It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the Australian professional photography community!
Inside Imaging, and prior to that, ProCounter and PhotoCounter, have provided a record of the victories and vicissitudes of the AIPP for more than a decade. We were aware that the final act, an application to the Supreme Court of Victoria to disburse remaining funds from the defunct organisation, was imminent. We were also aware of concerns among many past presidents and long-term members about this process, and how and why it had been conducted, so with permission we published the July, 2022 letter from past president to the administrator, CGJ Advisory.
Meanwhile, unbeknown to us, Paul Curtis (pictured right), Honorary Life Member of the AIPP and historian of the AIPP and its antecedents, was also looking into the AIPP’s unseemly, opaque and undemocratic demise, setting up a Facebook page to gauge interest in some kind of rear-guard action to salvage something from the ashes. It went live on Tuesday, coincidentally the day we published our story, and we posted a link to it on the FB page. By Friday over 300 people, mostly former AIPP members, had joined the new Australian professional photographers FB group.
Below is a Q&A-format interview with Paul Curtis on why he did what he did, the overwhelmingly positive reaction, and future steps…
Inside Imaging: What prompted you, and what right did you have, to set up the new Facebook group?
Paul Curtis: The same as any other member. I took the initial action just to ascertain if there any other members that were sharing concerns over what has happened. I was a bit surprised at the extent of the reaction.
Let me put it this way: If you were a member of the RSPCA and were driving along and found a wounded kitten or puppy on the roadside, wouldn’t you pick it up and take it to the vet?
II: Have you clarified any other issues on the process adopted to put the AIPP into Liquidation?
PC: In a phone call to the administrators, (7/02/23) they told me the Board of the AIPP appointed an Administrator as they had formed the view that the organisation was or would become insolvent, and it was their duty as directors to take action as they saw fit. They also told me an ASIC search can tell us the names of the directors of the Company (AIPP) and they can verify it was signed by a majority of these directors.
II: Do you think the members should have been advised before the board made the decision?
II: Why so?
PC: The members could have made recommendations on delaying or changing some activities that would reflect changing times. If the board, or individual members of the board, felt they were incapable of negotiating such a pathway, they should have resigned and a new board with different vision, voted on by the members, should have been formed.
II: Do you think that by first returning most members’ subscriptions the true position regarding available funds was falsified before the matter was put to the administrator?
PC: Well, it certainly wouldn’t have helped!
II: In your opinion, was the board acting outside the law?
PC: I believe they were certainly breaking the rules of the AIPP Constitution left right and centre, but not necessarily transgressing Australian Corporate Law. That is a matter to be pursued by others and I have no wish to be involved in any form of vendetta.
II: But isn’t it true that some of the AIPP assets have already been disposed of?
PC: So it appears. These include the AIPP domain name, immediately registered elsewhere, and the purpose-built APPA print cases. I would have thought the print cases would be particularly useful to anyone running a photo print competition.
II: So the matter now definitely has to go to the Supreme Court of Victoria?
PC: Sadly, yes. We know there are others already bidding for the AIPP funds. But I would say it would be most disturbing if it was discovered that the names of any of the former board members were on any application.
II: What are the next steps?
PC: I am no longer a single voice. A new association, backed by some of the most well-known and respected people in our industry, is being formed. I have been flooded with comments of support and active involvement in getting us up and running again to make a bid for the return of our funds, IP, database and everything else that were our assets. Out of all the comments that have been posted on the FB group only two participants appeared to be consistently making obstructive comments. I suspect that both were involved in deciding to call in the administrators. I have suspended them for 28 days until the matter can be revisited.
One of the confounding things is that there is hardly any readily accessible documentation from the last year or so of the Institute to try to piece together what actually happened. Even though we are in a competitive situation to get our own assets back, as much as possible will be conducted in transparency.
Transparency is essential to secure a healthy future for any association today. I think it is fair to say that transparency wasn’t a strong suite of the AIPP towards the – avoidable – end.