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A Prayer for Haiti . . . When They'll be Truly Alone

Like most everyone, I’ve been glued to the TV watching the hideous drama of human destruction play out in Haiti. It is compellingly heartbreaking in spite of exhilarating moments such as the Pulitzer-worthy image captured by New York photographer Matthew McDermott at the instant a beaming 7-year-old boy named Kikki was pulled from the rubble by a New York City search and rescue team after being buried alive for eight days. Moments later the team freed Kikki’s 10-year-old sister Sabrina. You can see more of McDermott’s extraordinary images by clicking here.

Unfortunately, triumphant moments like this will be few. The reality of Haiti’s future was realistically addressed by newscaster Shephard Smith, who knows well the despair that sets in when disaster strikes as it did during 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, which Smith covered so well.

Smith was reporting on a woman who had all five of her children in the quake, and he was reflecting on seeing her being held down by her husband in an effort to comfort her. “The desperation is really hard to imagine. I have a pretty thick skin I have seen a lot of stuff. I can ignore a lot of stuff . . . that kind of loss is horrific in any culture, but in a culture where you’re alone . . . it just makes it all the more difficult . . .” Here’s what Smith had to say as Harrigan choked up of what he was seeing:

With folks on top of a pile that includes human remains below and very, very difficult days ahead, I think alone might have been the word. It's hard from a couple thousand miles away to look at a woman who's lost four children in the earthquake and the fifth child in the aftermath who has nothing and no prospects for anything. It's hard enough to watch it from here, imagine watching it from there and smelling it.

If you've ever been to a horrible disaster, if you've been unfortunate enough to do so, it's often that sense that people elsewhere cannot have that brings you back to that place. For instance, New York, 9/11- it had a smell; it was metallic, it was fuel, it had its own thing and you'll never forget it. New Orleans had its own thing, similarly. Haiti is going to be, for everybody who covered it and everybody who lived through it, the smell of death and it will not go away for weeks or months or years because you see the process of excavating- it's very slow.

And, quite frankly, I'm told the looters follow in behind. And the uncovering of the dead becomes a show with a lack of anything else to do and a lack of water and food. This is a story where the pictures are going to look the same over the days ahead and we are all going to get bored with it because we always do, and then they'll all be truly alone, and then they'll really need us.

Sadly, the pictures today do look the same, in spite of hard work and good intentions. Let us pray the world does not get bored with those pictures.

A Cause for Celebration

The January 2010 PPA Charities Celebration at PPA’s ImagingUSA in Nashville was an incredible success. An unprecedented crowd of over 500 members packed the even, which kicked off the convention and celebrated PPA Charities’ accomplishments for 2009.

The evening’s high point was the presentation of a check for $100,000, which represents funds raised by photographers for PPACH’s charitable partner, Operation Smile, in 2009. In the photo below, members of the PPA Charities Board and other well-wishers surround PPACH president Mary Fisk-Taylor (center right) as she presents the check to Beth Marshall, director of Operation Smile’s Southeast Region and senior executive advisor for Latin America. Beth is the sister of Kathy Magee, cofounder of Operation Smile.

The $100,000 donation represents a major milestone for PPA Charities, as it nearly doubled the $50,635 contribution presented at IUSA in 2009. What’s more, over 200 attendees registered for the auction that brought in nearly $20,000. “The Ronald” benefit raised an additional $4,000 during the evening, and activities at the IUSA trade show booth (Operation Smile Studio signups and merchandise sales) brought in nearly $5000 . . . altogether a great start to our 2010 fundraising!

Because of the size of the crowd in Nashville, PPA has reserved a much larger room for the 2011 Celebration event at at IUSA in San Antonio. We’re going to need it, as Texas School has contacted us to help sponsor the Celebration as the unofficial welcome party to IUSA 2011. Wow!

To relive the sights and fun of the 2010 PPACH Celebration
click here. See and read more about the Celebration event by visiting PPA Charities’ website at ppacharities.com.

Mark your calendar NOW for January 15, 2011. SEE YOU IN SAN ANTONIO!

A Hot Time in Cold and Snowy Nashville

If you were on hand at Imaging USA 2010, you know what an incredible event it was, breaking all previous convention records with well over 10,000 attendees! Nashville’s Opryland Hotel was still decked out for the Christmas holidays, which added to the festive atmosphere that was further enhanced by several inches of snow that caused city-wide school closings. Fortunately, the snow didn’t affect the goings-on at IUSA.

I arrived early to teacha “Basics” class and to participate in the All-Star Charitable Marketing class that took place on Saturday. The class was sponsored by PPA Charities, which was honored to have as one of the speakers my friend Margaret Moore, who together with her husband, Barry, operates Photogenic Photographers in the upmarket community of Dalkey, Dublin. Margaret generously donated her time to explain how the Irish Professional Photographers Association (IPPA) have turned their annual Happy Faces Day into a major fundraiser that drives business to participating studios and elevates the status of IPPA members in the eyes of the public. Here’s a photo of Margaret and me taken during Saturday evening’s PPA Charities Celebration event. Read more about this exciting evening in my next post.

The print show was packed as usual, and I only made it halfway through the exhibition. Next year I’m going to make this my first priority, as the inspiration these prints provide can fuel your creativity for a year and beyond!

It was great to observe the brisk business being conducted on the floor of the huge trade show, which remain packed throughout the convention. I would say that the mood of the entire convention was very upbeat. Yes, there was talk about the effects of Recession, but there was a lot of determination to concentrate on moving business forward in the coming year. I’ve never seen so much interest in fundamental business issues: In fact, my program on PPA’s most recent Financial Benchmark Survey, presented with PPA CFO Scott Kurkian, had standing room only in a seminar room that seated 1,000, and I’m told the overflow room was crowded as well. Wow!

Here’s at look at the trade show:

One of the convention highlights was the evening Super Program presented by three White House photographers who have chronicled the administrations of three American presidents. The panel included J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press photographer of President Barrack Obama’s administration; Paul Morse, official photographer of President George W. Bush’s administration; and Robert McNeely, official photographer of President Bill Clinton’s administration. Attendees were treated to intriguing behind-the-scenes stories and photographs, most of which have never been published, and the panelists state on for quite a while to answer questions from the appreciative audience.

Another of my Irish friends, Mary McCullough, also attended IUSA; Mary serves with me on the PPA International Committee. She and I managed to escape with some of my SuccessWare and Studio Management Service friends to the nearby Aquarium Restaurant for dinner one evening. Mary is shown below, at left, with Brooke Goldman and Bridget Jackson of Studio Management Services, and Judy Grann and Diane Jessup of SuccessWare.

Another convention event that I really looked forward to was the Judges’ Refresher Course, which this year concentrated on the changes being made to implement digital entries as an option for upcoming International Competitions.

Outgoing Print Exhibition Committee (PEC) Chairman Helen Yancy, and incoming PEC Chairman, Dennis Craft, explained the process and timetable to us . . .

. . . and everyone had an opportunity to examine the software being used to evaluate and score prints. I was very impressed by the incredibly hard work that PEC, the Print Competition Action Team, and President Ron Nichols have done to assure a smooth transition to this exciting new phase of competition.

The convention crowd included representatives from at least 20 other countries, and I was especially pleased to see that International Committee member Kan Suzuki was accompanied by his family, so they were able see him honored in the “Photographer of the Year” category as well as receive his Master of Photography degree at the Awards & Degrees Ceremony. Congratulations Kan!

The various countries represented were recognized at the “Parade of Nations” during the Awards Ceremony.

An intriguing Awards Ceremony highlight was a display of “wearable images” modeled on stage as attendees began to arrive for the ceremony.

Incoming PPA president Louis Tonsmeire got a good laugh when he made use of a stepladder so that he could, for once, tower over outgoing President Ron Nichols, when he presented Ron with the association’s Honorary Master of Photography degree.

It was a great pleasure to be on hand to see Bill McIntosh receive PPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and to view a retrospective of his extraordinary image-making career. I have long admired Bill’s work and consider him to be one of the world’s most accomplished portrait photographers. You can view his work, and that of his daughter, Leslie, on their studio website.

After the Awards Ceremony concluded, I caught up with three of my favorite photographic “divas” . . . from left, Lisbeth Guerrina, Deanne Burch, and Joyce Wilson. How elegant they are!

At the All-Convention party that followed the Awards Ceremony, Mary McCullough and I posed with one of the best-dressed men at the party . . . PPA board member and outstanding Canadian photographer Don McGregor.

When Mary and I left the party, it was still going strong. Hope you will join us in 2011 in San Antonio on January 15-18. When PPA goes to Texas . . . the party’s never over!


Mikey and the TSA

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Just when you think you’ve heard it all . . . The New York Times online introduces you to 8-year-old Mikey Hicks, a New Jersey Cub Scout who seldom passes through security without the kind of thorough pat down that surely would have nabbed the notorious Christmas Day Underpants Bomber. Mikey’s crime? He has a namesake on the TSA Watch List, and his hassles have been going on since he was a two-year old—more proof of the Death of Common Sense, and yet another reason why I don’t want to turn over the administration of the nation’s health care system to a bureaucracy that can’t tell a two-year-old from a terrorist. You can read about his family’s futile efforts to gain government intercession by clicking here.

Mikey’s mother, Najlah Feanny Hicks, is a talented photojournalist, who once received clearance to travel on Air Force II with then-Vice President Al Gore. No such luck for Mikey, however. He has, however, gained thousands of fans on Facebook. You can become one of them by clicking here.

Airline Adventures

Now that the new year is upon us, I’m traveling again. If airline travel were not already enough of a pain, the near miss by the now infamous “Underpants Bomber” who, except for the quick action and bravery of passengers aboard the Northwest plane that could have been blown to smithereens over Detroit on Christmas Day, will assure another layer of misery for travelers. I found this to be true when I set out for ImagingUSA in Nashville from Harrisburg and was subjected to a thorough pat-down by TSA personnel.

Long before this Christmas Day 2009 debacle, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had replaced the U.S. Postal Service as the number one target of political cartoonists. Here are two of the latest cartoon commentaries on TSA operations:

My personal favorite is this post-Captain Underpants commentary, which effectively sums up the situation:

However . . . I recently saw a youtube video, which proved that not all airline travel is gloomy: Take a look at how TAP Portugal
wished their passengers a Merry Christmas at Lisbon Airport in a very unusual way.


See You at Imaging USA?

I was pleased to learn today that IUSA has the highest preregistration in PPA’s history! I knew the Nashville venue would be a hit, and I’m thinking that everyone is wanting to break away from the economic doldrums. That is a very good thing!

If you’re arriving on Saturday, don’t miss the PPA Charities Celebration at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, starting at 8:00 P.M. This fantastic event is FREE, and I know you’ll enjoy bidding for some FABULOUS auction items, from software to week-long schools, and my favorite item of all: A one-of-a-kind bracelet from Kindred Charms, the innovative company formed by my teaching buddy and good friend Carol Andrews Jensen and her husband, Greg Jensen.

Carol and Greg are donating a sterling silver charm bracelet, similar to the one shown above. What is so incredible about it is that it will feature four charms cast from the fingerprints of children who received the gift of life-changing surgery during a recent Operation Smile medical mission to Paraguay. PPA member Bert Behnke documented the mission and created the wax impressions from which the charms were cast. These fingerprints represent the healing gift given through the generosity of PPA Charities participants: These simple symbols artfully personify the touches of gratitude from the children and their families whose lives have been healed, and a tag charm bears the PPA Charities identity. Talk about a priceless gift! Learn more about Kindred Charms by clicking here.

As usual, Jim and I are donating a week at our Deep Creek House. You can read about it and all the other awesome auction items by
clicking here.

See you in Nashville!