There is a saying that the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes, and since I don’t have any interest in writing about taxes, I am sorry to say that this post is about yet another member of the film photography community who has passed away.
I don’t imagine that the name Marc Bergman resonates with a lot of people reading this site, as he never had a fancy blog, he hasn’t authored any collector’s books, and he’s not a member (at least that I know of) any of the big historical societies.
Marc’s biggest contributions to the community and this website are just as valuable than those from any other collector, blogger, or historian as he was the source for a huge amount of the content that I use on this site. Marc had a collection of nearly every back issue of Modern Photography, Popular Photography, Camera 35, and a few other magazines which he took the time to scan in and post online for me to use. Every single one of my Keppler’s Vault posts contained articles scanned in by him, and his scans of magazine ads and other articles have been an invaluable resource for me, and there is no way I would have been able to provide the amount of detail I have in my reviews, without his help.
If you’re a long time collector, Marc was active on photo.net since 2002 and then on flickr since 2009 under the name shotput888, a name he would later change to alookback.net sometime in 2017 when he would start his own historical photography website using the same name.
I first became aware of Marc’s huge stash of back issues in 2015 when writing my earliest articles, and after contacting him a number of times through flickr, eventually switched over to email. Many times in researching a particular camera, I would come up a little short, and all it would take was a single email to Marc to ask if he’s seen anything about whatever camera I needed help with, and a couple days later, I would have a reply with not one or two, but sometimes six or more full length articles, along with ads or other little blurbs about that model which he had found for me and scanned in.
Each and every time I would contact Marc, I would always offer to help him in some way, send him a donation or something, and he always politely declined. Although he never said this to me, I guessed that he enjoyed his efforts being appreciated.
I probably emailed Marc at least once a month to ask for help on something and he always responded, until I noticed his posts stop last month. Marc’s postings of “new” back issues was like clockwork. From 2014 to 2018, he focused on years 1949 through 1968, posting the issues from whatever month it was from each five year gap on the first day of each new month. So in 2014, he did 1949, 1954, 1959, and 1964. In 2015, he would do 1950, 1955, 1960, and 1965. He did this on a five year cadence until 2019 when he started working on 1969, 1974, 1979, and 1984. It was a peculiar pattern for sure, but it worked for him, and for me. As he would post a new month’s issues at the beginning of each month, I would bookmark interesting articles for a future Keppler’s Vault or for research on a particular camera I might one day review.
When I saw June’s postings weren’t completed, I figured he needed a break. After all, it has to take a lot of effort to not only find things in these issues worth scanning, but Marc’s scans were always of very high quality, with resolutions as high as 4000 pixels per image. He also took the time to organize them into folders that made things easier to find.
When July started and I still saw no updates, I sent him a quick email asking if everything was OK and that I had wondered if he was taking a break from scanning.
A couple of days went by, and then I got the email. Sent in response to mine, it was from Marc’s brother Jonathan letting me know that Marc had passed away in early June. His brother offered no specifics, not that any were owed to me, so I have no idea what happened.
To be honest, in the five plus years I communicated with Marc, I knew very little about him. I never asked, and he never told. I didn’t know how old he was, where did he live, what did he do for a living, or even how he came across all those old photography magazines. I wish I had, but I guess even armed with more knowledge, it wouldn’t have changed anything.
So anyway, that’s my little memorial to Marc. I don’t know how many of you might have ever interacted with him, but I have to believe that if you are reading this, you like what I do, and I can honestly say that although a great number of people have helped me in many ways, this site definitely would not be what it is without Marc.
Rest in peace buddy, you’ll be missed.