Historical Background of the Society
The American Society of Photographers (ASP) was officially founded August 1, 1937. Its beginnings were in the minds of a few dedicated photographers attending PPA conventions who came together for fellowship and the exchange of ideas. Al Buehman, one of the chief organizers, stated later that they sat in the dinning room of the Stevens Hotel in Chicago and discussed the possibilities, but were hesitant because they did not want to compete with the mother organization, the Professional Photographers of America. They delayed the decision a year and when they came together in 1937, he said,” We were all supporters of the PPA and we insisted in our original by-laws that anyone taken into membership must first be a member of the International.” This rule still applies today.
The group selected the name “American Society of Photographers”, elected officers with D.D. Spellman as first president, and limited membership to 20, by invitation only. Their purpose as stated in the preamble of its constitution: “...shall forever be to bring into close confederation and co-operation all those leaders in the photographic art and science whose aim is and ever will be, to strive for pre-eminence in artistic perfection and scientific knowledge of the art.”
Two areas were selected for emphasis in the early years:
- Enhancement of the national photographic exhibit
- Promotion of the Winona School of Photography
- To develop the national exhibit further, the Fellowship (1970) was created to encourage Masters of Photography to continue to exhibit after receiving their degrees. This served to include some of the works by Masters who previously had no incentive to continue to exhibit. ASP became instrumental in developing a separate exhibit of loan collection prints and eventually it became what is known now as the ASP Masters Loan Exhibit. Each year this exhibit is on display at the national convention, and the top 100 selected prints then travels across the U.S. spending a period of time at various PPA photographic association meetings, museums, banks and malls.
- From the onset of ASP, its members had supported the Winona School with leadership and with instructors. July 20, 1956 the new $50,000. Auditorium at Winona Lake, Indiana, was dedicated as a result of funds gathered through a campaign organized and managed by ASP. Al Buehman and Max Green were co-chairmen of this committee. When the school was moved to Chicago, funds were provided for an ASP Library to house albums of portfolios of all ASP Fellows and prints from the latest Fellow portfolios. These were made available to Winona students to study. Each year ASP makes available a scholarship for the tuition of a student selected through the Student Exhibit competition.
By 1948 the membership limit had been raised to 40 members and membership dues raised from $10.00 per year to $15.00. A warning was issued to the membership that, as of January 1, 1949, dues would be $25.00. Early 1960’s membership was opened to be without limits, but still by invitation only. Later, those holding degrees other than a Masters were permitted to join.
Ever conscious of developing trends, ASP has tried to lead the way in the development of photography as a science. In 1961, the ASP President, Albert Ravanelli of Albuquerque, in an address to the membership said,” It is unlikely that Photography will continue on as it has in the past. There will be a new approach with new ideas and improved techniques. Automation has come. It will be expanded. The automatic cameras are already here and soon there will be automatic developing kits that will enable everyone to do his own finishing. All of this means that a change in our thinking is necessary NOW, not tomorrow.”
Because of the influx of Photographic Craftsmen in the Society, in 1983 the first Associates were awarded. This honor was to reward those who had achieved distinction through service, not as a result of photographic entries. This is an ever-growing segment of the Society.
Into more recent years, the Society had greatly improved communication with its membership through the newsletter, particularly by printing the Associate thesis, which reflects some of the most advanced thinking within our trade. In 1995, the Mentor program was instituted whereby scholarships were given to members allowing them to study at no charge with ASP mentors of their choice. Sponsorships have been obtained to offer complimentary banquet tickets to new degree recipients, allowing them to have fellowship with ASP members. With membership now topping 850, having membership in every state and many other countries throughout the world, the Society still subscribes to the philosophy of its founders: “To strive to foster the ideals of professional photography as a science and an art.” And as its known today: “Dedicated to fostering the Ideals of professional photography as a science and an art”
Randy Bradford, June 28,1996 // Revised, 2001 ASP Board