PPA Member since 1988
Location: Cartersville, Ga.
What's the connection between education and relationships (relationships between you and other photographers, that is)? Louis Tonsmeire, PPA's new president, would tell you that the connection is association.
Tonsmeire knows--from experience--that education and relationships are key in a photographers' survival. "Whether it's one-on-one education with a mentor or learning through an Affiliate School program, we have to stay in touch with what is going on. We don't want our work to become stale or our business practices outdated," he says.
One of the best ways to grab that needed education is through membership in a photographic association like Professional Photographers of America (PPA) or its affiliate associations. Tonsmeire's long-standing association memberships have put him in the right places to learn about these educational opportunities. It's just more accessible (and many come with discounts!).
Associations are also a hotbed for possible mentors, Tonsmeire's preferred method of education. "Friends in the industry are necessary," he comments. "All of us run into stumbling blocks, and who better to help us out than a photographer who has been there before?"
Often, finding your first mentor can be difficult. Have you ever felt that you'd love to talk to and learn from a certain well-known photographer...but that he or she was too much of a "rockstar" to have time for you? Have you been too nervous to even ask? Just remember that everything starts with a connection. All relationships--with mentors, friends and clients--are built out from that initial connection. And here's where associations come into play again.
An association membership just makes it easier to approach someone you'd like to learn from in this mentoring fashion. As part of an association, you may already have a connection with your ideal mentor. After all, you already have several areas of common ground if you are fellow members. Plus, you can generally count on those who've joined an association to be open to such networking.
In fact, this networking / mentoring relationship is important for both student and mentor. Most instructors say they learn from their classes all the time. There are always new ideas and new thoughts to be shared...you just have to connect to hear them.
"We have all the connections of PPA on our side," adds Tonsmeire. "And the most important things we can take back to our own businesses are these relationships and the education that stems from them."
Are you part of this association connection?