This site is called Photofocus. We’re called Photofocus for a very good reason. And here’s how that reason was discovered.
Turn your time machine back to the Fall of 1998. I was experimenting with all sorts of Internet technology. I started one of the world’s first photo galleries online. It was called f64.com (named after Ansel Adams’ camera club.) The first exhibit was a set of nude photos shot by photographer/actor/director Leonard Nimoy. (There is an old Pioneer Press article about this written by well-known tech writer Julio Ojeda-Zapata but I can’t find it on the web. I remember they wouldn’t publish the URL because it led to “naked pictures.”) NOTE: I have since sold this domain to an online camera company overseas.
Then I built a company called NetRadio. I started building it in 1995 and it was written up in WIRED in 1996 – http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.03/scans.html
In 1996 I worked with CMP Media to develop First-TV – think YouTube WAAAAY before it’s time. We even ran a film festival in 1997 and went to Park City – http://ubmchannelnews.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=29573&item=86562
In 1998 I wanted to do something bigger with photography. Magazines were already starting to struggle thanks to the new fangled Internet. I thought that they might eventually start to fade away so I decided to start an online magazine about Photography.
But what to call it?
My marketing team thought we could get advertisers if we focused on cameras and camera reviews. They were no doubt right. And years later DP Review went on to do that quite well and sold to Amazon. I resisted the idea because I was less concerned about making money than I was teaching and sharing photography.
Simply put, I made what was a horrible business decision but a tremendous personal development decision. I decided that we needed a PHOTO centric site not a CAMERA centric site. Both CAMERAFOCUS.COM and PHOTOFOCUS.COM were available at the time but I decided on Photofocus.com because I wanted everyone to know at least one thing when they visited our site. It’s the PICTURE that matters.
If you have a camera-centric site, the take away is that it is the CAMERA that matters. Those of us with experience know that the same camera in the hands of 100 people at the same place, date and time, will record 100 different views of the same scene – so the camera is subservient to the photo it makes.
To that end, we have never accepted one thin dime of sponsorship money from any camera manufacturer. I knew that if we did several things would happen.
1. Whichever camera company sponsored us, it would mean that everyone would assume we were biased toward that camera company and would never give any credibility to our reviews of competing products.
2. We’d become dependent on that camera company which would mean we couldn’t report on things we didn’t like about it.
3. We’d scare away other camera companies that wanted reviews.
4. We’d damage any chance we had at building a real relationship with our audience.
5. We’d take the FOCUS off of photography and put it onto the tools, not the pictures they help make.
So on November 2, 1998, I launched PHOTOFOCUS.COM. It was crude. There were no blogs or RSS feeds back then. It was essentially a static web site that I had to reprogram every time I added content.
We’ve updated that site continually for almost 15 years. Sometimes pointing it to other projects and domains (such as during the time I helped run THIS WEEK IN PHOTOGRAPHY (TWIP)) but it’s been there in one form or another.
You might have noticed the site is changing. We’re bringing in fresh voices and younger talent. I am now just the founder, no longer the publisher. I’m the guy that started all this. But I guarantee you I will not be the guy that finishes it.
I am retiring from assignment shooting and many of my other business responsibilities on the 15th anniversary of Photofocus – 11/02/13. I have loved photography all my life and my decision to promote PHOTOGRAPHY not cameras is part of the legacy I leave behind. I leave the site in capable hands. I leave the site in the control of people who are just as passionate about photos as I am.
Will they change the rule about accepting camera ads? I hope not, but I’ll leave it up to them. I will occasionally contribute posts to the site, even in retirement. I will even occasionally show up on a podcast or two. But the site will no longer be driven by my vision. It’s time for someone younger, smarter, and more in tune with our target audience than me to take over.
I leave you with this. I told you this story because I wanted you to know that while I am and always will be opinionated, controversial and dedicated to my causes, I first and foremost want to be seen as someone who loves photography, not cameras.
If you can learn from that along with the similar admonitions of others like David duChemin (who said “Gear is good – Vision is Better!”) and Ashraf Saharudin (who said “People, there’s no such thing as, THE BEST CAMERA BRAND, but yes there will always be THE BEST CAMERA AT ANY GIVEN TIME. Technology will change, but not art.) then you will advance in photography.
If you visit this site with the intent of getting better at photography, the learning starts the moment that you read the mast head. PHOTOfocus. Concentrate on making great photographs and realize that the camera you are using is merely an instrument that helps guide you through that process.
I’m rooting for you.