the Web.
I want to thank all of you who supported me and the work my team has done at Photofocus. There have been times it wasn’t easy for any of us. But many of you stuck by me through thick and thin. For all these years those of you who have bothered to let me know I helped you in some small way have made all the hard work worth it. Thanks to the sponsors, vendors, friends, contributors and audience. All have been instrumental in making this thing work. I was just the spark plug in a big engine.
While I’ve been looking forward to this day, I am also at least in some ways going to miss it. Just as I will miss many of you. But time catches up to all of us and before I find myself in its last grasp I have a few other things I want to do.
Goodbye’s are hard for me so I’ll just say – “so long.” Maybe I’ll see you out there shooting sometime and remember, no matter what, I am rooting for you. Retirement won’t change that.
Sincerely with gratitude,
FOUNDER – Photofocus