In late January this year a group of 14 past-presidents of the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers ‘went public’ with their concerns for the outcome of the (extremely) voluntary administration and liquidation process their former association was forced into by the last Board of Directors.
At about the same time, former photo industry association administrator and AIPP historian, Paul Curtis, created a thoroughly unauthorised ‘AIPP’ Facebook page. This uncovered a groundswell of interest in reviving a broad-based professional photographers association in Australia, with several hundred photographers singing up to the FB page in a few days, and lot of encouragement and enthusiasm generated.
The initial objective was to apply for the remaining funds held by the liquidator to help re-launch an AIPP-like association, but this evolved into a determination to create a new association, regardless of whether or any of those funds are retrievable. (It looks increasingly likely that most of the $164K left in the AIPP’s account when the directors decided to seek liquidation will have been wasted in administration and liquidation costs.)
After the first couple of weeks of the push to revive a professional photographers’ association, the exchange of views on the Facebook page, re-titled ‘A group that’s not the AIPP’ Facebook page, began to turn sour, with a handful of unhappy souls seemingly determined to render the initiative ‘dead on arrival’, by harnessing the intrinsically toxic dynamic of social media. As a consequence, the decision was made to turn off Commenting for most posts.
(Unfortunately, this has put a brake on dialogue with potential members of a new association. Readers are encouraged to make use of the Readers Comments section in Inside imaging as an alternative. This will be moderated.)
Mid-way through March, Paul Curtis produced a Discussion paper on ‘A New Body to represent Australian Professional Photographers’ based on discussions and email exchanges with professional photographers over the past six weeks, as well as the many hundreds of comments generated on the Facebook page.
‘Next steps will be to announce the composition of the Steering Committee, with a review in three months and a final decision on a name, after feedback from potential members. A not-for-profit company will be formed in the meantime, and we hope to have a new website live in around a month or so.’
He said the Steering Committee, which would effectively evolve into the inaugural board of the new entity, would comprise a combination of older members keen to help a younger team get established and take the reins.
‘We’ve had a healthy supportive response via emails, with no opposition. It seems the vast majority seem to ant a national body representing professional photographers reconstituted.
Excerpt from Discussion Paper:
WHY THE AIPP FAILED:
The 70 year old AIPP failed for the following reasons:
- An attempt to build a large collective voice to be all things to all people
- Loss of common purpose
- Moving into the direction of camera clubs and photo competition organisers
- Uncontrolled Social Media causing discourse between members
- A huge divide developing between the members and the board and its staff, mainly as a result of uncontrolled social media.The Board said they communicated to the members, the members said they were not given all the relevant information. As on winding up, the board removed all forms of communication and immediately shut down the website and its records of minutes etc, it is now impossible for members to judge.
This divide caused its last board of directors to act inappropriately:
- The rule of the Institute’s constitution were broken over a number of issues by the board.(This does not necessarily mean it was operating outside Australian Company Law.)
- The company was deliberately put into liquidation by the board while it was holding very significant funds. The process for this was to first disempower the membership by:
- Returning some members’s subscriptions
- Closing down the Institute’s most valuable asset, the website, thus destroying member access to all recordS
- Immediately releasing the domain registration so it could be instantly registered by another identity
- Closing down its Facebook group leaving members with no access to any form of communication.
- Bringing forward debt by advising the staff to put in for their holiday accrued pay as the company was closing down.
- Bringing forward debt by advising the ATO the company was gong into liquidation and to put in an immediate tax claim
- Valuing expensive assets such as the APPA print cases and office equipment of no commercial value and disposing of them. (Presumably with the approval of the liquidator and administrator.)
- Gave the membership no chance to devise a plan to trade-on by altering the program of pre-pandemic activities.
- Presenting a budget to the liquidator showing there was little chance of successfully trading on while the board still had sufficient funds to handsomely cover all of the above expenses. Furthermore, some members of that board were actively organising a body to replace the AIPP with a new body of their creation creating possible causes of conflict with the AIPP, the organisation they were appointed for.
BENEFITS OF AIPP
Thus a successful Institute of 70 years was brought to a close. The Institute had a significant history of :
- Making successful representations to government and copyright organisations
- Improving clarity of contracts for both consumer-to-photographer and for business-to-business.
- Improving the skills of professional photographers for the benefit of consumers.
- Authenticating to consumers the artistic and technical levels of its photographers by a series of qualifications such as Master Photographer, etc.
- Enabling meetings between fellow photographers to share knowledge and experience – a situation where all learnt more by associating with collegiate professionals.