The following is an “open letter” from five of SAA’s past leaders to the broader photographic community. While this news has been posted on various industry blogs, the former leaders explain that the letter is not an official press release from the SAA/AVA organization.
Dear SAA members, friends, and stock artists:
As past leaders of the Stock Artists Alliance, this is a difficult letter to write. For each of us, and for so many of you, SAA has been an important part of our professional lives, as we have grown it into a driving industry force in advocacy, education and community.
However, the last few years have seen dramatic and wrenching changes in the stock photography industry. Photographers’ and agencies’
traditional business models are under tremendous competitive pressures. Unfortunately that has meant that resources to keep SAA vital are diminishing.
As a result, we are sad to announce that next month SAA will be dissolving as a trade association.
SAA was founded to advocate for stock photographers rights and interests and for eight years functioned as an independent trade association. In 2009, after careful consideration, we decided to join AVA to take advantage of the group association management benefits.
This meant a major shift in how SAA was run. During that same time period, we have seen a dramatic downturn in stock licensing revenue for most photographers and a steady decline in SAA membership.
Over the past six months we’ve been in conversations with AVA management, considering the options for moving forward. The core issues were:
- Going forward, how can stock photographers’ interests best be served?
- Is there a role for a dedicated association for stock photographers when image licensing continues to decline as a major business model?
- Without SAA, who can serve as a strong voice for independent photographers involved in the business of stock licensing?
- How can SAA represent the diversifying business interests of our members when stock is a smaller and smaller component of their overall photography business?
- Should SAA try to expand our membership base to address other business models (e.g. assignment and editorial)? Or is it best to look to fellow established organizations that are better positioned to support our members.
- The issue of multiple overlapping photographic trade associations is key. Many SAA members are also members of other groups and the payment of multiple dues can be a hardship.
We therefore have concluded that the best choice is for photographers to consolidate their affiliations in support of larger, established organizations, which are in a better position to address a broader range of image licensing issues.
We are encouraged that other photographic organizations, such as ASMP and PPA, have established education and community-building initiatives, and are actively engaged in industry and legislative advocacy work.
To aid in the transition, SAA members have received official notification that they will be able to move their memberships to either PPA or ASMP for the duration of their current membership period. This transfer is not prorated: members will simply transfer, with no monies due until renewal time at the end of their current membership term.
The Legacy of SAA
We are proud of SAA’s accomplishments of the past nine years. It has proven that even a relatively small organization, driven by passionate and dedicated leaders and supported by members, can change the status quo. We are the evidence that artists coming together can make a difference. We were truly a “mouse that roared.”
Thanks to SAA, thousands of established and aspiring photographers and industry leaders worldwide have connected through our member community, publications, online resources, and education programs.
We have helped shape major industry contracts, helped artists retrieve millions in unpaid royalties, publicized the level of Internet infringements, worked closely with tracking services to recoup otherwise lost revenue, championed rights management licensing and developed open source software to support its use, educated photographers about metadata and its preservation, and our ombudsmen have tirelessly engaged distributors to resolve contributor issues.
SAA has also developed a rich online archive of education and advocacy resources, which we are committed to maintaining, and will soon be opening up to the wider photographic community. The online discussion forum will also continue, run by volunteers.
Although SAA as an organization will not be continuing, we all as individual artists will still face the same challenging business environment and further technological change. We encourage all members to continue to engage in the broader photographic community and to contribute their time, talent and energy.
Roy Hsu, SAA Advisory Council Chair and President 2008-2009
Betsy Reid, SAA Executive Director, 2002-2008
David Sanger, SAA President 2006-2007
David Riecks, SAA Imaging Technology Standards Chair and Library of Congress Photo Metadata Project Leader
Leland Bobbé, SAA President 2003-2005