AIPP national president, Louise Bagger, has described the Institute as ‘stable, strong and steady’, with the photographic community coming together despite most members being affected by the Coronavirus shutdown.
It came as a surprise to discover the AIPP has, in fact, gained more members and new trade partners since the beginning of the year, and offers a welcome juxtaposition to the quiet death of IDEA, the other local industry body.
‘Many of the members, including myself, have been adversely affected by the Covid shutdown, but they’re sticking with the AIPP,’ Louise told Inside Imaging. ‘There’s support in this community, and we’ve actually seen an increase in our general members. Overall, I can’t say it has been a negative experience for the institute.’
Turn back the clock to February/March and things were far more uncertain. We’re learning in real time how a pandemic has the capacity to crush economies, leaving few businesses and organisations unscathed. For the Institute, the reality was that members would be out of work, and another primary source of association revenue would be lost with the cancellation of two major events, the State Awards and the Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA).
Apart from the awards being the pinnacle of AIPP excellence, a showcase of the standards produced by members, they also provide crucial funding. It didn’t help this came at a time when the AIPP was in a somewhat vulnerable financial situation.
‘We were gearing up to potentially lose a certain amount of members, but we never reached that number. It plateaued and then began to go up again. All in all, the AIPP’s finances are being managed extremely well by our Finance Committee. We’re doing okay. The board is working cohesively and productively. It’s a fantastic team to work with.’
Louise credits part of the membership increase to the affordable new ‘general member’ category, which was introduced pre-Covid to open membership up to everyone. It costs $19/month and is ‘one of the best things we have ever done’.
‘We opened up general membership to make it easier for people to become involved, not only in the institute but the overall professional photographic environment. It provides access to all the resources, as well as networking opportunities with our members – professional photographers, who they might not otherwise get access to.’
The AIPP National Board also adapted to formulate new online initiatives for members. The Awards Committee planned the Silver Lining Awards, an online photo contest that’s unique but fits an APPA-shaped hole. Despite his confidence the awards would run, Awards Committee chair, Tony Hewitt, initially said it would only go ahead provided there was enough pre-purchased entries to underwrite it.
Sure enough entries came flooding in, as did sponsorship of the inaugural contest, with over $45K in prizes from Nikon, Olympus, Atkins Lab, Momento Pro, Eizo, Kayell, Epson, Camera Electronic, Sony, Fitzgerald Photo, ChromaLuxe, Print2Metal, and a heap of photo-based workshops.
‘We approached our trade partners very carefully, because many of them are also in a tough situation with Covid. But they need us as much as we need them and the response was amazing,’ Louise said.
The Silver Lining Awards received 2970 entries from 526 AIPP photographers, almost 30 percent of members. It’s the highest number of entries the AIPP Awards have received ‘for a long time’, and ‘exceeded expectations’. It’s proved to be one of the Institute’s Covid success stories. Finalists have been announced, with the category winners unveiled on July 30.
The AIPP additionally began hosting online events, including free Q&A webinar sessions open to the public. The format was simple: invite a prominent photographer to speak about their life and work and open the floor to questions.
‘We had everything from portrait to landscape photographers – the Andrew Campbells, Tony Hewitts, Karen Alsops all giving their time for an hour and a half session. Joshua Holko’s was incredible. It was about giving photographers – members and non-members – access to these leading photographers. We’re opening the door to say “we’re here as the national body (for professional photographers), but we’re here to support every photographer, and keep everybody engaged creatively”. The engagement and feedback has been absolutely incredible.’
The AIPP also hosted Friday night catch ups – online Zoom video conferencing chats, where members pour a glass of wine and chat. Louise explained these initiatives, as impromptu and casual as they were, fosters community engagement. ‘It was a bunch of like-minded creatives being able to come together and offload in a safe environment. It was brilliant.’
The AIPP also welcomed Exposure Software (formerly Alien Skin) and Triple Scoop Music as new international trade partners.
As for future plans, the AIPP National Board is working month to month. It’s unclear if an online photo contest will run next year alongside the established print-based contests. However, the AIPP is focussed on delivering more online events, content, and resources.
The AIPP has proven that energy, leadership and vision can revitalise an association confronting challenges. Unfortunately it seems there’s not enough of those qualities in the photo industry to sustain IDEA.
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