The dramatic history of Professional Photographers of America

Book chronicles the oldest professional association for working photographers

The history of Professional Photographers of America was literally 150 years in the making. And chronicling that history was itself a feat. After more than two years of extensive analysis, PPA has published its storied history in the book “The Challenge to Succeed: 150 Years of Professional Photographers of America.”

PPA’s antecedent, the National Photographic Association, was founded in 1868 by a small group of professional photographers motivated to fight an erroneous patent claim. Over the course of their two-day meeting, the founders adopted a six-article constitution setting out goals for the association:

  • Advance photographic education
  • Discourage unjust barriers to trade
  • Promote fair and reasonable business practices
  • Connect professional photographers and potential employees
  • Prevent the deficient training of photographic apprentices
  • Hold annual exhibitions

The next century and a half would find the association addressing these goals while occasionally fighting for its continued existence. Crises that threatened to end PPA included world wars, an unprecedented economic depression, massive technological changes, and at times even its own poor decisions.

Professional historians worked for more than two years to research and chronicle PPA’s history, probing documents in the Library of Congress, searching through haphazard archives, and interviewing notable figures. All the drama, cliffhangers, and successes are detailed in “The Challenge to Succeed.”

“We felt an enormous responsibility to get this right,” says PPA CEO David Trust of the history. “The photographers, leaders, and others who worked with us on it felt both an honor and a weight. It was much more than a corporate history for us—this is a tight-knit community of people who care deeply about the cause.”

The 127-page book is sold through Marathon Press.