The Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) has gone into voluntary administration due to financial hardship that is attributed to a ‘devastating reduction in membership revenue’.
The AIPP National Board issued a statement to members this afternoon, November 11, explaining the Institute is no longer financially viable and will close from 5PM. The AIPP website will shut down, as will AIPP e-mail contacts, social media accounts, committees and chapters, and future events including the State Awards and Australian Professional Photography Awards.
This marks an end of an era for Australian professional photography. The Institute has existed in various forms since as far back as the 1940s, but for many the story starts in 1963 when the organisation changed its name to The Institute of Australian Photographers (IAP).
While it was no secret that the AIPP was financially struggling, the sudden closure comes as a huge shock for the industry. On the surface the AIPP appeared to be doing okay – members were submitting images to APPA right up until yesterday, November 10. Few members would be privy to the knowledge that the following day, the AIPP would cease to exist.
Inside Imaging will provide more coverage in the coming days, but for now here’s the statement issued by AIPP National Chair, Les Morrison:
To our valued AIPP members, trade partners and supporters,
The National Board regrets to announce the closure of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP).
The last two years have presented us all with unimaginable challenges. Unfortunately, many photography businesses and creative arts organisations have been forced to close during this time and our beloved AIPP has not been immune from the financial hardship faced by so many. AIPP, a Public Company Limited by Guarantee, is appointing an Administrator to facilitate the orderly administration and closure of the AIPP in a professional and dignified manner to respect and preserve its history and legacy.
Ultimately, AIPP is closing due to a devastating reduction in membership revenue which has left our ongoing operational capabilities unviable. However, it is essential to convey that AIPP has been in a slow decline for more than a decade. Although the current AIPP Board had significant plans and initiatives to reverse this decline, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to implement these changes. Other contributing factors include industry and brand positioning and poor financial management in the past.
We understand this difficult news may come as a shock to our members, trade partners and supporters, and we are incredibly sad the time has come to say farewell. We have provided additional information and addressed various matters in the accompanying FAQ document.
The 2021 APPA + State Awards and AVPA have been cancelled due to minimum entry numbers not being reached. For the first time in many years, the print and video awards were required to be financially self-sufficient via entry fees as AIPP could no longer afford to underwrite these events. Refunds of entry fees and further information on awards matters can be found in the FAQ document. There will be no further AGM conducted as the administration of AIPP will be conducted by the Administrator to conduct the orderly closure of the AIPP as required by the Corporations Law.
AIPP will close at 1700 AEDT today, Thursday 11 November 2021. This closure includes sections of the AIPP website (including the awards website), most AIPP email addresses and all AIPP social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter). As of this statement being delivered, the only contact point for AIPP is via firstname.lastname@example.org and all correspondence to this email address must include your full name and contact details. In addition, all AIPP Committees and Chapters are disbanded effective immediately. We sincerely thank our hardworking volunteers for their generosity, energy and dedication in serving AIPP members. AIPP has relied on volunteers since its inception and their efforts have built the culture of sharing and working for the greater good within the AIPP.
We appreciate that receiving and digesting this announcement will be difficult. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to all who will be experiencing sadness and distress because of AIPP’s closure. We urge all members to hold on to the good AIPP has brought into your life; the skills you have developed, mentors you have worked with, treasured memories and most of all – the lifelong friendships. The community created of proud and talented image makers that AIPP fostered, is still very strong – long may this continue.
AIPP National Chair,
On behalf of AIPP National Board
Additionally, here is the AIPP’s Closure FAQ document further explaining the closure:
How long has AIPP been at risk of closing?
In 2018, AIPP temporarily closed after a series of significant events, resulting in the permanent closure of a physical National Office and the resignation of the then National Board. At that time, AIPP was experiencing a noticeable membership decline and in March 2018, a former AIPP secretary wrote an open letter identifying average losses of $36,000 per year from 2009 to 2018. Further, this individual stated that cash reserves had already declined by over $300,000 during that nine-year period.
The AIPP’s financial position required significant attention in late 2019. The current AIPP Board established the Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee to analyse the situation. Since that process commenced, strict financial guidelines were introduced and the Board has worked tirelessly with initiatives to keep AIPP viable.
The reality is, AIPP was already in slow decline before the 2018 events and AIPP has never fully recovered from that time.
Did the Pandemic accelerate the closure?
AIPP faced a devastating reduction of membership revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the last 20 months, over 700 members were unable to meet their fee commitments, leading to a shortfall of funding to keep AIPP operational. The membership reduction accelerated a downward trend that had been observed over the past five years.
‘AIPP is in voluntary administration’: What does this really mean?
The voluntary administration process resolves a company’s future. This is done by appointing an independent individual who is legally and professionally qualified to control the company and its assets. The voluntary administrator aims to administer AIPP’s affairs to obtain a better return for those to whom AIPP owes obligations to (e.g. creditors, employees). The process may be initiated by the Board if it becomes apparent a company is or is likely to become insolvent. Voluntary administration can be a structured and thoughtful way to avoid AIPP being forced into Insolvency. Reaching a position of Insolvency would see staff not being able to be paid out, tax obligations not being met, directors being held liable for insolvent trading, tarnishing of the long-lasting AIPP legacy and other ramifications. This would be the worst-case scenario. Information on voluntary administration can be found on the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (see here).
Why weren’t members informed sooner?
The decision of when to announce the closure was made to allow time for every avenue to be investigated in case there was any possibility for AIPP to recover and eventually thrive as a viable business. The announcement has been made immediately after receiving extensive professional advice on the process required for AIPP to go into voluntary administration on 17 November 2021.
What are the contributing factors of AIPP closing?
Ultimately, AIPP is closing due to a lack of membership revenue. This has many contributing factors outlined here for transparency, accountability and reflection.
Industry and brand positioning:
– AIPP had operated as an inward-looking organisation that did not adapt quickly enough to the rapidly changing imaging market.
– AIPP needed to engage with the Arts Industry earlier to gain exposure to significant avenues of arts funding and engage with the substantial photographic art community.
– While AIPP has always advocated for the entire photographic community, poorly thought-out promotions in the past inflamed the wider photographic community and created an ‘us vs them’ feeling that has irreversibly damaged the AIPP brand.
– A discourse in AIPP in late 2017 escalated to the closure of National Office and a tremendous loss of membership revenue of approximately $400,000. AIPP expended over $300,000 to close the National Office.
– After the closure of National Office in early 2018, the passion of AIPP members carried the AIPP forward, however underlying problems were not examined or addressed for the successful future of the Institute.
– Although AIPP took the lead to investigate alleged awards cheating in 2019, public accusations and comments forced a confidential investigation to become public. At the time, the Board and relevant Committees handled the matter with utmost professionalism. Public narratives caused considerable damage to the AIPP brand despite many other imaging organisations also being affected.
– Former members, in breach of the AIPP Code of Conduct, have been allowed to exit the Institute confidentially. Some have constructed their own public narrative as to why they are no longer members. These constructed narratives have also damaged AIPP’s brand positioning.
– Over the past 10 years, AIPP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on software and software development, with much of this expenditure lacking required consideration and future proofing. The current AIPP website had to be introduced in late 2020 and has saved the AIPP upwards of $30,000 in the past 12 months.
– Over the past 10 years, awards events have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars which can no longer be sustained. The current Awards Committee were the first Committee in a long time that had been tasked with running cost-neutral awards events.
– Due to market trends and global events, the cash sponsorship from our dedicated AIPP trade partners has more than halved over the past five years. Our trade partners have continued to generously support our competitions and online programs by offering goods and services as prizes, however, at times we have threatened to exhaust their generosity with multiple requests to support our various programs.
– A decision in 2018 to create ‘Life Memberships’ for members with over 25 years accredited membership cost AIPP more than $50,000 in lost annual revenue. This decision was not adequately risk assessed to future proof revenue calculations.
– Failure to invest in significant assets such as property when opportunities were available in the past has left AIPP with no fall-back position. This was further exacerbated by paying substantial rent in Melbourne for the former National Office.
– There has been a significant drop of membership because of COVID-19. Over 700 members have cancelled their membership during this period with many stating the effects of COVID-19 on their business or returning to other careers/employment as the reason for their departure.
– There is a general reluctance to participate in events throughout creative industries. There are many examples throughout the photographic industry of events that would normally sell-out, receiving 10 percent or less of their usual registrations. This apathy has been seen throughout AIPP events over the past 18 months which has made it difficult to stage a revival.
– AIPP is run on the dedication and generosity of volunteers. In the last 24 months the number of people volunteering has reduced significantly. This has put greater pressure on the few remaining volunteers, leaving chapters and committees barely operational, and risking the burn-out of current volunteers.
– The call for directors last year did not generate any nominations from the membership. The AIPP Constitution has been restrictive in terms of seeking the best members as directors. A proposed amended Constitution had planned changes in this area for the future benefit of the AIPP. There have been instances where members of AIPP who have been vocal critics of AIPP and the Board have been offered the opportunity to join the Board and represent their views. These opportunities to contribute have all been declined.
– For at least a decade, AIPP has struggled to define a solid value proposition to attract new members and retain current members. For many, AIPP is no longer relevant to their needs as an image maker. Many benefits and programs AIPP offer have been re-modelled and privatised by third parties. Where once AIPP was many things to many people, today people have found new, modern ways to seek what they need.
– The copying of the most attractive parts of AIPP by other businesses, has left advocacy, business education and industry representation as the key points of differentiation for AIPP. However, even in its peak, these benefits have not been saleable to a wider audience.
– For many years, AIPP aimed to be the peak representative body for all image makers. Whilst impressive efforts were made in the areas of logo use, accreditation and advocacy, unfortunately the AIPP was never able to represent a majority of Australian photographers as members at any one time.
Why weren’t costs cut to keep AIPP financially stable?
The current Board took over the running of AIPP in late 2019 and shortly afterwards, an internal investigation by the Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee revealed that AIPP was not financially sound. Since that time AIPP has made significant cuts and cost savings. These include reductions in staffing over the past twelve months, significant consolidations, reductions in IT expenses, and reduction of costly in-person board meetings. We have reached a point where any further reductions would result in member expectations not being met and AIPP not remaining operable. Without these cuts and changes the AIPP would have been forced to close in 2020.
The AIPP faced closure in 2018 but rallied. How is this time different? Is this really the end?
AIPP never recovered from the loss of membership revenue and the costs associated with closing the National Office in 2018. The AIPP survived when members rallied together to support the 2018 print awards, but this was done on a tide of emotion and off the back of members’ dedication to AIPP. Unfortunately, AIPP was not appropriately assessed to determine whether it was fit to continue in its current model. Extensive resources have now been utilised to thoroughly examine and assess AIPP’s finances, value proposition and relevance. The time has come to permanently farewell AIPP.
Have the AIPP Directors been paid while in board positions?
The AIPP Board positions are entirely voluntary and do not receive any financial compensation.
When is the AIPP going into voluntary administration?
Membership services will cease immediately, at 1700 AEDT, 11 November 2021. The Board, having taken legal advice, have appointed an Administrator under section 436A of the Corporations Act and the Administrator will now control the process.
Will the AIPP Facebook Community Page still operate?
No. The AIPP Facebook Community Page will be closed to all new comments from 1600 AEDT, 11 November 2021. Recent High Court Decisions have made moderators/admins/owners of Facebook pages, groups and social media profiles liable for the comments made in their groups. We have determined that it will be impossible to adequately moderate any discussions or statements made and this would put the AIPP, its volunteers, employees and board at a significant and unacceptable legal risk.
You can read more about the decisions at https://eresources.hcourt.gov.au/downloadPdf/2021/HCA/27 or a summary at https://theconversation.com/high-court-rules-media-are-liable-for-facebook-comments-on-their-stories-heres-what-that-means-for-your-favourite-facebook-pages-167435.
What will happen to AIPP history and legacy?
All documentation of AIPP history, awards, honours and other information is being archived as a historical package. We are preparing a package that will be donated to a library, museum or gallery of national importance.
Will there be any money left after AIPP goes into voluntary administration?
Any money remaining after AIPP goes into voluntary administration will be handled and distributed appropriately by the Administrators. By choosing voluntary administration, the Board have avoided needing members to contribute $25 each to the liquidation of AIPP as per the Constitution (Clause 1.3).
Could a grant keep AIPP open?
AIPP has in the past positioned itself as representing working photographers and videographers and missed opportunities to engage in the Arts Industry. This means AIPP sits in a grants blind-spot. Where other arts-focused photographic organisations have received upwards of $300,000-$400,000 in funding in 2021, the AIPP has not been eligible to receive any of this despite extensive investigation. AIPP has made the most of COVID-19 grants to keep AIPP sustainable to this point.
Due to the lack of repositioning and branding, AIPP members are seen within the arts industry and government as tradespeople despite producing world-class photographic art.
Who can I contact at AIPP to discuss the closure?
If you have further inquiries please email email@example.com. Please note, due to time constraints, not all correspondence will receive a reply. You must include your full name and contact details in any correspondence.
Can I still call myself an Accredited Professional Photographer?
The agreement between AIPP and ACCC will no longer be valid, and AIPP will no longer be accrediting photographers. If you have earned accreditation, you may list it as a former achievement but not in a current context.
Can I still call myself an Accredited Professional Video Producer?
The agreement between AIPP and ACCC will no longer be valid, and AIPP will no longer be accrediting video producers. If you have earned accreditation, you may list it as a former achievement but not in a current context.
Can I still use my post-nominals?
APP and APVP accreditation post-nominals can only be used with “(past)” or “(former)” as they are no longer current. Awards post-nominals such as AAIPP, MPhotog and GMPhotog can still be used, as well as titles such as Master of Photography or, for example, 2017 AIPP Queensland Family Photographer of the Year.
Can I still use the AIPP Accredited Professional Photographer logo on my website/display the sticker on my vehicle/studio?
The AIPP Accredited logos are no longer valid and should be removed at your earliest convenience. We recommend that the logo should be phased out on re-prints or when artwork is changed.
Can I still display AIPP awards digital badges, certificates and corners?
Yes, you can still display and showcase your AIPP Awards achievements.
Can I still access the AIPP member dashboard content?
We are aiming to continue access to some resources on the AIPP Website until 30 November 2021. The period between the AIPP closure on 17 November 2021 and the permanent total closure of the AIPP website on 30 November 2021 will be a transitional period. We note however that the voluntary administration process may require changes to the member dashboard. This will also be subject to ensuring that no further fees will be taken from members.
I have paid annual membership fees – will I receive a refund of these fees?
Refunds will be provided to those members who have paid for annual memberships, on a pro-rata basis. Pro rata membership fee refunds will not occur automatically – they must be actioned by individual members. If you believe you should receive a refund, please complete the form which asks for your bank details. This form must be completed and submitted via email by 1700 AEDT on Monday 15 November 2021 to enable your claims to be processed by close of business on Tuesday 16 November 2021.
What will happen with my professional listing?
Professional listings will be taken down as part of winding-up the website. We recommend if they contain any content you wish to keep, that you copy this content immediately.
Events and Chapters
I am a member of an AIPP chapter – will this chapter still operate?
Chapters may operate as a third-party interest group at their organiser’s discretion, but cannot use or be formally affiliated with the AIPP. A Chapter organiser can request a list of contacts via email firstname.lastname@example.org for those in their Chapter by Tuesday 16 November 2021 to make contact and create a third-party group. However, due to privacy restrictions, AIPP can only provide contacts details for members who consent to have their contact details used for the purpose of creating a third-party interest group. If you are such a member, we recommend that you contact your Chapter organiser by 16 November 2021 in writing.
I run an AIPP Chapter – can I turn the Chapter into a third-party interest group?
Yes, contact email@example.com to request a list of the members of your group so that you can coordinate converting to a third-party group. Please provide a list of the members who consent to having their details used for this purpose.
Why did APPA, State Awards or AVPA open for entries in 2021?
APPA + State Awards and AVPA had already opened for entries when the reality of closing AIPP whilst still solvent emerged. The deferment dates were selected on the basis that membership revenues may have increased and entry levels would ensure that there was no cost outlay from AIPP cash reserves. These parameters were not achieved and the decision to pursue voluntary administration was made to prevent insolvency.
Could the awards entry period be extended to increase entries?
The awards entry period was already extended from four to eight weeks to allow entrants every opportunity to enter. Trends indicated further extending the opening period would not have garnered enough entries to make the competition viable and would instead have put AIPP at risk of operating insolvently.
Why has AIPP APPA, State Awards and AVPA been cancelled?
The entries received for the print awards and video awards have declined since the last competitions in 2019 and have not met the required numbers to ensure these events are financially viable. For the first time in many years, the print and video awards were required to be financially self-sufficient as AIPP could no longer afford to underwrite them. Being ‘financially self-sufficient’ meant the awards needed to be financed solely from entry fees. The current Awards Committee have performed admirably in trying to deliver a cost-neutral awards, whereas in the past, APPAs have been underwritten by up to $150,000 per year and not held to a strict budget. Without underwriting from membership revenue and AIPP sponsorship these awards have not been sustainable for a very long time. In 2021, the number of entries received generated revenue equivalent to only 58% of the costs to run APPA. As AIPP does not have sufficient cash reserved to make up the shortfall costs of APPA, it is not financial viable to hold APPA.
Why does APPA take more resources to run than other competitions?
It takes considerable resources to provide a print-based competition and APPA and the State Awards have been the biggest print-based competitions for photography in Australia. This requires a team of approximately 80 judges, an Awards Committee and up to 50 other volunteers print handling. It also requires taking on significant expenses in securing a venue that can accommodate this process.
Digital competitions, in comparison, often have much more simplified judging, may not include feedback, and do not have the overheads of a venue, or the costs of hundreds of personnel and members. Judging of digital competitions may take place over a month or even more, rather than three to five days on location. The current model of print awards is not a financially sustainable model for the future.
I have entered APPA, what happens to my entry and entry fees?
Your entry fees will be automatically refunded in full within 10 business days. You do not need to action this refund. Your entries will be destroyed on our systems to protect your intellectual property. We encourage you to take the work you have put into your entries and enter them into other photography competitions, of which there are many (which can be found after a quick google search). For information on what to look for when entering photography competitions, refer to https://www.facebook.com/PhotoWatchDog/.
How can I check my awards points and status?
Accredited Professional Photographers can check their accrued awards merit points by logging into https://awards.aipp.com.au/ before 30 November 2021 and clicking the “My Results” tab. We recommend taking a screen shot of your points accrual for your records.