President’s Message: A Virtual and Physical World

© Tim Kelly and Kyla Renee Paintings

The world is constantly changing, which has never been more apparent than it is in 2020. I often hear photographers lament that digital technology was the demise of our industry. But I also hear plenty who, thanks to digital innovations, have strategies for better dealing with today’s pandemic guidelines. Those who adapt to life-altering changes have a major advantage over those who don’t. The world we live in is both virtual and physical, and I believe there’s a sweet spot where we can benefit from both.

I hope you’ve had conversations with your grandparents or great-grandparents about their lives and the events that impacted them. My grandparents were strong, hardworking, and resourceful, but most of all, they loved people. Papaw was a deacon in a small Southern Baptist church. I remember his compassion toward the elderly and his joyful engagement with small children. Mamaw was a gentle, sweet spirit who loved to cook while singing hymns. Mostly I remember how their love affected the lives of others.

Our favorite place to chat was on the front porch swing while snapping green beans. I remember Mamaw sharing her shock at seeing an automobile for the first time as it sputtered and threw dust in the air on its way down a road designed for horse-and-buggy traffic. Goodness, that was only 135 years ago. Talk about a disrupter. That one invention has had a profound impact on our way of life, undoubtedly ushering in as many negatives as positives.

A few other noteworthy developments she was part of: installing the first lightbulb in their home, not having to pump the handle for water, seeing an airplane, and watching one of the first televisions. Each event she described came with colorful stories and always ended with, “Children, we were made to love each other.”

Our lives have been disrupted by the digital revolution, which grows in influence every day. One might even argue that digital technologies have had more positive and negative impacts on society than the invention of the automobile. Our challenge is how to adapt to the positive aspects in a way that reduces negative effects. In the photography industry, digital has made it easier to remove face-to-face engagement with others. The unintended and potentially devastating consequence is that it dulls our love and respect for one another and our ability to listen and learn. 

My first professional photography class was a business class taught by Bud Haynes, Hon.M.Photog.Cr., and Tom McDonald, M.Photog.Cr., API. During the week-long class, I was that student in the front row asking all the questions. For some reason Tom decided to become my lifelong mentor. There’s no way that would have happened without that first face-to-face interaction. He encouraged me to join my local PPA affiliate, where we’d gather over coffee and doughnuts to listen to a speaker. At events like these I’ve formed long-standing relationships—like the one I have with Tim Kelly, M.Photog.Cr., F-ASP, who created my portrait for this column. Our mastermind group (see “Mastermind Alliance,” May 2020) evolved from one of these affiliate classes, and so many relationships full of encouragement and growth have bloomed from every Imaging USA convention I’ve attended.           

There’s no doubt the digital world has made things easier, faster, and more connected. But as we implement some of these conveniences in our businesses, it’s important to incorporate them alongside face-to-face relationships. While I love ordering something online and having it show up at my studio two days later, the opportunity to talk to a vendor and develop a relationship takes me further because I have an expert in my corner who’s helping me identify the best equipment for my needs.

Just because we can doesn’t always mean we should. When a disruptive change emerges, it’s best to consider not only its positive effects but what we stand to lose and how to protect it. We’re the generation who will tell our grandchildren about the impacts of the digital revolution. Let’s be able to tell them how we continued to love one another.   

Gregory Daniel is the owner of Gregory Daniel Portrait Artist in Titusville, Florida.