This outline of a way forward to create a new professional photographers’ association has been put together by Paul Curtis. It relies heavily on input from countless discussions and email exchanges with concerned professional photographers over the past six weeks, not to mention many hundreds of comments on the Facebook page set up initially to gauge interest in re-starting an ‘AIPP-like’ professional photographers association…
THE WAY FORWARD
OBJECTIVES: To form a national body to represent professional photographers to consumers, business and government and to help unify and develop photographers involved in the business of professional photography.
Honesty, integrity and transparency are already governed by state trading laws and the national Australian Consumer Law, which the new association will also be guided by.
‘States rights’: Interaction between members at events is the best vehicle to improving a photographer’s knowledge and expertise of both business , technique and artistry. This is of value to both the photographer and the consumer. Geographically, that is best done at state and intra-state level.
The states should be free to operate in a completely independent manner according to their local circumstances.
All funds raised by state-driven activities should be contained within the state budget with no control over the state organisation passing to the national organisation. However, the national body would be free to offer national guidelines which are up to the states to accept or reject.
Awards & recognition: Prior to digital photography, photography was complicated and technical. Now, when we come to the artistic and technical skills of a photographer it is still important, but who makes that decision: The customer? A judging panel? And who judges the judges? Aren’t there a myriad of other competitions? This should not be the sole reason for state or national activity.
If the states want to participate in a national awards program, they should be free to do so and under an agreed national set of categories they could submit the category winners to the national body to judge the title of Australian Professional Photographer of the Year Awards from the states’ winning entries. Digital image handling is much simpler and should be the first line of submission. Only finalists might need to submit a finished mounted print for full evaluation and potentially, public exhibition. This would greatly reduce the cost of running such contests.
Public Education: Other than through the website and the occasional media release, educating the general public on, say, how to take a better photo is probably beyond the scope of the association. In the matter of teaching photography to the public, it is in effect, competing with its own members’ business activities and university and TAFE courses etc. Educating the public to seek out a member photographer is where links with the general public should lead any education initiatives.
State sponsorship recommendations: Educational and interaction sessions are of particular value to the members. Here is one way – with limited resources – to organise sponsorships resulting in benefits for customers, photographers and and the new association.
Brand X is approached by the state committee to provide an educational session for its membership.
The sponsor would be offered naming rights to the session, a photographer of their choice, and a two-minute opportunity to address the attendees. The sponsor would, of course, be acknowledged at the end of the presentation.
An opportunity to have these sessions streamed from the national website as long as all expenses for this are paid by the sponsor direct to the streaming service. This way, every national member could benefit from the session as well as the sponsor.
For this, the sponsor would be responsible for organising the venue, catering if any, etc, and the speaker’s expenses. In effec t, the sponsor would not pay the state branch anything but take responsibility for any costs. (No bookkeeping and accounting issues for the State.)
To participate, all the photographer has to do is turn up in person, or watch it on the national streaming service. A great library could quickly develop.
Some states have already organised their state activities and there would be no pressure from the national board for them to participate in this kind of model.
NATIONAL UMBRELLA – RULES, REGULATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION
A national board is being formed by a steering committee of 4 to 8 people to create an initial trading name, adopting a constitution and publish a simple website. We need a younger board actively engaged in the profession today.
Guidelines for Member-to-management contact: Each office holder will be given an association email address, separate from their business or personal address.
Message and suggestion boxes will be set up in the members’ only section of the website.
In addition to that, the board may use social media to communicate programs to members and consumers, but there will be no facility on the website for public dialogue. That will have to be done privately by email or the suggestion boxes on the website.
The format of the constitution would be resolved by the steering committee. Potential members would read it and decide individually whether to join or not. The constitution could be amended after a period. It is not difficult to amend.
The first elected board of the national association might come from either a representative elected by each state, or by an electronic vote of all federal members of the association. If the latter path is chosen, candidates must first gather six nominations and post their picture and basis for standing on the member-only section of the website. An electronic vote would then be recorded.
The initial association name chosen will not be a subject for debate for at least three months. The name is not that important, it can be amended after receiving input from the members.
The Steering Committee would in effect be the initial board and they should be prepared to commit six months to setting up the organisation before an election is held.
At this stage, a Company Secretary needs to be appointed. It is an essential position to make sure the rules are followed and the constitution is adhered to. There is no need for this person to be involved or vote as a member of the board. Some form of remuneration should be considered.
A treasurer would be appointed to work with the company secretary and all payments would have to be made strictly in accordance with the association rules and voted and posted by majority vote of the board. All members to have full access to the minutes of the meeting where these decisions are made, with all minutes of every meeting posted in a timely fashion on the members-only section of the association website.
A new website needs to be immediately set up, including a membership form, which would take credit card details but not collect fee s until a membership of at least 150 people is reached. Obviously, a bank account is another first essential requirement which would come after the registration of the association.
The new website would feature an opening statement for consumers, business and government explaining the new body’s role.
In the membership section of the website, all documents of meeting, the constitution, rulings and amendments would be published for access by all members. Menu items would include the constitution, income and expenditure reports and the list of all previously honoured photographers.
FIND A PHOTOGRAPHER: At the centre of the Public Area would be a FIND A PHOTOGRAPHER feature:
Here the MEMBER photographer would compete an online form that would list individual name, business name if any, types of photography undertaken, email contact details and phone number.
The photographer would also be able to list category of photography undertaken and any awards received from any similar organisation in the world.
They would be allowed to upload a photograph of themselves and, say, 9 examples of their work and a link to their own website. This list would be sortable by the customer by location and the type of photography undertaken, and the membership classification system
The key point here is that the photographers do all the work themselves in a strictly regulated automatic environment, eliminating the chore of keying in information on members’ behalf.
The website would also have a facility for the public to make suggestions on how to improve the interaction between professional photographers and its consumer and business customers, and complaints about member’s professional conduct.
Activities (Member sign-in only): Here states would be able to list their activities and any educational seminars they are holding. This would be done by simply filling in an Events Form on the website showing, subject, sponsor, date time and location and any costs involved.
In addition to the live event, the states would be encouraged to stream the event nationally if the session sponsor facilitated and covered the cost. The streamed sessions would form a permanent library that can be assessed by any member any time.
The national body should endeavour to organise an annual national convention. The program would be sponsored along similar lines as recommended for the states. There would be no attendance fees, and every participant would be expected to meet their own costs. With the sponsors’ backing, sessions would be streamed nationally and the content put into the national website library of seminars for viewing and reference at their leisure. Minimal volunteer and official secretarial duties involved.
MEMBERSHIP ADMISSION AND MEMBER CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM
Platinum Membership: This would be a program for members who meet the following terms of membership :
– Photographers who have completed a minimum three years of trading as a professional photographer.
– Own their own website
– Undertake to conduct their business in strict accordance with the laws of their state.
– Offer their clients proper insurance indemnity.
– Have clear contracts for services that also clearly spell out prices and the copyright provisions of the photography undertaken.
– Have a history of successfully fulfilling client needs in their field of photography
– Can post the names of five satisfied clients as referees.
NB, there is no condition on how many assignments or percentage of photography income required here. We know of photographers that gross more sales from a single event than an average photographer might earn from 15-20 events.
– In a firm where several photographers are employed, each employee must make a separate application.
Gold Membership: Automatically given in the first year of membership to all former accredited photographers of the AIPP and those who have been awarded high scoring marks in the APPAs. New applicants would have to submit to the website their portfolio and have a website devoted to their photographic services and promise to trade under all the consumer protection laws of their state and give their copyright requirement and pricing in writing to the consumer before commencing the provision of photography services.
Member: For all students, distributors and those involved in anyway with professional photography. These people would be invited to submit a picture of themselves as individuals and list their area of involvement and their contact details, website etc. They would not be invited to submit a portfolio of photography, but would be of great value in representations to government and copyright bodies, etc.
Retired Members: These people are an immensely important resource to the photographers of today. Those who are ready to give counselling, business suggestions and possible seminars to share their experiences with today’s young photographers are invaluable.
These levels of membership identified under a common ranking system everyone is familiar with would help business and consumer clients recognise who they are dealing with.
FUNDING & BUDGETING
If this program was to be agreed, application for Gold membership of the national body could be made for a first year fee of $75. This is a tiny fee to assist the emergence of a new body representing the business of photography. Say 250 x $75 = $18,750
All student, retired AIPP members and their honours would be readmitted for a $50. Retired and senior photographers are a valuable source of information and guidance to members. They can also make excellent presenters. Say 100x $50 = $5000
Current Hon Life Members of the AIPP would be required to pay a once-up fee of $30.00 for readmission of status. Say 50 x $30 + $1500.
-This should be more than sufficient to get such a program up and running immediately and of sufficient size to represent us to government.
PLUS: The new board would be able to make immediate application to the Victorian Supreme Court to have its remaining funds returned to this body where it rightfully belongs.
During the year ahead there would be sufficient time to consider and amend aspects of this proposal for the future. But we have now to decide to get it started or not. Simple as that!
Consideration and formulation of this scheme should be investigated by the Steering Committee over the next two weeks. This will allow a period of reflection on this proposal and discussion with potential members. We really want to avoid social media discussion at the outset, as it seem to inevitably spiral down into destructive negativity, which is the last thing we need. If the national body were to run an FB group, consideration should be given to not as a rule provide a facility for comments. Five percent of the membership making 60 percent of careless comments is what destroyed the AIPP.
Newsletter and Acknowledgments: As mentioned at the start, this outline is based on talking with numerous photographers, and reading over 1000 reactions and comments (both helpful and destructive) on the FB group which set this rolling. Thanks to all contributors. I would also like to single out Will and Keith Shipton of Inside Imaging for preparing to shell out their own money to pay for essential but expensive and laborious access to ASIC documents in an attempt to follow the actions of the last board.
They have also helped us by ‘loaning’ us the Inside Imaging newsletter platform and website Readers Poll
– Paul Curtis