For the past five and half years, it has been a privilege to serve you as Executive Director of ASMP, a position I could never have envisioned having when I was initially accepted as a professional member in 1978. In many respects, it has enabled me to give back to the profession that has been my life’s work. While the bulk of my earlier career was spent inside mainstream media organizations of all types and sizes, the issues I dealt with in each venue very much tied to the issues I have dealt with as your executive director. And I found ASMP central to my own career as a resource and community.
It would be an understatement to say that my work with you in this capacity didn’t contain a number of surprises, or twists and turns, beginning with my first day on the job, January 3, 2015. What I found coming in was an organization as a big ship, struggling to stay afloat in some very rough waters, as the profession continued to change dramatically, and various changes in the media industry were requiring specific responses. At the same time, we were engaging in crucial advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and in state capitals, trying to effect legislation that might make profound differences in the ways that photographers, including our members, as small business owners and individual creators, could better protect and enforce their intellectual property rights.
In serving ASMP members, I have always kept in mind the need to honor ASMP’s founding principles of working to ensure members, as professional photographers, would be enabled to be their “best selves,” both creatively and as small business owners. That meant working to see that programs and processes were being built and expressed so that information and support were readily available. In that endeavor, I have had the pleasure of working with many national board members, and chapter leaders, as well as interacting daily with members.
I leave knowing that a process of ASMP cultural transformation is underway and that we collectively have a clearer sense of what we can do together in addressing the realities of the present moment. By working together, we can produce a clear vision for the future that meets member needs and aspirations, and we can produce meaningful results.
In addition to working internally with all of you, I have also had the great privilege of building alliances with other groups dedicated to advancing the cause of creative artists of all types. This has occurred within the United States as well as abroad. I believe these alliances are crucial to the effective execution of our mission, and I hope they will continue to be sustained moving forward.
Much of the challenge of my tenure has involved membership and finances. Both are necessary to ensure ASMP’s viability, vitality, and effectiveness as an organization. Both have been significantly affected in an adverse way by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all of you individually, the existence of ASMP as an organization has been put under pressure as our economy has suffered a massive shutdown.
Recognizing the reality that accumulation of resources is central to accomplishing our mission, I am thrilled that my successor James Edmund Datri has agreed to come on board as the new CEO of ASMP. Mr. Datri has an outstanding record, including a decade at the helm of the American Advertising Federation, in guiding nonprofit trade associations. He understands the creative process and the media industry in a profound way, and his background as a lawyer, and his experience on Capitol Hill mean that I am leaving the organization in great hands. I look forward to seeing what he will accomplish, working to continue the process of transformation that began during my tenure.
Inevitably, leaving something you love is a bit bittersweet, but I know it is the right time to make this transition and handoff, and that task is made easier by my confidence in my successor, and the relationship he will be creating with our national board, chapter leaders, and members. The organization is in great hands and that allows me to make my exit more easily.
In sum, I want to thank all of you for giving me this opportunity to serve you, and I wish all of you continued success. I hope you are able to realize your dreams, individually and collectively, and that ASMP will continue to evolve, grow, and change as a positive force moving our profession and society forward.
As Marianne Lee, our current national board chair, has said many times recently, ASMP believes in the value of photographers’ work as a vehicle to change how people see and experience the world. We believe that this work is important and that creators need to be valued for their contribution to the world and fully supported.
May it be ever thus for ASMP. Good luck and Godspeed.
Thomas R. Kennedy
Featured Image: Felix Adamo