Throughout the history of the imaging industry in this country, there was always an organization with a mission to empower success in our businesses. For many years, the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) and the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA) worked separately, but also in tandem, to serve the industry. They developed programs that helped create forums for industry members to work together for mutual benefit. More recently, that role was filled by the Imaging Alliance.
For reasons known to most, PMA wasn’t able to survive the growth of the digital side of our business. The PMA trade show waned as CES began to dominate as an annual show. In the end, PMA lost its vital source of revenue. And while PMDA was still a strong organization, the board recognized the opportunity to combine PMA’s retailer organization with PMDA’s manufacturers.
Consequently, the Imaging Alliance was founded. It was a worthy endeavor that resulted in a new kind of collaboration, where manufacturers and retailers sat around a table and talked about the issues facing our industry. It was unique, and it was exciting.
However, I’m sad to report that we are now in the process of dissolving the Imaging Alliance. As its executive director, I thought I would use this forum to report the reason for its demise, as well as the challenges the industry will face without a true trade organization.
Objectives of the Imaging Alliance
When we formed the Imaging Alliance in 2016, our objective was to continue the legacy of previous trade organizations. We sought to create a sense of camaraderie among industry personnel. In addition, we produced industry-wide programs that would otherwise never happen.
Those of us steeped in the history of our industry remember PMDA’s monthly cocktail events; some called them rubber chicken events. There were no less than 10 tables filled with members who listened to industry leaders and experts offer their perspectives. And while we all attended to listen and learn, the real benefit was being in the same room as our industry brethren, talking about the common challenges we were all facing while also catching up on our growing families. We were, after all, a networking organization. But in many ways, we were a family.
Moreover, the PMDA Person of the Year dinners at the PMA trade show (and later CES) were the perfect venues to honor our best and brightest. We celebrated with awards for photographer of the year, technology and lifetime achievements and, of course, person of the year. We all had a chance to dress up and once again mingle with our friends while honoring the amazing achievements that we were all a part of. The galas were followed up by annual golf outings, where manufacturers, dealers and media partners spent one day and evening each year having fun. (Remember fun??)
Continuing the Tradition
The Imaging Alliance tried to continue those traditions with networking events, bimonthly board meetings and our “Salute” events where we presented monetary awards to photographers who used their talents to give back. We also did our best to create industry-wide marketing campaigns to encourage the use of “real” cameras, as well as to increase in-store printing. And we continued our Portraits of Love program, honoring military families by providing family portraits to soldiers around the world.
The organization enjoyed incredible support from great manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Tamron and Sigma, among others. At the same time, it benefited from the contributions of some amazing dealers, including Scott Farber; Meredith Reinker; Jirair Christianian; Joe Dumic; and Moishe Applebaum. And it wasn’t just about imaging companies; there were contributions from organizations such as APPO, Noritsu, Birger, NPD, Suite 48 Analytics, National Geographic, Madavor Media and others. It was a true amalgamation of industry leaders who continued the traditions that were part of the imaging industry since PMDA’s birth in 1940.
So why dissolve the Imaging Alliance? Because over the last year or so, it lost the support of some key manufacturers; it was their dues the organization depended on to keep going. This, along with the loss of support from some media companies, primarily due to the pandemic, made it impossible to continue, as dues were the only source of revenue. This was not an easy decision; in many ways it is disheartening.
I write this not as a history lesson but more of a warning to our industry; we all still need each other to survive. The importance of networking events and common goals for the industry cannot be overstated. The ability to present awards for our own achievements and those of photographers around the world is what the imaging industry should be doing. Golf outings had nothing to do with golf; they were all about getting out of the office and sustaining friendships. And the challenge of the industry coming together with common messaging, while a lofty and maybe unattainable goal, is still worthy of conversation.
There are great organizations out there, like the PRO Group and IPI; they have the tools and the personnel to continue to keep our industry great. They can provide the right forums for some vital programs. I am personally happy to contribute in any way I can, including using Digital Imaging Reporter as a source for our industry.
The Imaging Alliance was a labor of love for many; I’m grateful for all those who shared our enthusiasm and optimism. As an industry, we must continue to look for ways to work together to achieve our common goals. In addition, let’s continue to have some fun while we’re at it