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AIPP: Déjà vu all over again?

The sudden and unexpected resignation of three AIPP National Board members, including former president Melissa Neumann, along with the joint company secretary, has left some members feeling the Institute is in a state of disarray and uncertainty.

Melissa, Sara, and Dan are out. Missing from this graphic are the two new board members, Geoff Comfort and Ben Kopilow.

The resignations come after a reasonably ‘straightforward’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday night, November 26, in Brisbane. The following day at the Board meeting all director roles, including president, become vacant. The board then votes to elect – or in most cases re-elect – members to specific roles.

AIPP former president, Melissa Neumann.

Melissa Neumann was voted out of the role of AIPP president, with vice president Louise Bagger elected to replace her. The unexpected leadership shake-up triggered Melissa’s resignation as a Board member as well, and not long after there were also resignations from fellow Board members, Dan O’Day and Sara McKenna, and AIPP joint company secretary, Roger Rosentreter.

‘We were asked to give a statement prior to the election, and I made it clear that I never wanted the role of president but was happy to take it on,’ Melissa told Inside Imaging. ‘Once my services were no longer required as president, that’s when I planned to leave the Board. So this was not something that was a surprise [to anyone on the Board] – it was a known outcome.’

New president Louise Bagger told Inside Imaging that neither Melissa nor she were in the room during the Board discussion prior to the vote, so she cannot speculate on why the presidency changed.

In ordinary instances, the vote is treated as a formality, and board members are generally re-elected unopposed. At this AGM in particular, following an extended period of tumult, there were concerns another leadership change could be damaging.

The AIPP is undergoing a major restructure, following financial and membership turmoil in early 2018 that nearly sunk it. Since then it has also faced the Lisa Saad cheating scandal, and numerous board member resignations. Many feel the last thing the AIPP needs is further instability, demonstrated by an inability to maintain continuous leadership and a clear vision.

‘…I urge all members of the National Board to really think about the decision they make at the next board meeting when positions are declared vacant,’ Hilary Wardhaugh an AIPP Master photographer with two decades serving on the ACT Council, wrote in a letter to the board prior to the AGM. ‘Think about the bigger picture, not personalities. Good governance requires putting aside personal differences and agendas, toxic power struggles and conflicts and deciding on what is best for the current ever-evolving membership, one that is becoming younger and more diverse. Good governance requires stability, patience and time, and I would urge you to keep the stability for another year to ensure the currency and sustainability of the AIPP.’

Hilary told Inside Imaging that yet another shake up will threaten to drive away current or future members, or sponsors. She has cancelled her own membership.

While Inside Imaging was not present at the AIPP AGM, it’s understood another long-standing and active female member, Mel Anderson, spoke about the importance of stability and vision in a world of ‘corporate social responsibility’.

New AIPP president, Louise Bagger.

Yet these arguments weren’t enough to prevent the Board from removing Melissa as president. Louise claims the AIPP will continue in its current direction.

‘We will continue to build on the path that has been set. We’ve set some fantastic initiatives in the last six to 12 months, built upon by Melissa, Dan, and Sara,’ she said. ‘We’ll continue to work on that, and we’re not going to stop working on those initiatives. It’s full steam ahead.’

Over on the private AIPP Community Facebook group, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Melissa said she suspected her presidency was under threat. ‘In the back of my mind I had an idea it could happen. I like to believe in the best of everyone, but also prepare for the worst,’ she said.  ‘So I actually had a prepared statement and resignation letter just in case the worst happened.’

After votes were cast and Louise was announced as president, Melissa handed over the envelope containing her resignation and statement, congratulated Louise and left. Asked if she was shocked by the outcome, Melissa responded ‘nothing shocks me in the AIPP, I’ve been around for a long time and you never know what’s going to happen’.

Asked if the Board vote was a premeditated manoeuvre, or if anything signalled a change of leadership, Louise said ‘I certainly hope not’ as it would be ‘a breach of Board confidentiality’ and a case of external influence, ‘which can’t happen’.

Melissa said she was unaware of any events or conversations that took place during her seven months as president that suggested other board members, or even disgruntled older members, were dissatisfied with her direction. Even though she had prepared a resignation letter, she said nothing indicated to her why fellow Board members would vote against her continued role as president.

The AIPP under her presidency represented a change of direction, which aspired to be more in tune with the changing photo industry. For instance, the AIPP is on the cusp of rolling out a new membership system that would open membership up to anyone in the industry, not just working pros.

‘From what I can tell, there was no resistance to any of the strategies that we were putting in place. There was talk that we were being very pro-active in bringing in new members and opening the Institute up to more than just “working professionals”. I don’t know if that made a difference, but I’ve also heard concerns that I’m not you’re typical pants-suit-type management style. I say it how it is. And there was concern that didn’t really fit what some felt the look of the Institute should be’.

Louise reiterated that all existing strategies will remain in place, and a strategy planning meeting is scheduled for early next year.

‘This board will keep steering the ship. We’re not going to let it run off course, we’ve got a path set and we intend on building on that path. We hope that members will see that we have a solid board, with some fantastic new board members, who are looking forward to putting their stamp on the board, and how the Institute is run from here.’

Inside Imaging has had several discussions with AIPP members who are disappointed by the outcome of the AGM. There is speculation this marks a return to what some label the AIPP ‘old boys’ club’. Time will tell.

The AIPP National Board now consists of Louise Bagger as president, Bruce Pottinger as vice president, Geoff Comfort as board convener, David Simmonds, Ben Kopilow, and Felisha Mina.

More to come…

Here’s an excerpt of the AIPP National Board statement:
On Wednesday we had a full agenda for our Board meeting which included the induction of our two new Directors Geoff Comfort FAIPP APPLM GMPhotog and Ben Kopilow APP MPhotogI. We’re grateful to both of them for offering their valuable time for the benefit of the institute.

As required by the constitution, all officer bearer positions were declared vacant at the start of that meeting and elections were held to appoint new office bearers for the next 12 months.

Through difficult circumstances, we have regretfully received resignations from the Board from Melissa Neumann, Sara McKenna and Dan O’Day.

While elected as Treasurer, Sara raised concerns that her position as a director could impact other aspects of her life. Sara has done a remarkable job stabilising the financial protocols of the AIPP and we have agreed for her to continue to help with the finances but she has resigned as a director.

We have also received the resignation from our Joint Company Secretary Roger Rosentreter APP. Roger provided countless hours of his time dedicated to the AIPP to ensure the AIPP’s corporate compliance of which we are extremely grateful.

We would like to sincerely thank all four of them for the enormous contribution they have made to the AIPP.

The National Board is already underway looking at the strategic issues and future of the AIPP. We will be heavily involving our Councils and Committees to continue to develop the institute in the new environments in which we, as photographers, live and work in today.

We will continue talking with all of you on a regular basis and look forward to your ongoing support as we evolve through 2020 and beyond.

9 Comments

  1. DW DW November 29, 2019

    Do we really have to keep re-iterating it is the AIPP – the key is in the last two letters.
    When is this “club” going to bother actually doing something for PROFESSIONAL photographers (such as advocacy for the profession a la PPA in the States) instead of simply running pat-each-other-on-the-back “awards” that recognise skills in photoshop not the BUSINESS of PHOTOGRAPHY?
    Post-nominals are a utterly irrelevant way to judge someone’s “professionalism” – try years in business, customer reviews and the like – that is a true measure of a PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER’s status!
    Until then, I’m guessing a lot of real pro’s will stay away from the pathetic infighting that is destroying the reputation of an Association that can’t decide if it wants to be a beacon for PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS or a club for anyone with a vague interest in cameras.

    • WL WL December 2, 2019

      Spot with everything you just said, and hence the reason why like thousands now have left what has become nothing more than a pat me on the back camera club. They have lost their way time and time again and while they continue to spew out drivel claiming they are moving forward and its a new period yet nothing seems to ever change they will continue to haemorrhage members like a bucket with shot gun holes in it

    • Matt Matt December 2, 2019

      First of all, you are already benefitting from the AIPP’s actions for photographers in terms of advocacy for responsible copyright laws and privacy laws. Even as we speak right now there is a submission to a council that is changing the laws they are passing about the use of tripods and professional equipment in certain places. Just because you may not have seen it happen does not mean it hasn’t occurred.

      Second, Post nominals are split into awards and into professional levels. The APP after the name is Accredited Professional Photographer. The MPhotog and awards levels do not relate to the level of professionalism and do not claim to, they are representative ultimately of level of craft which does not relate to how one operates a business.

      If you genuinely want to ask some real questions about the institute rather than publish assumptions you are welcome to send an email to the AIPP admin email ATTN: Matt and I will personally provide you what answers I can. But your statements here are simply inaccurate and show that you haven’t really looked very hard for a long long time.

  2. Bente Andermahr (BA please) Bente Andermahr (BA please) November 30, 2019

    In reply to this comment, I would like to say that much work has been done over this last year or so, in very challenging circumstances, from the ground up, to assess and reassess the function, purpose and procedures within the AIPP that support Professional Photographers and Video Producers. This is especially valuable to those younger, newer professional photographers who need our mentoring and wisdom to help them along the way. I have been impressed with the clarity and timeliness of the communication given throughout the year, and how certain challenging issues have been managed.

    There may be some who have ideas that things should be different, and my only comment to that would be to genuinely get involved, participate and be part of the group of change makers who volunteer their ‘spare’ time to collaborate and sometimes compromise in developing a support organisation that works for us all. Much has been done to move the AIPP forward into a more modern, efficient entity to benefit us all, and that work never ends.

    The role of Advocacy is often a delicate, long term and complex one, and I can assure you that much effort is being expended in this area in relation to contactual arrangements for all photographers, dealing with some council by-laws and providing as much general advice as possible to assist photographers to be aware of their rights and industry pitfalls.

    In conclusion, the AIPP is a constantly evolving organisation. It will have its highs and lows, Nationally and within State Councils, but, I am a passionate optimist for great results, when it comes to earnest people who volunteer to work together for the common good of the collective, and who firmly believe the AIPP has a great and rewarding future for all professional photographers and members. Get involved!

    • Jackson Alves Jackson Alves December 3, 2019

      Do you know how many times we have heard this drivel?

      How many times we have been told “but….this time its different”

      Anyone who is still giving them money and believing their crap are just like the die hard trump supporters.

      I now make a point of avoiding recommending anyone who is an AIPP member , because if they still fall for the spin, I have to then question their judgement and professionalism. If they keep making the same mistake over and over again, how can I trust them with a job.

      How foolish do you have to be to keep giving them your money and being associated with an organisation that is a joke.

  3. Melinda Comerford Melinda Comerford November 30, 2019

    It takes an awful lots of guts and passion to put yourself forward to stand on a Board. It’s hard work, often thankless, and puts each member in the position of having to make some very hard and sometimes unpopular decisions.

    I have worked with Louise Bagger on the AIPP Board, and believe she will be a force of unity, bringing photographers together for the greater good of the industry.

    Incidentally, when I resigned from the Board 12 months ago it was definitely not for any controversial reason, it was because I had served for several years and felt my time was up. Others who left around the same time would probably say the same. So I don’t see things as being as unstable as this article indicates.

    There will always be disagreements, but, from my perspective, the overall vibe within the AIPP right now is one of unity and progress, and yet a return to the grass roots of the organisation. Lots of changes afoot, and lots of social connection.

    So, thank you to the outgoing Board members for their work, and thank you to Louise and the current serving members for putting themselves forward to make the industry a better place for all of us.

    • Jackson Alves Jackson Alves December 3, 2019

      you keep telling yourself whatever you need to sleep at night.

      The rest of us live in the real world and can see with our own eyes whats happening.

      Dont piss on our legs and try and tell us its raining.

  4. Shaireen Shaireen December 4, 2019

    The AIPP is a group of like-minded people who share the passion and craft of professional photography.
    Congratulations and thankyou to those that are stepping into the big roles, and a big thankyou to those who have given their time, blood sweat and tears previously. Your efforts do not go un-noticed, and are appreciated.
    Hats off to the volunteers who assist with the day to day rolls, the many, many of you that donate time and brain space away from your own worlds.
    This is an amazing, moving, working Institute that is evolving as we all evolve, and it’s a good thing.

    • DW DW December 6, 2019

      The cold hard reality is that AIPP does not know what PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS want, or, more importantly need, because there are so few left within in the ranks who genuinely qualify under the still critical criteria of “earn the majority of their income from photography”.
      Because if you are a nurse, or an IT consultant or anything else other than Professional Photographer on your Linked In bio YOU NOT BELONG IN THE AIPP because your livelihood is not dependant on the success of the industry.
      The excuse that “things have changed” is utter drivel because the lower numbers earning their full time living from photography is representative of the actual numbers the marketplace can sustain.
      There will, sadly, always be a market for the likes of Snappr because some peopled simply do not value photography highly enough (in the film days these people were serviced by people shooting 35mm film whereas the top end studios were shooting medium format). but AIPP should not be representing this sort of person, and, in fact should be actively marketing against them.
      The AIPP needs to go out and find the TRUE PROFESSIONALS in every state and instigate a sweeping campaign to onboard them, at the same time undertaking a dramatic cull of those who do not have the passion, the drive or the fortitude to make photography their full time path.
      Only this can create an association where everyone’s REAL goal is actually the same – and that is to promote the BUSINESS of PHOTOGRAPHY to ensure their own individual organisations are as successful as possible – until this happens you will continue to see the in-fighting and directionless drifting we see at the moment.

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