Posts by Polly Chandler

Questions for Amy Holmes George, President of the Texas Photographic Society:

When was Texas Photographic Society (TPS) founded and can you tell us how it came to be?
The Austin Photo Co-op was formed in the early 1980s by a small group of photographers who banded together for cooperative film purchasing purposes. They reorganized in 1984 and incorporated under the name of the Texas Photographic Society. Within two years, TPS had acquired over one hundred members, and the Society attained “not-for-profit” status from the IRS. Later, in 1989, the bylaws were amended to provide for a voting Board of Directors and President who would work collectively to formulate and execute TPS programs, services, policies and procedures.

Pool of Tears

Kat Moser

How is TPS run?
For over twenty years, D. Clarke Evans has served as President of TPS. During this time, he steered the organization, its Board and the membership, while also implementing many significant initiatives. Under his leadership, TPS became a model non-profit organization, garnering the society “State Wide Provider Status” from the Texas Commission on the Arts. After two decades of exceptional contributions, Clarke has decided to retire from this position effective January 2014, when he will assume the meritorious title of “President Emeritus.” I will then transition into the role of President, and Clarke has graciously agreed to assist the Board as it forges ahead.

Naturally, as you can imagine, TPS is now undergoing a critical evolution as we prepare for our future under new leadership. Our Board of Directors will operate as a “working board” with the mission of “shared leadership”. As we embark on this exciting journey, I am thrilled to be in the company of long-standing Board members Jean Caslin (Caslin Gregory & Associates in Houston) and Amanda Smith (A Smith Gallery in Johnson City), who will act as Vice President and Treasurer respectively. We, working in concert with the rest of the Board, aspire to revitalize and reinvent TPS.

What’s your role in TPS?
I currently represent TPS as Vice President of the Board and have held this position since 2010, serving previously as a member of the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council (since 2005). With a BFA in Photography and Graphic Design, I also have recently taken on the task of designing our exhibition catalogs and other printed materials.

My experiences as a member of the National Board of Directors of the Society for Photographic Education have afforded me a broad perspective on the field. With an MFA in photography, and as an exhibiting photographer and educator, I am keenly interested in helping shape the future direction of TPS.

Chere Pafford_TPS Members Only Show

Chere Pafford

What’s the ultimate goal of TPS?
TPS offers photographers with meaningful resources, exposure, publicity, exhibition opportunities and a community of like-minded artists.

TPS seems to be geared toward the Fine Art Photography community.  Would you say that’s accurate?  And what are your thoughts on appealing to Fine Art Photographers rather than, say, commercial based photographers?
Yes, I would agree that TPS appeals to fine art photographers. TPS does not want to be exclusive, but our programming tends to attract more folks in the fine arts realm. However, many commercial photographers who also produce personal work often seek out TPS to support those activities as well. Ultimately, TPS provides a venue for photographers to share their work with others via our website, newsletter, e-zine, exhibitions and accompanying catalogs. The capacity to network, promote, publish and exhibit is especially valuable for artists, and this kind of exposure is what we offer our members.

There are quite a few “big name” photographers who are TPS members, what do you think it is about Texas Photographic Society that appeals to them?
I think that these photographers believe in our mission, find promise in our future and acknowledge their relationship with TPS as both sustaining and mutually beneficial. Over the years, several of these well established photographers have participated in the Members’ Print Program, led workshops, donated works to our print auction and juried exhibitions for TPS.

TPS offers some great competitions with cash prizes and prestigious judges,  as well as workshops.  Can you elaborate more on that?
The Members’ Only Show and The International Competition are TPS’ signature exhibitions, and we have invited internationally acclaimed experts in the field of photography to jury these annual shows. We have also sponsored themed exhibitions, some of which include: Our Town, Cell Phone Photography, Alternative Processes, Big Bend, Captivar La Luz, Best Shot and Childhood. Most of these shows are installed in a gallery or alternative space; however, we do host virtual exhibitions on our website as well. It has always been important to TPS that we provide professional exhibition venues for our members’ work and award them for their artistic accomplishments.

Marilyn Maxwell_TPS 22 The International Competition

Marilyn Maxwell

How does TPS pick jurors for its exhibitions and instructors for its workshops?
Generally, jurors and instructors are recommended by members of the Board. Although, we also welcome suggestions from our membership.

Would you say the economy has affected some of the things TPS used to be able to offer?
Certainly. And as a result, TPS is currently re-visioning itself. Over time, we aim to re-imagine our present brand and identity, expand our programming in relevant and exciting ways, refresh the vision and functionality of our website, and boost and reactivate our membership. Simply put, new technologies in photography coupled with an overwhelming social media presence have challenged us to thoughtfully reconsider our audience and their ever-changing needs.

During this time of re-visioning, TPS is reaching out to photographers, as we want to hear from them! We would like to better understand what programs and services they want and need from us.

[Writer’s note:  Amy Holmes George can be contacted at: amy@texasphoto.org]

In the days before I became a professional photographer, while I was working towards a Masters in Fine Art Photography in Illinois, I helped support myself by helping out at a small, locally owned business, B&L Photo.  I learned many valuable lessons while working at B&L., I mastered of all kinds camera equipment, honed my printing and retouching skills, but I also learned valuable sales skills, and learned how a small business is run. Perhaps most importantly though, it was at B&L that I discovered there how to work well as part of a large team. The group I worked with there were like extended family. We were devoted to one another, but even more so, we were devoted to the father and son who not only employed us, but also nurtured our talent.

Here in Austin, Precision Camera reminds me of B&L. Precision was founded in 1976 by Jerry Sullivan, and moved recently from its long-time home on North Lamar Avenue to a bright, beautiful space on Anderson Lane. It’s a big store – the biggest photography store in Texas – but in making the transition, it hasn’t sacrificed its sense of welcome and familiarity.

Jerry Sullivan began his career in the photo business as a camera repair technician. At one store he worked in, he met world-renowned photographer Garry Winogrand. Winogrand came into the shop one day, furious about a coveted Leica that hadn’t been properly repaired. Jerry explained to Winogrand that he hadn’t worked on the camera, but that he felt confident he could fix it – which he promptly did.  From that day forth, Jerry and Winogrand became great friends. Winogrand gave Jerry all his cameras to repair, and later, sent his many students to Jerry for their camera repairs too.

Winogrand came in furious about a coveted Leica that hadn’t been properly repaired. Jerry explained to Winogrand that he hadn’t worked on the camera, but that he felt confident he could fix it – which he promptly did

Jerry’s wife, Rosemary, has been an integral part of the success of Precision Camera.  Jerry and Rosemary are both originally from Dallas, where they attended the same high school. Later, Jerry attended Stephen F Austin, in Nacogdoches, Texas before transferring to UT – at which point he and Rosemary started dating. They’ve been together ever since, and were married in 1973. Rosemary began doing the store’s bookkeeping part-time in 1982, and now works full time, supervising the Accounting and HR Departments, besides helping out wherever else she is needed.

I asked Jerry why, having been based on North Lamar Avenue for 21 years, he’d decided to move his store to the Anderson Lane location?  He explained that the entire complex on Lamar is scheduled to be flattened in order to make room for a high-rise medical complex. And yet, as he ruefully acknowledged, “From adversary comes opportunity.”  Besides a sales floor that is 2 ½ times the size of the previous one, the new location features more generous parking and improved access. The store design is by John Beckham, of Stone Soup 6, who was previously the architect for Whole Foods Stores.

What continues to keep Jerry most excited about an industry he’s been a part of for so long is the fact that the business itself is constantly changing and evolving, notably of course, through the advent of digital technology. Yet many of the challenges also remain the same – ‘The people part of the business is both it’s joy and it’s curse,’ he said. Finding local employees who are both reliable and knowledgeable remains a challenge.

The people part of the business is both it’s joy and it’s curse

Despite the demands of running his business, and outside commitments such as his place as a Board Member at the Austin Center for Photography, Jerry still finds time to work on personal projects – notably a book he’s been working on.

The book idea came about through Jerry’s daughter, who is passionately involved with The African Network for Animal Welfare. Jerry visited her in Nairobi, Kenya, and was immediately taken with the country. He began to photograph the environment, and has put together a beautiful body of work. He even brought back “snare art” to sell in the store, the proceeds of which are returned to Kenya and the tribal artists that ANAW helps.

Of course, since Jerry first opened Precision Camera, much has changed – not only in terms of photography technology, but also in the city of Austin itself. He readily acknowledges that the city’s growth has been good for business, as well as the trend in Austin’s demographic towards a highly educated and increasingly affluent citizenship.

Not that growth has come without sacrifice. Operating a business as large and successful as Precision is a 24/7 endeavor, and Jerry has his share of laments about not having had as much time to spend with his family as he might have – though he feels he’s found a better balance in terms of that more recently.

Working hard is the key. You cannot stop learning, and if you want to run your own business, go get a business degree! Being a photographer is one thing, but running a photography business is a whole other can of worms

Asked to give young retail entrepreneurs some must-have advice he said, ‘Working hard is the key. You cannot stop learning, and if you want to run your own business, go get a business degree! Being a photographer is one thing, but running a photography business is a whole other can of worms.’

Happily, the business aspect of photography has not completely forced Jerry to lose touch with his camera tech beginnings. He expresses a fanaticism for panoramic cameras, and owns both a Widelux and an Xpan. He also recently took on a Nikon D800, which he considers the finest camera out right now (though his absolute favorite camera of all time is the Leica M6). He also has an Ikeda 5×7 field camera, and his declared love for film as well as digital cameras was music to this gal’s ears.

As a locally owned business, Precision Camera is a great asset. Personally, I would rather shop at a store like Precision – one that has strong community values, where the staff is like family and treats regulars coming in as one of their own.  It stands for community of the kind you simply cannot be a part of when ordering on-line.

Some of the old Precision locations: