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After 28 years of publishing his Tampa Bay Events Calendar, The Doctor of Photography retires

 
After 28 years of creating popular photo calendars of Tampa, Dr. David Lubin, 71, of Tampa, is retiring from the business. The calendar, at center, featured a multiple-exposure image of a full moon and the University of Tampa, one of Lubin’s more well-known pictures. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
After 28 years of creating popular photo calendars of Tampa, Dr. David Lubin, 71, of Tampa, is retiring from the business. The calendar, at center, featured a multiple-exposure image of a full moon and the University of Tampa, one of Lubin’s more well-known pictures. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Dec. 28, 2018

The writing has been on the wall for a few years that the end was near for David Lubin's calendar business. Or, to be more literal, the evidence has been hanging on the wall.

For 28 years, Lubin has published his Tampa Bay Events Calendar that lists local happenings and features his photographs snapped on both sides of the bridge.

Lubin has long been accustomed to businesses forgetting to flip a month on the wall calendar. But, in recent years, such cases and the number of months a calendar is behind have grown, he said, while sales have diminished from a peak of over 30,000 a year to 6,000 orders for 2019.

Both problems have the same cause, Lubin, 71, said.

"It's the digital age. No one needs a calendar."

Not even one as popular as Lubin's. So, his 2019 edition will be his last.

"I have been asked for years why I am still making a paper calendar in this digital age," said Lubin, who, due to running a family medical practice for nearly four decades before retiring five years ago, is also known as The Doctor of Photography.

"In banking we don't need checks anymore. Groceries are delivered. Starbucks is now partnering with Uber."

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The world is changing, he said, and that has also impacted his business model.

A company pre-orders a specific number of calendars that feature only their advertisement. The business then gives the calendars to current and prospective customers.

"I think some of my clients now use their money for digital advertising," Lubin said.

But his still-loyal customers grieve the coming loss of what they call a local institution.

"It's one more Tampa tradition gone," said 15-year customer Jeff Italiano of Italiano Insurance Services. "I usually have people calling me in October asking if the calendars are in yet. Once it is gone, people will miss it more than they realize."

Lubin estimates he has published 500,000 total calendars that feature over 1,000 unique photographs. Some pictures take up the whole top page while others adorn a single calendar square promoting that day's event, such as an art show, Rays game, or a national or local holiday.

Among Lubin's favorite subjects are fireworks displays, the Florida State Fair, the Strawberry Festival, Tampa Bay Lightning games and the Gasparilla Distance Classic.

His "most dramatic shot" was taken in 2001 when, from the rooftop of Memorial Hospital, he captured the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in the distance

"It was dusk, just as the full moon was rising, and the sun was setting with sunlight reflecting off the buildings in downtown," Lubin said. "Spectacular."

The birth of his daughter 40 years ago first drew Lubin to photography. He thought he would take a lot of pictures of the newborn, so, he purchased a camera.

"I then developed an eye," Lubin said.

His photos began winning contests and later adorned his Christmas cards.

In 1991 St. Joseph's Hospital used one of his photos in its calendar. That inspired him to publish his own the following year.

Memorial Hospital and the city of Tampa promised to purchase 500. Those pre-orders were enough to fund one-third of the cost of printing 10,000 calendars with a cover photo of a full moon above the University of Tampa's minarets at dusk.

"The city cancelled at the last minute," Lubin said with a laugh. "I don't remember how I got rid of all those calendars, but I did."

The calendar's peak was in the mid-1990s when Barnett Bank ordered around 30,000 a year to hand out during the annual Gasparilla Art Show. Barnett eventually decided to publish its own calendar featuring bank buildings from throughout the state.

"How exciting," Lubin sarcastically said.

Even after losing his biggest customer, Lubin said, he still averaged 12,000 calendars a year for a while.

Despite the calendar being a large part of his life for nearly three decades, Lubin doesn't think he'll miss it. That's just his personality, he said. He didn't regret retiring from medicine, nor was he remorseful when he sold Swann Avenue Market he owned for a few years

But those who have supported the calendar over the years say their walls will look empty without a new Lubin's photograph each month

"This is sad. My clients always look forward to getting one," said Kevin Keever, whose Keever & Associates insurance company has been using the calendar since its first year. "I guess all good things must come to an end".

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.