Late at night in 2004 at the University of Alabama, I could be found in the darkroom of Woods Hall, developing the ninth or tenth version of a single image I’d been perfecting for hours. I remember thinking to myself, I’ll always be in a darkroom. I can still smell the developer; I can still see the images slowly coming to life in the tray. It felt safe.
Digital photography was not yet mainstream and certainly wasn’t affordable for a student like me. It didn’t seem the least bit enticing. Digital promised faster results, but it could never replace the experience of the darkroom. As I rinsed and hung another print that I wasn’t going to be satisfied with, I daydreamed about the darkroom I would someday have in my home.
I went to college to become a photographer, and while the art program improved my skills, it didn’t prepare me to be a professional. I knew how to capture and expose photos, but I had no clue how to support a business.
PPA gave me the security I needed to embrace the biggest change of my life and a map to turn my childhood passion into a career.Kira Derryberry
After graduation, my husband and I moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where he attended graduate school. Without a clear idea of how to run a business, I put my dream on hold and took a job building websites for a local ad agency. As my husband finished his degree and our daughter was born, the Great Recession hit. I was laid off, and my husband and I found ourselves upside down on our home loan. I was hardly in a position to build a darkroom.
The digital revolution provided an opportunity to revisit my passion. I’d purchased a consumer-level Nikon to take pictures of our growing family. I couldn’t help but reflect on the plans I’d put on hold. So, I did what any millennial would do: I started looking for online resources.
I joined forums and sought advice from others who’d been in the same spot. I invested in new equipment, took online courses, and invested in more new equipment. I searched for insurance to protect the small arsenal of tools I’d acquired and couldn’t replace if they were lost.
Like so many photographers, I found that PPA gave me the security to take risks with my business. I discovered that this association is about so much more than pretty pictures and equipment insurance. PPA gave me training, a network of experts, competition, and industry leaders who could guide me. PPA gave me the security I needed to embrace the biggest change of my life and a map to turn my childhood passion into a career.
If I’ve learned anything since those long nights in the darkroom, it’s that you can’t keep developing the same print over and over the same way and expect different results.Kira Derryberry
Seventeen years have passed since I left Tuscaloosa with a photography degree, and nearly everything about how to make it in this industry has evolved. Through PPA, I’ve clocked many hours learning to be an entrepreneur and implementing that knowledge in my business, only to reinvent myself as the needs of my clients have changed.
I’ve watched as PPA itself has evolved to meet the changing needs of its membership in an industry that never sits still. If I’ve learned anything since those long nights in the darkroom, it’s that you can’t keep developing the same print over and over the same way and expect different results. Times change, and we have to change with them.
I’m proud to step into this role as president of an association that isn’t afraid to take different approaches to better serve this profession. From the CPP and degree programs to business resources and copyright advocacy work, PPA continues to meet the needs of professional photographers by evolving with the times. I’m thrilled to be a small part of that growth.
Here’s to another year of helping people become professional photographers when they grow up. Let’s step out of the darkroom and into the light.
Kira Derryberry is a studio owner and portrait and headshot photographer in Tallahassee, Florida.