Monday, January 07, 2008

Herb Keppler, 1925-2008

Herbert Keppler, in his office, December, 2006.

It's with a sad heart that I have to start the new year off for this blog with such news. Herb Keppler, Harvard graduate, World War II veteran, brilliant photography writer, and, finally, vice-president and publishing director of Popular Photography Magazine, has recently passed away.

"Burt" was one of the first American photography writers to understand the significance of the 35mm SLR camera in the 1950's, and consequently the importance of the original Pentax camera. He was frequently awarded honors by the Japanese photography industry for his foresight and influence that helped create the consumer camera market we know today. He wrote several books about Pentax SLR film cameras which I consider to be invaluable resources, as well as other books on cameras that convey his boy-like excitement for the technology and engineering that goes into producing cameras. He had a special talent for knowing when something worked solidly or when something could be improved. He was also incredibly gifted at understanding the marketing conditions involved in manufacturing cameras and selling them. His relationship with Pentax was always kind and generous, as if he were one of their family.

Speaking personally, he was one of the most interesting and affable people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I've had the experience to talk candidly with him one to one, and I will never forget it. Burt shared insight into the dynamics of the industry that I never would have guessed at before.

You can find warm tributes to Burt written by Jason Schneider at both T.O.P. and at PopPhoto, and by another Mason Resnick of Adorama. If you find any others, please let me know in the comments. My condolences to his colleagues and family.


RiceHigh said...

I am really very sorry to hear about that.

Mr. Keppler is one of the very few photo magazine or internet writers whom I respect. His special insights and in-depth but extensive technical knowledge did impress me from time to time and his articles were often inspiring.

I first read Mr. Keppler's articles in the Modern Photography days and in fact his camera and lens tests designed and carried out by him and his team are really great with very high professional quality and standards, which nowadays few people have attained such levels. I always found his published test reports on measuring the accuracy, performance as well as alignments etc. for camera bodies and lenses quite useful. In fact, he had influenced me a lot.

Nevertheless, he did not just concentrate solely on writing articles about gear and wrote equipment testing reports alone. Sometimes, he did write something else that did lead me to think more about photography, the camera industry, collections, the development of better cameras, or even the value of the latest features and cameras as a tool and so on, in both hard or soft ways which are interesting.

Well, afterall, I hope him is now well at the Heaven and will continue to shoot if he can (if there are cameras). :-)

John said...

Three-odd years ago, while working at the old pro camera shop, I found a dusty copy of The Pentax Way in the used books store across the street. It became something of a bible for me. When I was trying to sell a customer on Pentax, I'd pull the book out and explain why I liked the brand so much. I didn't have to even crack it open, the title itself was enough. I sold a lot of cameras that way.

I never got to meet Mr. Keppler, but I know guys who speak of him with reverence in their voices.

I think someone really ought to write a modern Pentax Way book, both as a new guide to Pentax and as a tribute to Keppler.

Besides, there are no good Pentax books out there these days (aside from user guides for individual cameras, that is).

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