Richard LoPinto, the former vice president of Marketing for Nikon Inc., passed away on March 20, 2020. He was 76 years old. Richard was a driving force in the imaging industry for more than 40 years; he certainly made his mark at his beloved Nikon.
According to his brother Ron: “Richard was working for me at Arista Camera when he told me that Joe Ehrenreich would like him to join the company; Manny Solymosy, our EPOI/Nikon rep at the time, recommended him. I told him he would be foolish not to do it. He ended up staying at Nikon for 35 years.”
Richard was first my client when I worked at Nikon’s advertising agency, and then my first boss when Nikon hired me in 1993. It’s easy to say he was one of the most brilliant and interesting men I ever met.
As vice president of Marketing for Nikon Inc., his main responsibility (and talent) was to introduce new Nikon products into the market. Moreover, he took it upon himself to know every little nuance about each new camera, lens or speedlight that Nikon built. He would introduce each new product as if it were his own child. He also painstakingly wrote press releases with every specification, proofreading them to within an inch of its life.
In addition, Richard was way ahead of his time when it came to technology; he was one of the first to depend on a computer as well as to grasp the potential of digital photography. (Richard actually taught me what “software” was.) He ran the advertising programs in the early Nikon days; he also pioneered many of the marketing programs that built the Nikon brand.
A Lifeline to Photographers
In addition, Richard ran Nikon Professional Services (NPS). Professional photographers around the globe would call “RL” on a daily basis, asking for explanations on new product features.
He was a lifeline to many of the most renowned photographers of our time. (He was also a favorite of Don Imus, who would call him to talk photography on a regular basis.) Among his greatest joys was helping photographers accomplish seemingly impossible challenges—whether in sports, photojournalism, nature, wildlife, portraiture, commercial or advertising. He helped them try new things and enabled them to expand their potential. Joe McNally, Pete Turner and Eddie Adams were among his true friends.
Probably my greatest memory of Richard was when film transitioned to digital in the mid-1990s. Richard was a diehard SLR guy, and nothing was going to beat the purity of film. He would never disparage one of his SLR “children”; however, when the Nikon D1 came out, everything changed. Richard recognized the new technologies that were taking over the industry; rather than fight it, he became the company’s foremost expert and cheerleader on everything digital.
Richard was also a Renaissance man. He knew so much about so much. He was an accomplished chef, a very good photographer and a world traveler. Richard also loved the challenge of new technologies. I know he was proud of his two daughters and cherished the life he had with his lovely wife, Ann.
RL, as we all called him, could tell a great story or joke; he could also laugh at himself. He was a determined boss with a kind heart and a quick smile. I believe Richard was one of the main architects of the Nikon brand. His legacy will live on for many years. Rest in peace, RL.
In Memoriam: Richard LoPinto
I asked some of my former colleagues at Nikon Inc. to share their memories of Richard. They follow below:
“So sad to hear of Richard’s passing. I had the pleasure of working with Richard for many years. You could almost say we grew up together. HIs dedication, expertise as well as knowledge were without question; and they only improved over the years.
“We had many opportunities to travel to Japan for business meetings. Part of the fun of the trip was watching Richard explore all the new nonphotographic items available in the Japanese market but not yet in the U.S. After that, it was only a matter of time for him to take the plunge and start buying. It’s a good thing that was before airlines started charging for extra baggage. He will be missed.”—Jack Abrams, former President, Nikon Inc.
“Richard was central to Nikon’s success, especially during the film to digital transition. He saw the powerful potential of digital before others. He was also one of the best presenters in the industry. During a press conference at a packed Carnegie Hall, Richard was about to run a program (days of slide projectors); however, when he pushed the “play” button, nothing happened. While the problem was being solved behind the curtain, Richard spoke extemporaneously for 10 minutes; then he pushed the button again and the program started. No one in the audience had a clue what had happened. Afterwards, one of the editors told me it was the best presentation he ever saw. Richard was a great Nikon advocate and mentor to so many.”—Bill Giordano
“Richard’s passion for technology, photography and all things Nikon has left an indelible mark on those who had the honor and pleasure of working with him. As an educator and mentor to many, he loved sharing his extensive knowledge on a variety of subjects: everything from cameras to cooking. His enthusiasm was contagious and his love for the art and science of photography, inspiring. Many of us felt certain he could recite every word of a Nikon product manual, front to back, from memory. A true gentleman and leader, Richard will be sorely missed by many and never forgotten.”—Anna Marie Bakker
“RL was my rabbi at Nikon Inc. for the better part of my career. He taught me so much about the photo industry and the business world in general. His greatest lesson, however, was about humility, honesty and being true to your company and dedicated to its customers. He always fought for the best products and the best service in the industry. Many of the advances in Nikon’s vast arsenal of innovative products were a direct result of Richard LoPinto’s efforts on behalf of photographers everywhere. He was truly a giant in the industry.”—Lindsay Silverman
“I started working for Richard back in 1975. I was a Nikon School instructor then. With RL’s guidance and mentoring—for 35 years—I worked my way all the way to general manager of Technical & Professional Services. Richard was always there for me and always looked out for the people who worked for him and their staff. I remember in my early days as a manager I would say: ‘RL, I don’t really know what I can do and can’t do.’ He responded, ‘You can do whatever you need to do as long as it’s in the best interest of the customer and the company. If you have to err, err on the side of the customer, because in the long run that is almost always the right course. If you do that, I will always have your back.’ And he did—many times.”—Bill Pekala