Catching up with the ASPP

The American Society of Picture Professionals is the definitive trade association for picture editors, art buyers, researchers and all engaged in the business of creating, archiving, marketing, researching and licensing imagery in North America. With Chapters through out the United States offering regular programming to one of the most comprehensive benefits packages for members to the hallmark quarterly magazine, The Picture Professional, the ASPP continues to work to serve our industry. Executive Director Sam Merrell and current President Cecilia de Querol took time to answer a few questions and share plans for the organization.

How long have the 2 of you worked together and in what capacity?

SM: Cecilia and I have been working together with ASPP since December 2006, as NY Chapter Co-Presidents.  In 2010, we joined the National Board as Technology Co-Chairs. Early in 2012  I was appointed National Vice President while Cecilia remained as Tech Co-Chair with Daryl Geraci.  Early in 2014, I was elected National President, served for 16 days and then moved to the Executive Director’s post. In March 2014, Cecilia became National President.

CQ:  Our first project together for ASPP was a 2006 event on Digital Image Workflow held at ICP.  Its success led us to the chapter co-chair positions and our interest in technology helped us fit into the tech-co chair positions on the national board.  It has been a rewarding experience from the start.  It’s great to get together with a group of interested volunteers and make things happen that are of benefit to all.  I’ve made great friendships (including Sam!) and many interesting and valuable business contacts along the way.

What is your vision for your tenure, Cecilia?

I want everyone in the business to know about ASPP and to feel compelled to join. I want them to know that being an ASPP member is an essential, non-optional part of their professional toolkit. I want to raise the visibility of our association let the world know about the value of the professional skills and expertise of our members.

ASPP is special and unique because we represent the entire eco-system of the business.  I want to build on this and make ASPP the hub of the industry-wide conversation.

Sam, where do you see the organization going?

Interesting that you ask. Where do we want ASPP to be in five years? The same? Different? How? What we need to do to get there?  At our upcoming October board meeting during photo week, we’re devoting a significant portion of our annual in-person board meeting to just these questions.

Commercial photography markets have changed dramatically in the past five years and in the same way that many of our members are having to adjust to the changing workplace in the midst of a difficult economy, ASPP itself is having to meet new challenges of rediscovery and finding new ways to unlock value for our community.

That said, I don’t see our local educational events going away. There’s a perception that online channels are replacing our traditional membership association value-proposition (providing educational and networking opportunities).  But while there is some truth to that perception, it’s also true that face-to-face contact at events with  groups of people is powerful stuff too. Useful in a way that’s different from Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. So while Cecilia works at dialing up our advocacy of the value of hiring picture professionals, I’ll be doing everything I can to support our local Chapter boards as they make networking and educational opportunities happen around the country.

Both of you – can you talk about what the ASPP has historically been and how it is staying relevant?

CQ:  ASPP was founded to be the umbrella association for all the picture professions in 1969.  Almost everything has been transformed since then.  Change has been constant. It didn’t just start now.  Picture professionals have been hard at work through these decades. Their titles and job descriptions may have changed, but they are still picture professionals. Though it all, many have turned to ASPP for guidance and many of them have been drivers of the changes and have shared their knowledge and experience. The ASPP community has been evolving and will continue to evolve in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.

I believe the key to staying relevant is to keep in mind that ASPP is an association. Our power as a community comes from our members and the power of our community flows back to them.

SM: Recently we’ve turned some of our member events inside-out: Instead of a panel of experts dispensing the latest information from a podium, our Peer2Peer and Town Hall events do exactly the oppisite. They put the audience front and center; we ask questions about attendee’s jobs, careers, their workplace and the market for what they do… and then we listen very carefully to what we hear back. We take notes, and are beginning to distill the results with an eye towards posting these results to our Members-Only website later this fall. We will probably publish some of this information as well, it’s very useful. And the events themselves are quite exciting! There’s nothing like a roomful of people coming alive in a discussion of possible solutions to issues that we are all facing.

What drew you both to your current roles?

SM: I’ve morphed throughout my career — photographer, digital photographer, writer, project runner, digital photo evangelist and consultant, stock agent, producer, even a college teacher — all of it centered around visual media.  So ASPP is the perfect organization for me because our members come from so many different job and career categories.  And being ASPP’s executive director is an great job for me–I get to do the things I’m good at, and it’s about photography so I’m passionate about it.  I wasn’t expecting to enjoy publishing our Picture Professional magazine as much as I do. We have a great magazine team and I feel privileged to be involved with everyone (including our great advertisers)!

CQ: I started in this business as a liaison for the Japanese photo agency, Pacific Press Service (PPS) working as both as a photo researcher for their clients’ projects in Japan and as an agent for PPS’s photographs when clients based in the U.S, wanted to use them, so I was aware of how both sides of the business work.  I never stop being impressed by the power of photography.  I love the way that it brings the past and distant places alive to the viewer.  And when I start to think that nothing new can be done, along comes an image that blows me away.

I’ve always worked either in small offices or in my home office, so ASPP is very important for me as a way to get out, meet, and be with other people in the business.

I’m happy to be back in a social and creative position as president of ASPP.

Thanks to both for this insight – for more information about the Association, Membership and how to be involved, please see

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