Image Makers Association Australia (IMAA), a new commercial photography industry body committed to advocacy and education, has hit the ground running by lobbying the government on copyright, while also forging several key affiliations.
For several years prior to forming the IMAA, a number of Australian architectural photographers were in regular talks with each other about copyright issues. In some instances, they worked to pressure various architect/design awards and publications to change their dubious rights-grabbing terms and conditions.
After the AIPP’s demise left the photo industry without a representative body, and with copyright conditions noticeably worsening, the group saw an opportunity to formalise their lobbying efforts.
‘We pretty much formed solely because of struggles that our particular sector of the industry [architect/interior photographers] are having with copyright issues,’ Dianna Snape, IMAA president, informs Inside Imaging. ‘We had already been doing lobbying as an [informal] group prior to this – but no one was overly motivated in doing it like this. Once the AIPP went down we realised that with no industry support, we’d be in dire straights trying to manage widespread advocacy issues.’
Image Makers launched in June 2022 after the 50 founding members – the number required to cover start up costs – put their hand in their pockets and paid a $700 fee to back the new industry body. The founding member fee is a considerable figure for a small business owner, showing that commercial photographers backed the IMAA concept.
‘What my peers and I have always struggled with (regarding) the organisations that came before is we never felt properly represented as businesses. The focus seemed driven away from business and towards competition and other things,’ Dianna, a former ACMP board member, said. ‘We’re a flat-tiered organisation and there is no interest in changing that. Whether you’re a student or close to retiring, we are about the business of photography and consider everyone equal. We’re not interested in competitions or tiers of acknowledgement.
‘We are happy to stay small and focused. We think we can be effective for the commercial side of business by keeping our focus on servicing them.’
Image Makers is a not-for-profit organisation run by a voluntary committee of five members, and is dedicated to commercial photographers working across editorial, architecture, food, advertising, portraiture, corporate, lifestyle, travel, social media content, still life, studio and more.
The focus is on advocacy and education to represent working photographers, promote business excellence, and foster a community. To maintain high levels of transparency, the membership portal includes the Association’s roadmap and updated financial reports. There is one part-time employee, IMAA communications manager Rhiannon Slatter, who is responsible for managing the membership, affiliates and corporate relationships, and drafting IMAA documents.
Here is part of the Founding Member Invitation pitch:
Most industries have an organisation dedicated to understanding their collective issues and concerns; commercial photography should be no exception. Image Makers Association Australia represents an opportunity for members to maintain a standard of practice and professionalism, thereby elevating business confidence in the value of what we do. It is also an important opportunity for community and connection in what can be a very individual profession and opens pathways for shared learning and celebration of our craft.
To mark the launch, the IMAA hosted a member’s group exhibition, 1 Shot 22 – Defining Moments In The Built Environment, at SunStudios in Melbourne.
Education is a major component that the Association is currently developing. A Student category of membership is about to launch, and a Mentorship Program is now open for applications, with student members eligible to apply and learn from established members. The program lasts for 12 months, with a minimum of two photo shoot attendances, and a monthly one hour session.
For 25 years Dianna has worked as an architecture and interior photographer, learning the ropes under the legendary photographer, John Gollings. The photo industry has since undergone dramatic change, with far fewer assistant roles and mentorship programs available for young and emerging photographers. Dianna hopes the IMAA can help provide the next generation similar opportunities to what she received.
‘It’s about bringing people together and equalising the playing field to give emerging photographers opportunities to create viable and sustainable businesses. If this keeps going this way, photographers won’t have businesses anymore. I mean, it’ll be okay when you’re 23, but when you’re 30 and want to buy a house and have a kid – can you live off that?’
On the advocacy front, in March the IMAA entered a submission to the Australian Government’s Copyright Enforcement Review, which aims to ‘ensure copyright enforcement mechanisms in our laws remain appropriate, effective and proportionate’.
The IMAA submission was based on a survey of members, and also opened another survey up to non-member photographers, in an effort to summarise the plight of photographers dealing with copyright infringement.
The IMAA survey found that 89 percent of respondents discover copyright infringement that’s worth less than $1000. Over 80 percent attempt to resolve copyright infringement disputes by direct communication, which achieves mixed results and ‘is not on its own a course of action with a reliable outcome’.
‘The imbalance between the monetary value of each individual infringement and the high costs of legal representation means that many copyright infringements are either ignored or they are pursued using direct “industry-driven” methods [direct communication, etc] outside the formal legal system,’ the submission states’
IMAA’s recommendation is the adoption of a copyright small claims process, similar to the UK or US, which 100 percent of respondents backed. The push for a copyright small claims court is in line with previous submissions made by the AIPP to various government copyright reviews.
For a decade Inside Imaging regularly monitored and reported on the AIPP’s advocacy initiatives, or efforts to promote its membership as trustworthy practitioners to the broader public. Advocacy initiatives coming from ‘the top down’ was lacking, particularly in an industry where there is no shortage of issues to tackle. Advocacy was mostly driven by individual members, such as Chris Shain (Copyright) and Emily Black (COVID rights), who spearheaded initiatives under the AIPP banner.
The IMAA leadership appears more energised than the old AIPP Board to advocate on behalf of professional photographers to help solve issues that impact them.
Access the submission here.
The IMAA has also formed affiliations with relevant groups and organisations. On the legal side, IMAA has sided with the Australian Copyright Council, and Arts Law; photo industry members include EIZO and Specular; and for the architect photographers there are affiliations with the Australian Institute of Architects, Regional Architects Association, Authentic Design Alliance, and Stylecraft.
Image Makers’ membership has roughly doubled since its formation. But the Association hopes to garner more members in the next few months to shift up a gear and undertake bigger initiatives that require more resources. With a committee of experienced commercial photographers, who share a vision for improving the photography business landscape, the IMAA is looking like serious business.
Click here for more information about membership.