I had been in photography almost two months when I attended my first photographic conference. It was called the Texas PPA Summer Seminar and was held in Kerrville, Texas at a funky ol' place called the Inn of the Hills. I was with my sister Teri and her husband, who had given me my very first job in the photo industry. It was really interesting meeting other photographer, new and old and seeing the true ways in which they learn their craft. I was too young at the time to really grasp what I was being taught by the various instructors, but the importance of the act of being there was not lost on me. Lifelong friendships were born that weekend and I scored my very first entry, just high enough to hang in the exhibit. They were hanging prints that scored 70 or above. My only entry scored a 71 and was titled simply, "Suzanne." It was not very good. Fast forward thirty-seven years and I still attend as many events and programs, seminars and conventions I can get my hands on.
My message this week is a simple one. Get connected. We all live in neighborhoods where we have good friends, nice family members, community connections and none of them share our concerns, fears, celebrate our wins or help us mourn our losses. However, when you walk to the registration desk at a local camera club, local or regional PPA, ASMP, PSA, or other association or group, you may be pleasantly surprised that you are surrounded by people just like you. They know exactly what you are going through, have been through it themselves, whether it is the High School senior who keeps cancelling on you or the wealthy family that is trying to talk down your rates and pricing. You won't all be involved in exactly the same type of photography but that is not as important as the fact that they too are involved in a full-time or even a big way.
I have been personally very active as a member and even serving on Board positions in the following groups over the years and yes, most of them are still active:
- San Angelo Society of Professional Photographers (Texas)
- Permian Basin Professional Photographers Assoc. (Texas)
- Texas Professional Photographers Assoc. (Texas)
- Southwestern Professional Photographers Assoc. (Texas)
- Professional Photographers of America (National)
- Wedding Photographers International (Calif)
- Professional Photographers of San Diego County (Calif)
- Professional Photographers of California (Calif)
- Professional Photographers of New Jersey (NJ)
- Wedding Portrait Photographers International (Calif)
- Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (United Kingdom)
- Dallas Professional Photographers Assoc. (Texas)
- Professional Photographers of Oklahoma (OK)
My goal and the goal of all of us who have taken on the mantle as an instructor in the photographic community, is to let you know there are those who will be so helpful for you and your career. But you have to take the first step and actually go and attend the event(s) in your community. Folks, Rob Hull my workshop partner and I met eight or nine years ago because of an association we were both a member of. Since then, we have traveled the world together, stayed in each others' homes and I even photographed his son's wedding. The connections are real. Get involved. You cannot believe how important it can be for you and your future.