Former Rangefinder and After Capture editor-in-chief Bill Hurter passed away in a San Antonio, Texas, hospital on Wednesday, June 10, of multiple causes (including multiple cancers) at the age of 65. He had been very ill for the past four years and undergoing daily dialysis treatments, yet he continued to write photo books and maintain his longstanding status as the driving force behind Rangefinder and WPPI.
The minute the news of Bill’s passing broke last night on Facebook, scores of tributes starting pouring in and continued throughout the night. So many of us are mourning the loss of this industry icon right now, none more so than his beloved family, as well as the colleagues and photographers who worked closely with him and who were so influenced by him for so many years, including George Varanakis, Arlene Cohen Evans, Skip Cohen, Roberto Valenzuela, Jerry and Melissa Ghionis, Cliff Mautner, David Anthony Williams, Christian Lalonde, Luke and Dave Edmonson, Tamara Lackey, Bambi Cantrell, and so many countless others.
On his LinkedIn page, Bill had written that he was, “recruited and hired out of school by Petersen’s Photographic, where I held many different jobs, finally becoming editor-in-chief for nine years. Left Petersen’s to start LandMine Productions, a small successful ad agency, which lasted for 7 years. Became editor-in-chief of Rangefinder magazine for 15 years. Left Rangefinder in October 2012 and am currently semi-retired, working on long-term projects and enjoying life. I am also still writing books for Amherst Media at present.” Indeed, he authored more than 60 books on photography, wrote hundreds of articles on photography and photographic techniques, and debuted his most recent book, The World’s Top Wedding Photographers: Ten Top Photographers Share the Secrets (Amherst Media) this past March. One of the Top Ten featured in that book was Danny Dong, who wrote on Facebook that, “Bill had a passion and love for this whole industry and cared deeply about the growth of our young photographer generation.”
Roberto Valenzuela, another Top Ten in Bill’s most recent book, wrote me the following: “Many of us wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Bill. He is the one that saw the raw talent in so many photography educators and put them on the stage. For me, it was Bill Hurter and Arlene Cohen Evans who jumpstarted my career when I had nothing to show. Bill dedicated his life to this industry and all of us have been impacted by him in one way or the other.”
“Bill Hurter was the backbone of WPPI and Rangefinder magazine for years,” wrote Jerry Ghionis on his Facebook page. “He was a quiet achiever and went about his life and business with respect, dignity and grace. R.I.P. Bill Hurter. I wouldn’t be where I am without you. So sad but your legacy will live forever.”
Said Jason Groupp, current WPPI Director, upon hearing the news: “Bill was very gracious in offering his wisdom to me when I started at WPPI. His dedication to serve this industry has been an inspiration to me every day. There will never be another Bill Hurter, but his legacy will live on forever and we will work hard to make that happen.”
George Varanakis (at right in the picture below), head of Partnerships & Key Talent at CreativeLive, worked closely with Bill during their 13 years at Rangefinder and WPPI together (George as group publisher and show director, Bill as editor-in-chief).
“Bill was easily the smartest and most fun co-worker I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. We battled over Rangefinder covers. We played pranks on each other. We came up with crazy ideas that actually worked. The thing I miss most were the 15 minutes every morning where I would come into his office and talk about last night’s game, office gossip, industry gossip and life. We’d mostly just sit there and laugh about whatever crazy thing was happening that week. Those were the best minutes of my day. Bill meant so much to so many in this industry. He was always there to help anyone get better at their craft. I would imagine there’s a good chunk of WPPI speakers and Rf writers who owe their career to Bill. He was a true legend. I used to call him ‘Godfather’ at WPPI every year. It was amazing how many people would come up and talk to him. Most just wanted to say thank you for all he had done for them. After the shock wore off when I heard of his passing, I found myself laughing out loud most of the night thinking about all the fun and crazy things we did in the Rf office together. There’s probably a sitcom in there somewhere. We had a lot of fun over the years. I’ll never forget all the years we worked together. He was one of the best people I’ve ever known. I consider myself lucky to call him a friend. RIP, Bill.”
Arlene Cohen Evans, currently the director of photography education at CreativeLive, worked very closely with Bill during her time as education and membership director of WPPI from 2005-2012. “This picture was taken during a visit with Bill in early 2012, shortly after he got sick,” she says of the photo above. “It was one of my favorites. We had an amazing team under Bill and he will be greatly missed.”
A special thank you to Bill’s son Nick, who shared this recent photo (below) of his baby daughter, Avery Elizabeth Hurter, shown here with grandpa Bill. Nick is completely blown away by the outpouring of support in the industry and spent most of the night reading posts on Facebook. “I was with him when he passed, and only had spoken with a couple family members, so I was amazed at how fast the word spread.”
Bill’s nephew, Chris George, was extremely gracious in answering my countless questions about his uncle. “We will miss him terribly,” said Chris, a newspaper man himself who proudly used to refer to Rangefinder as “the magazine my uncle edits. My uncle was sick for a very long time and put up a very brave fight.”
The entire Rangefinder and WPPI family want to extend our deepest condolences to the entire Hurter family. Bill is survived by two sisters, a son (Nicholas) and daughter (Natalie Lemmon), a nephew (Chris George), a niece, and two grandchildren.
The family would like people to know that donations in Bill Hurter’s name can be made to the American Kidney Fund.