The Passing of a Legend

Industry Perspective

The Passing of a Legend

By Ron Leach

The photographic industry has lost a beloved friend, a passionate advocate, and a true legend with the recent passing of Herbert Keppler.

Burt was both mentor and inspiration to countless professional photographers, hobbyists, educators and photo equipment manufacturers worldwide. In fact, anyone who bought or sold a camera, captured a special moment with the click of a shutter, or was involved in the manufacture or marketing of a photo product in the past 57 years owes a debt of gratitude to this quiet, unassuming, but very influential man.

Born in 1925, Burt honed his eye for imaging under the guidance of his father Victor Keppler, a highly acclaimed commercial photographer and illustrator. After graduating from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Burt joined the U.S. Navy and rose through the ranks to lieutenant and commanding officer aboard a landing craft support ship in the Pacific near the end of World War II.

Burt's post-war journalistic career began as a reporter for the New York Sun. In 1950 he applied his editorial skills to photography as an Associate Editor for the fledgling Modern Photography magazine. As in the Navy, Burt climbed the ladder at Modern Photography--holding the position of Editorial Director and Publisher when he left in 1987 to become Vice President and Publishing Director of Popular Photography where he spent the next 20 years.

Burt's modest demeanor belied the fact that he was the recipient of numerous prestigious awards both in the U.S, and abroad, including a 2002 presentation at New York's Japanese Consulate where he received the "Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette" from Yoshihiro Nishida, Consul General of Japan. One of the many things I'll always remember about Burt is that despite his many accolades he gave his time patiently and freely--even to naïve PR guys fresh out of college.

As we depart for Las Vegas to attend the 2008 Photo Marketing Association convention it's clear that despite the thousands of photographers, retailers, mass merchandisers and others who attend PMA from throughout the world, this year's event will feel rather empty to all.