The New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP) has emerged from Covid in a robust state, despite undertaking similar challenges to those that sunk the AIPP.
For instance the NZIPP didn’t take a hit to membership numbers during Covid, with figures either remaining stable or growing. This placed the Institute in good stead to re-engage its community with in-person events, resulting in two consecutive profitable years.
It’s a much different story to the AIPP, which entered voluntary administration in November 2021, attributing financial hardship due to ‘devastating reduction in membership revenue’. The AIPP’s outgoing statement noted that over 700 members were unable to pay their fees over a 20-month period, which ‘accelerated a downward trend that had been observed over the past five years’.
The outgoing AIPP Board listed several other faults, such as failing to adapt to the rapidly changing imaging market, branding issues, poor financial management, a lack of participation in events and awards, and losing membership fees via too many honorary life members. There are additional factors beyond the scope of this article the outgoing board chose not to mention, such as leadership transparency issues before and during its tenure.
So why has NZIPP kept it together when the AIPP fell apart?
It’s worth firstly acknowledging that the two countries are, of course, different. And the same can be said for the AIPP and NZIPP. Australia and New Zealand probably share more similarities than some care to admit, and this also applies for both Institutes.
For instance, the NZIPP has a strikingly similar structure to the AIPP. In New Zealand a National Board oversees seven regional committees and various special interest groups. The regional committees host monthly get-togethers, with the National Board organising an annual conference, which includes the coveted Iris Awards – New Zealand’s APPA.
Other similarities include an accreditation system, honours, and a merit system based on awards. The overwhelming majority of members are portrait photographers, followed by commercial photographers.
The photo industry at large is likely quite similar, too. So when the AIPP folded, sympathy came across the Tasman from the NZIPP.
‘We were concerned a couple of years ago with what happened to our good friends,’ said Gino Demeer, NZIPP president, to Inside Imaging. ‘We had a very strong relationship with the AIPP, and we were worried ourselves so we did some self reflecting. We were obviously in the midst of Covid at the time, and we were able to move through that and support our members in ways that were never done before.’
The New Zealand Government implemented hard and lengthy pandemic lockdowns, prompting the NZIPP to establish an online events program. They also assisted members to apply for government financial support, including from Creative New Zealand, a government agency offering grants to the creative sector.
‘I think that really made a difference coming out of that whole Covid experience,’ Gino said. ‘New Zealand suffered from a lot of lockdowns, so we had to find new ways of supporting our membership to make sure they would still be around when things got back to normal.
‘We made a conscious effort to also back off our sponsors,’ he added. ‘We wanted to ride along with everybody else and absorb the extra expense or loss of revenue and not put pressure on others. That also includes some of our members, who were really finding it challenging. We put their membership fees on hold without penalising them. All that sort of good stuff.’
Shifting to an entirely online program hit hard, with events the NZIPP’s primary revenue stream. Not everyone enjoys streaming a video conference event, or could justify paying the fees with no work on the horizon.
‘We did suffer some losses through that time. But as soon as we came out we made an effort to recoup those by working a bit harder around the event space, which I think we’ve done pretty successfully. We’ve put a lot of energy into bringing people back together and have been running profitably for two years back-to-back since Covid. All-in-all we came out pretty good.’
The NZIPP’s ‘volunteer army’ has been integral to its survival, Gino said. He estimates there are about 60 – 70 volunteers, accounting for roughly 10 percent of members, who undertake jobs to keep the NZIPP active.
For the last two years the NZIPP Photo Show – a two-day conference including speakers, Iris Awards live judging, and a trade show – has been a success with great attendance figures and sponsorship participation. Other events range from small monthly regional speaker events, multi-day retreats, to informal catch ups.
‘It’s all about connecting the community. We’re not interested in sucking sponsors dry for money. It’s about getting them to know our members, and making sure professionals know who they’re dealing with. It just leads to better outcomes in terms of service and sales. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.’
The NZIPP’s sponsor list includes Canon, CR Kennedy, Nikon, Fujifilm, Epson, Leica, Panasonic, Momento, Sony, and others.
While the outlook is generally rosy for the NZIPP, there are still some unique challenges, such as a notable drop in wedding photographer members. Gino speculates these photographers have found business communities elsewhere – particularly in Facebook groups, which have grown in popularity over the last decade. He adds many wedding photographers target a world-wide market, with New Zealand an extremely popular destination wedding location, potentially rendering the NZIPP less relevant to them.
‘We can’t quite put our finger on why, and it’s something we think about a lot. We’re about all photographers. We’re working hard to make sure everyone is included.’
The NZIPP has invited Australian photographers to enter this year’s Iris Awards, either print or digital, and attend the Photo Show in Christchurch. The Iris Awards includes an Australian Professional Photographer of the Year (APOY) award, with the winner receiving a $10K Sony prize pack. The Awards also serve as a stepping stone to represent Team Australian at the World Photographic Cup, a formerly an AIPP initiative.
To further include Australians, the NZIPP recruited several APPA judges to join the Iris panel, as well as speakers including Chris Saunders and Forough Yavari.
It’s fairly clear from the above initiatives that there’s an entrepreneurial, can-do spirit afoot at the NZIPP that was clearly lacking in the Australian equivalent in its last 12 – 24 months. In accommodating Australian professional photographers, the NZIPP shows it is all about growth, positivity and inclusivity.
Click here for more info about the NZIPP.