The Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) began for me in October of 2020. And, let me tell you how I’ve grown over the past year.
In a very condensed version the PPOC was formed in 1946 and started with commercial and press photographers. Over the ensuing years there has been one name change as it evolved to what it is today – equipped with a Board of Directors with representation from all provinces (constituent organizations); standardized membership categories throughout; a common set of bylaws, logos, policies and goals; a unified group with a consistent set of guidelines regulating print show competitions, merit presentations, awards and professional recognition; they speak for professional photographers when dealing with legal matters, government agencies or legislation and once yearly a professional magazine is published for it’s members; an annual convention is held where ideas and fellowship are encouraged while working towards common goals; and all while enjoying the benefit of shared administrative services.
One of Canada’s leading organizations the PPOC strives to develop and maintain the highest level of photographic excellence. It’s mission is to support and qualify photographers and help them to become industry leaders. It also serves to educate the public about the value in hiring an Accredited Professional Photographer.
Becoming a member can be as rewarding as you wish to make it. Not unexpected it does however come at some cost. There are annual dues to keep in good standing. If you would like to become accredited to improve your skills, display the logos, be listed in the registry or compete fees also apply for each.
But advancement within the organization doesn’t end there. Membership is heavily based on a merit point system. In order to earn these merits one must participate in volunteerism, service, education and competition.
There are several designations one can achieve and each are broken into sub-categories; starting with Aspiring, in some instances Student, Accredited, Craftsmen of Photographic Arts, Master of Photographic Arts, Service of Photographic Arts and Fellow. Incredibly there are not many who have achieved Fellow status but wonderfully enough the first female photographer has achieved this designation just this year.
As each member traverses through the designations you can rest assured that means those members have satisfied specific requirements by having their work examined by a panel of judges – their peers, and having them deemed a cut above, in addition to earning merit points for service, print, education and so much more.
One can view this in such a way as to say to the photographer that they have a working group behind them much like a union who work towards common goals such as copywrite changes and lobbying the government for regulations to the industry – all things that photographers regardless of whether they are members or not benefit from.
The consumer also benefits because when they choose to work with an Accredited member of the PPOC, they have hired a photographer whose work is deemed a cut above, that photographer has demonstrated their professional ability to the Board of Examiners for the Professional Photographers of Canada, that photographer is bound by a code of ethics and a governing body which means there is recourse for dispute resolution for the consumer which does not always happen in the general public or in a timely manner for that matter.
The decision was an easy one for me to make. I had become friends with a member from Thunder Bay, ON while I was away at a workshop and it was she who kept at me because she could see something in the works that I was producing.
This did not however happen overnight. It wasn’t until pandemic times when I found myself sinking into dark times after pouring myself into helping others become better at their craft. I was obliged to work on myself and my craft.
After joining the PPOC I made many great friends and acquaintances with colleagues who helped me navigate the system. The welcoming environment is extremely helpful and most appreciated.
By April 2021 I received my first accreditation (a degree of elevation above the entry level) in Ornithology / Bird Photography. I have to say it wasn’t easy and it did take me two attempts which is pretty good considering some photographers may take up to ten or more.
The hardest part is releasing yourself from your own misconceptions about your work, learning how to absorb critique and use it to your advantage and learning from it while allowing yourself to grow in your craft.
To give an example the Ornithology/Bird Photography category stipulates a given numbered set of different images, from that many different occasions, of that many different subjects must be submitted to a Board of Examiners. The photographer must demonstrate creative and technical ability, variety of environments as well as life stage and familial units. Each image must demonstrate distinguishable traits and be a cut above.
Accreditation happens just four times yearly. Because of the nature of the submissions this judging is done privately by the Board of Examiners.
In order to compete in either National Image Competition or Regional Image Competition members must first be accredited. In addition PPOC also curates a group of entrants to World Photographic Cup. All of these judging dates are open viewing for the membership but, they are not interactive and no influence by the outside world is allowed.
Unfortunately I was not yet accredited early in the new year when National Image Competition happened for 2021 so I was not personally able to make submissions. Nationals always happens early in the year just prior to the Annual National Conference when the awards banquet takes place. I am however ready for 2022’s National Image Competition.
Regional Image Competitions happen through the early part of the fall season just prior to the Annual Regional Conference and the awards banquet. I was fortunate enough to be able to submit my 4 images which is the maximum number most are eligible to submit.
Judging took place September 25, 2021. I observed and took in the judging over the day. So much of the technicalities of composition, lighting, processing, etc. can be learned during these events.
To my amazement I found that all four of my images achieved an extremely high score. Each given a merit which, by my perspective only – is the equivalent of a silver.
There are four possible scores when images are judged – Not Accepted, Accepted, Merit or Excellence. Images that have achieved an Accepted or higher will hang in the Regional Image Salon for the province – in my case Ontario.
Just prior to the Ontario Region’s annual conference in October I learned that I was in the running for a possible four additional awards; Best In Class – Animals, Best In Class – Fine Art, Best In Class – Experimental Unclassified and Photographer of the Year for Ontario.
Those awards did not materialize for me but the run was incredible.
The four images I have submitted to my first Regional Image Competition; No Toys In This Attic / Fine Art, Late Night Snack / Fine Art, Thin Film Refraction / Experimental Unclassified and Scratch That Itch / Animals, will hang in the Ontario Image Salon for 2021.
In addition because of their scoring the images are automatically eligible to hang in the National Image Salon for 2022 should I choose to submit them. Did I say I was ready for National Image Competition in the new year?
In all seriousness I took this on as my personal project to better my craft. I think I am well on my way. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
The whole experience has put a huge smile on my face and for the first time in quite some time I feel like I am emerging from the darkness.
PPOC has approximately eight hundred active members across this country (Turtle Island) as well as a handful of international members. What is really surprising to me is that Sault Ste. Marie is only represented by two members – myself and Anna Pelletier-Doble, MPA, APPO of Kevanna Studios ( yes Anna – a long time member of PPOC and much more qualified than I, has also shared success this year). Everyone these days is a photographer so why are more individuals not acting upon their craft?
If you are interested in joining the Professional Photographers Of Canada, or learning more about the rewarding opportunities please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to answer questions, get the information you need or help you sign up. There is no possible way to outline it all in a blog. It’s a very rewarding professional organization and I’m off to a great start. I’d like to be able to pay it forward so others find that reward as well.