When Ken Rockwell launched his Web site during 1999, his only intention was to share the photos he took each weekend with his friends and to have some fun. Believe it or not, he originally considered it an electronic notebook where he could dump shooting information he acquired during his photography sessions. Stored on the Web site, he could then access the information wherever he might be.
So much for intentions; today, he is recognized as “the world’s largest independent source of photography information.” Since 2004, his site has been his family’s sole source of income without kowtowing to the big camera companies or accepting free products, or even money. He isn't paid for endorsements and acquires cameras, lens, etc. to review just like any average photographer in the world. His Web site’s only revenue comes from the few advertisers on the site.
About Ken Rockwell:
Ken Rockwell has no formal training in Web site development other than a single Dreamweaver class (a free one at that) during 1999, and breaks many of the “rules” of Internet marketing and presence. Despite this, more people/photographers read his Web site than the world’s largest photography magazine. Rockwell readily admits that the key to his success is his independent perspective. He pulls no punches and feels free to express his opinion about anything photography-related. After all, he is just having fun. In fact, often he adds fictional information, satirical wit and boldface hoaxes to his reviews and commentary just so it isn't so serious. It would bore him otherwise.
Although it could be said that he created his Internet success in a very unconventional manner, (even totally wrong), Ken Rockwell obviously comes from a place, a family and a background that values success regardless of how it’s achieved. It’s doubtful that photography can be a genetic trait passed from one generation to the next; Rockwell, however, could certainly claim he may be living proof of just that. His great-great grandfather, James Brewster, was a photography pioneer in Scotland during the middle years of the 19th century. The motivation and inspiration for being a success is definitely a character trait that Ken acquired from his parents. His father is a highly regarded engineer and his mother, a certified flight instructor (among other aircraft certifications), has been a pilot from childhood. Both his brothers, Steve and Dave, hold PhD’s in their career fields as well as writing important books for their disciplines.
Photography was obviously Ken Rockwell’s discipline and passion from an early age; as he says, he was a serious photographer at the age of 5. He was also serious about his education, earning a BSEE engineering degree. An even more serious indication of his engineering prowess is that he has been granted a U.S. Patent! His education led to a long-term career in digital imaging in the broadcasting industry.
Ken and his family now live on Long Island, which is where he was born. He made the move from San Diego primarily to be closer to the center of the photography world in the U.S. All the major camera manufacturers have offices in the New York area. It is also the location of some of the world’s largest camera retailers.
Although Ken Rockwell’s Website may be unconventional, he did have a plan. He freely admits that he copied the broadcasting business model as the structure for his Web site. He worked in radio and TV most of his life, and saw how spending millions of dollars to create the best programming possible could be provided to the public for free, but also generate billions of dollars in advertising. There may have been a bit of luck, serendipity, behind Rockwell’s success and elevated status in the Web world; but what he has proven is that success also has much to do with remaining independent, being obligated to no one and simply having fun.
Visit Ken's site here: www.KenRockwell.com
Photograph provided by www.KarlGrobl.com