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InMenlo founder Chris Gulker: Mar. 10, 1951 – Oct. 27, 2010

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on October 28, 2010

Chris Gulker

InMenlo founder Chris Gulker died yesterday evening at his home in Menlo Park of brain cancer. He was 59. A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held on Friday, Nov. 12 at 2:00 pm at Trinity Church in Menlo Park.

Chris was both high tech geek and artist. The tributes to him on his personal website demonstrate the breadth of his pursuits – photographer, writer, pioneer in electronic publishing, product evangelist – and how many people he touched, many of whom he only knew via the blogosphere.

Captured by the photography bug

Initially drawn to science, his interest in photography was sparked by his high school teacher Bill Moos while attending Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, OH. He continued to take photos during his college years at Occidental College, where he graduated in 1974.

He joined the staff of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner as a staff photographer in 1978 and was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize during his tenure there. About his years at the HerEx, Chris wrote:

“When I started at the Herald, it was a news-driven paper, focusing on freeway crashes and house fires. I kept a police and fire scanner in my car and in my house and pretty much worked ’round the clock without needing to be compensated for the extra time, I loved the job so much.

Chris Gulker, press photographer“Later the newspaper hired legendary editor Jim Bellows, who changed the direction of the paper dramatically, aiming more for LA’s upscale audience. He instituted a more magazine like format, which put a premium on photographs taken in a very different style than traditional press photography. I began looking at Rolling Stone and Vogue as inspiration and discovered photographers like Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts and Annie Liebovitz and began trying to emulate their work.

“Style editor Mary Anne Dolan (who later became Managing Editor and then Editor) hired a Chicago ad and editorial photographer named Gus Gregory. It was Gus who taught me studio technique and how to light with strobes. I began taking strobes out with me on assignment, which resulted in my later portfolio and portraits of celebrities like George Burns and Farrah Fawcett.

“Whether in the studio or in the field, I was constantly looking for images. That included whatever happened to catch my eye as I drove around Los Angeles. Some of these images include bales of wire fencing, street scenes in Hollywood and life on skid row. I loved the variety of light that Los Angeles County presented from early June’s deep overcast through the brilliant full sun of summer.”

Involvement with digital imaging and electronic publishing

In 1989, Chris moved to Menlo Park and joined the San Francisco Examiner as picture editor and then as director of media development. His Wikipedia entry explains his contribution to that newspaper:

“Turning the Examiner into a ‘digital laboratory,’ he converted the newspaper from black and white to color by implementing a production system of his own design that used MacIntoshes to do color separations and made The Examiner the first major American daily to switch to full-color production using desktop technology…

“In 1994, Gulker’s editorial workflow system, dubbed the ‘virtual newsroom,’ was demonstrated at both Seybold shows and supported the creation of ‘a real Internet newspaper that used the Net throughout the process from story and photo solicitation to delivery.’ The system provided the publishing infrastructure for The Gate, the online newspaper jointly operated by the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle…”

A blogger before the term was invented

In 1995, Chris started a personal website, which he maintained until the final days of his illness. Academics have cited gulker.com as one of the earliest weblogs – “the first to propose a network of bloggers.” He also helped pioneer two of the most effective means through which blogging emerged as a social medium – the blogroll and link attribution. In the past four years, he chronicled living with cancer and the challenges of reduced mobility with an aplomb and strength that many readers found remarkable and inspirational.

Product evangelist for electronic publishing

Chris joined Apple in 1995 where he oversaw strategic relations for the company’s Design and Publishing Markets groups and served as “electronic publishing guru.” From 1997-2003, he wrote a technology column for London-based newspaper, The Independent. After leaving Apple, he joined the executive team of a number of startups and at the time of his cancer diagnosis was a product manager at Adobe Systems.

For the past 15 months, Chris was once again pounding the pavement as a press photographer, this time for the hyperlocal blog, InMenlo, that he started with his wife, Linda Hubbard Gulker, and friend Scott Loftesness in 2009. It was his portraits of local people, which showed considerable range and diversity, that gained the online magazine much of its following.

Chris was an avid science fiction reader. When William Gibson read on gulker.com that he was worried he wouldn’t be alive when the author released his next book, the author FedEx’d an advance copy, which his fan sat down and read cover to cover. Author and fan later met when Gibson appeared at Kepler’s book store in Menlo Park.

Chris’s interests also included hiking, cooking and gardening. Earlier this spring he and granddaughter Grace planted a new vegetable garden together.

In addition to his wife Linda and granddaughter Grace, Chris is survived by stepson John Getze and daughter-in-law Julie Getze and an aunt, Theresa Simon.

Those wishing to make a contribution in Chris’s memory can do so either to Western Reserve Academy where a fund is being established in his name – c/o James A. Gundy, Assistant Head of School, Western Reserve Academy, 115 College Street, Hudson, Ohio 44236 – or to the University of California San Francisco, 514 Parnassus Avenue, P.O. Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339 for continued brain tumor research.

Black and white photo of Chris with camera by Anne Knudsen

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