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Photo District News Has Closed at 40

Emerald Expositions, the operator of business-to-business trade shows that runs PhotoPlus (formerly Photo East, and before that Photo Expo) in New York City at the Javits Center, and is the most recent owner of PDN, has announced that PDN will close down and stop providing content.

PDN was founded by a photo assistant named Carl S. Pugh as New York Photo District News, a newsletter for the commercial and studio professionals along lower Fifth Avenue in New York city—the photo district. It was first published in May of 1980 and made a profit from the start. (1979 is generally agreed to have been the peak of photography as a home hobby as well—both home darkroom magazines were founded within a year or two of that date.) As the only publication directly targeting commercial and studio advertising professionals, with content relevant to business as well as photography, PDN soon became national. Pugh founded Photo Expo in 1983 and sold the show and the magazine to AdWeek in 1984. In the 1990s, as President of the Trade Show Division of Mecklermedia, he went on to run the then-fast-growing Internet World Conference.

In its heyday, Photo District News was a thick, glossy, professionally-produced publication that studio pros all across the country felt they had to subscribe to even if they didn’t have time to read it. It was the voice and the brightly-lit shop window of the industry. It was neither well known nor widely read among amateurs and hobbyists. PDN also published the PDN Annual, a showcase for talent where photographers could become known. The Annual awarded a number of prizes; the Photographer of the Year award was $5,000 along with a profile in PDN. Naturally, advertising agencies and art directors also kept an eye on the publications, always on the lookout for that year’s hot talents.

PhotoPlus, which has been shrinking, will go on this year, but its future beyond that is not known. Emerald Expositions will continue to publish its other publication, Rangefinder, in digital-only format, along with support for the WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photography International) show, which is growing.


(Thanks to Jeff Schimberg, and others)

ADDENDUM: Here’s the email letter PDN sent to subscribers. Thanks to Terry Morrissey for sharing this.

PDN letter

Note that they are repaying their subscription debt (the monies already paid for subscriptions that haven’t yet been, and now won’t be, fulfilled). Typically, magazines that are folding will sell their subscription debt to another magazine, and you’ll get that other magazine for the remainder of your subscription. Sometimes, you’re just out of luck, as if you had played a game with a “futures” investment that didn’t pan out. It’s relatively unusual for a publication to refund unused subscription payments in cash. So kudos to Emerald Expositions for that.

Original contents copyright 2020 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.

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(To see all the comments, click on the “Comments” link below.)

Featured Comments from:

kirk tuck: “And professional photography has now left the room….”

vince garofalo: “When I worked with Eric Meola I remember PDN was issued on newsprint, also for many years Rolling Stone magazine.”

John Shriver: “That’s pure class to refund the remaining subscriptions! I’ve had two subscriptions to magazines that ceased publication (The Perfect Vision and Mainline Modeler), and no funds were returned to me, nor any other compensation.”

Jim: “I attended PhotoPlus last October for the first time. It was a terrific event. Most camera makers were there (Sony was around the corner). Each provided free CLAs for their brand. Not only was my digital camera cleaned and checked, they replaced the eyepiece and one of the accessory doors, neither of which I thought was a problem. They also provided models to photograph, well known photographers as guest speakers, and the opportunity to try the latest and greatest equipment, e.g., I got to shoot with the GFX 100. I also shoot film. The number of analogue vendors was very impressive. All aspects from LF camera makers to film manufacturers and darkroom equipment suppliers were represented. All in all, a lot of fun.”

jim: “Sad news. I have not only been a long term subscriber (since sometime in the late ’80s) but freelanced for them after journalism school and owe them my start as an agency photographer. I got my first contract through connections I made while writing for PDN. Their closing says a lot about the state of the photography industry and its continuing viability as a profession.”

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