Photography world loses an artist, visionary and mentor: Michael Reichmann dies at 71

by Dave Etchells

posted Friday, May 20, 2016 at 3:08 PM EST


It's with a heavy heart that I write this story, as the photography world has lost a friend to many and mentor to even more, in the form of Michael Reichmann, who lost his long battle with cancer and passed away late Wednesday, at the age of 71.

Michael founded the popular Luminous Landscape site (LuLa to those familiar with it) back in 1999, very early in the evolution of photography on the web. What began as a modest hobby website evolved into a leading platform for lovers of fine art photography to gather, grow and learn. Beyond the many articles on the site by Michael and others, a huge array of tutorial and informational videos, mostly produced by Michael's friend and co-founder Chris Sanderson are also on offer, for a very modest subscription of just $12 per year. (Yes, that's just $1 per month, surely one of the best values in photography.) LuLa also was and continues to be known for their fine-art landscape photography workshops, held in far-flung corners of the globe. (Patagonia, the Atacama Desert, Antartica, Finland and Iceland, to name just a few.)

First and foremost, Michael was an artist, deeply passionate about his work, and eager to show others the way. A photographer for 45 years of his life, his art was a permanent backdrop for his life throughout a highly successful business career. In fact, LuLa initially came about as Michael pondered what to do next, after just having sold a high-tech company he'd co-founded ten years earlier. A few posts of his old articles from Photo Techniques magazine began the journey, and as they say, the rest is history.

I admit to being envious of the life Michael lived so fully. I love photography, but have no pretenses: I'm far more a geek than an artist. In many ways, I felt Michael was my doppelgänger, someone also familiar with technology, but with an artist's heart, talent and sensibilities. Michael had more photographic talent in his proverbial little finger than I have in my whole body.

We both loved photography, though, and shared a passion for helping people make the most of it. My part has been limited to helping people find the best tools (that is, best-suited for them), while Michael's role went much deeper, to teaching, encouraging, and mentoring people in the practice of the art itself.

Photo by Nick Devlin, used with permission

Michael's legacy lives on in many ways, most significantly in the lives of those he taught and encouraged; there's a lot more beautiful photography in the world because of his passion and efforts. LuLa also lives on, guided by the capable hands of his friend Kevin Raber, now CEO and Publisher of LuLa. A lifelong photographer and long-time industry veteran, Kevin agreed to take on the role of CEO and Publisher a couple of years ago, when Michael first learned of his illness and prognosis. 

LuLa's workshops, videos and great web articles have been and are all continuing. The LuLa site itself has transitioned to a subscription model, with the bulk of most articles available only to subscribers, part of that amazing $1/month deal mentioned above. (The subscription model is an interesting one; I wish Kevin well with it, and will be watching how it goes with interest. It's tougher than ever to support what we do at IR solely through advertising and affiliate sales, and honestly, at a dollar per visitor per month, we could triple our staff and never take another penny's worth of advertising.)

One of Michael's most important and hopefully longest-lasting legacies, though, is the Luminous Endowment, a charitable fund he created to "provide financial assistance through grants to deserving photographers and their projects – worldwide." If you've been touched in some way by Michael's life and would like to commemorate that or just support his vision going forward, would you consider making a donation to the Endowment? If you have the means, perhaps you'd consider sponsoring a grant yourself? Finally, if you're not so well-heeled, but passionate about photography, you might also consider participating in Michael's vision by applying for a grant through the Endowment; there are a number currently available, with application deadlines of June 30.

Our sincerest condolences to Kevin, Chris, Michael's family, and his many friends and fellow-travelers worldwide. He'll be sorely missed, but his legacy lives on.