Like most stock photographers, I am not a meeting guy. The idea of sitting around a conference table is enough to make me call up my dentist for an appointment. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I flew to Miami for a SAA board-meeting marathon.
The SAA board is fundamentally different than any of the other boards that I have served on because this organization and this board’s primary means of contact is email and a monthly conference call. We only meet face to face once a year. These forms of communication while efficient do not enhance a sense of teamwork and partnership that is fundamental for the success of a large group. I find that with email and even on the phone it is too easy to be misunderstood, and too easy to write somebody else’s point of view off as “crazy” or unimportant. This is especially difficult when the players in the group are independent stock photographers who are used to running their own show.
Betsy and Ken Reid opened the doors of their lovely home for the weekend and the seven of us on the board took it over for our annual meeting. In meetings that ran from 9-6 we rotated from room to room so different parts of our behinds would hurt from all this sitting and talking. Roy Hsu, our president, with Betsy’s help, organized this talk and planning fest. We started by going over a brief history of SAA, focusing on our past accomplishments and then our current problems and your needs. We then analyzed our strengths and areas that we feel that we need to improve. Trying to achieve all of our goals on a beer budget is always a challenge. We decided to implement many good ideas in this coming year but had to leave several on the table for later dates. This is what boards do.
Outside of meeting time, we did get to spend a bit of time sharing our general feelings about the future of stock photography. While the general assessment is a bit on the gloomy side, we still got back on airplanes, and headed back to our studios to plan our next shoots. This does seem to be the nature of photographers. We all seem to believe that while the ship might be taking on bit of water in these stormy times, we are all good captains and will be able to steer a steady course to port. It is then the fundamental role of SAA to provide us with the buoys, lighthouses, weather radar and the GPS devices that we all need to help steer our ships.
One thing that made me very proud is that SAA is one of the few truly international trade organizations. While the majority of our membership is based in the states, 40% of our board and 20% of our membership is based outside of the United States. This shows our international strength.
Sunday night, we returned to our hotel at 9:30 and were not quite ready for bed. Five of us decided to take a walk and came upon a free concert by Dr. John on the streets of Coral Gables. While standing with this group of smart and talented people, I had a sense of pride and accomplishment. Maybe we could make a difference by giving up one weekend and a few hours a month for other Stock Photographers just like us. While at times being a stock photographer feels like playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” being part of SAA gives me a chance to lift that blindfold every once on a while. Today, while sitting in another airport lounge I feel as if I can see the photo markets bit more clearly. I hope that during the coming year, all of us together, will have an easier time lifting the blindfold because of the work we contribute to SAA.