by Skip Cohen
Throwback Thursday is definitely a favorite day of the week for me. The fun of it is the hunt for old photographs, which bring back great memories. After my life-long career in this industry, poor Sheila can probably lip-sync all my best stories.
I was president of Hasselblad USA from 1987 to 1999 and left on terrific terms to play on the Internet with a company that made me an offer I couldn't refuse. However, hindsight is always 20/20, and my 2 1/2 years on an Internet start-up was like 7:1 in a dog's life, so it felt like 15!
Sometime in '93, Mamiya America, our main competitor, ran an ad congratulating Annie Leibovitz on her new exhibit. It didn't say she was a Mamiya shooter, but the inference was obvious. So, I started thinking - what could we do that would pull together all the great names who were then using Hasselblad gear?
The answer was to launch Hasselblad University. We started with two weekend workshops, one in Santa Barbara at Brooks Institute and the other at RIT. I don't remember who was teaching where, but on two different weekends at the end of the summer, we had ten different industry icons teaching at each campus. The program was set up so that over a weekend, each attendee could spend four hours with four instructors of their choice. Also, we had evening programs featuring all the instructors, which added to the power of the event.
The program was a dismal failure. Nobody wanted to go to Rochester, although there was plenty of interest in Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, we underestimated the popularity of Santa Barbara the weekend before Labor Day. Room rates were absurd. In the end, we quietly canceled both workshops.
But the logo for the event won a design award, thanks to our ad agency, Kalmar Ad/Marketing. It later would become the brand symbol for everything we did in education, which then became road shows with 3-4 speakers and 4-6 cities per series.
At that point, I considered myself responsible for one of the greatest selling jobs in the industry - I talked Tony Corbell into giving up California weather along with his view of the ocean at Brooks and swapping for a view of the Hasselblad parking lot in New Jersey. He was the first and only Dean of Hasselblad University.
Tony and I worked on so many projects together that our VP, Al Zimmerman, finally told us we weren't allowed to travel together! LOL We'd come back from a road trip with more ideas for workshops, new speakers to work with, and programs to sponsor. There's only so much any company can do, and we were always headed to being over budget.
It's Throwback Thursday, and I can't think of a better way to wander down one path of Memory Lane in my career than to think about those incredible days at Hasselblad. It was last week in 1987 that I started at Hasselblad and was introduced to the professional side of imaging. What a wild, crazy, and wonderful ride it continues to be.
Take the time today and look back on some chapters of your career - it's a terrific experience to look at where you are now by appreciating your roots and everything you learned along the way. But there's another important thing about throwbacks - they remind us of the power of the career field we've all chosen. As I've written so many times before...with the exception of modern medicine, no career field has given the world more than photography.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.