By Leah Shafer
It’s no secret that the advent of digital radically changed the practice for all photography professionals. Photographer and ASMP member Holly Kuper has a long-term perspective on the post-film media photography community in the Dallas area. She’s been a member of ASMP since 1981.
“Digital photography has made it very hard to be a community – everything is online and everyone is at their computers, so there is not much communication like the old days,” Kuper said. “We don’t really need each other because we can have our questions answered online, but we really need each other because otherwise, we are working in a box alone. No one even goes to the lab and hangs out.”
Kuper said ASMP could be a part of bringing a fragmented community back together with, as she puts it, “Less parties and more teaching opportunities.”
“Things have changed — when I first started, there were lots of meetings that we learned from,” she said. “We gathered and partied and talked and shared — I learned so much and had mentors throughout the community of photographers. But now I feel that the leadership team is the only team and that the rest of us just come in and out periodically. No one seems that interested in being involved.”
Kuper herself has relied on ASMP members to advance her career and help her out in a pinch. She joined to be part of a community.
“I was in Boston and got a surprising job there and borrowed lights and cameras and even went to the guy’s studio and uploaded my photos that day,” she said. “Without ASMP, whom would I have turned to?”
Another time, in San Antonio, her camera broke and she called the Dallas ASMP president for help. He gave Kuper the name of his ASMP friend nearby.
“That guy drove to the location and handed me, a stranger, his camera and told me to return it in the morning. Saved!” she said. “I have had legal questions answered by national and I have talked to co-ASMP members about pricing. Every assistant I have had has been met at an ASMP gathering or meeting — and I have received jobs from others and felt connected.”
“I know it is really hard to motivate people and it is always the same people and it is expensive, but it is worth it,” she said.
Another area Kuper says is critical for ASMP is outreach.
“We need to reach out to the local schools and sign up the new photographers coming in — The Dallas Center for Photography is our lucky best resource,” she said. “But there are many community colleges that are pumping out new photographers. We need to educate them on pricing so they don’t come in and steal our work and underprice us and themselves — we are worth the money.”
Kuper’s own career has some high points lately.
“I was just in Cuba to photograph the people and it reminded me of the old days of unencumbered street photography,” she said. “I am going to Italy to shoot a week-long 50th birthday party — now that is the dream job. I am collecting names of photographers who I can pass jobs to while I am in Europe. I may stay a little while after my job there.”
Passing on jobs is on her mind frequently as of late.
“I am thinking a lot about being a rep for photographers as I cut back and still get calls,” Kuper said. “I would like to pass jobs on, but still be involved in the process so the work is done with the same quality that I have produced over the last 40 years.”
She’s also in the unenviable place of organizing 40 years of work.
“My plans are always changing, but at this point in my career and life, I am trying to organize my files, my old slides, and my office so that I have things in some order for my kids,” she said. “It would be a mess to put it together without me.”
Kuper is known for her sense of humor, and passes along this advice for shooting high school seniors, one of her favorite jobs “because they have such fun ideas and clothes and they are young and fresh.”
“Watch out for selfies while you are shooting. Argh.”