Juliette Wolf-Robin is the National Executive Director of American Photographic Artists (APA). From her time at Creative Blackbook, Alternative Pick, Found Folios, Creativity Magazine and WPP’s Brand Union, Juliette’s career has focused on supporting creators–helping them market their work and connecting them with those that can hire them. Though she loves beauty and elegant design (her Instagram feed @printbrat is an example of her keen eye), her passion is never more evident than in her work to protect and support creators of all stripes. Her committed, steady hand, as the leader of APA is the most recent manifestation of her dedication to the photography community. SFA was fortunate to speak with her about the imperative advocacy work of APA and just why every creative should join an advocacy association.
What is the primary mission and overarching goals of APA?
Our overarching mission is to help photographers succeed while ensuring the vitality and relevancy of our industry. The vast majority of our members are independent contractors who benefit from an on-going support system keeping them up to date on best professional practices, and helping protect their livelihood. Now more than ever, trade associations fill a vital role in creating community and providing a collective strong voice. I feel strongly about this—if you are in this industry then you need to be a member of either APA or another photo trade association. We exist as a valuable asset to success.
Photography trade associations are not-for-profit entities that provide a forum for the photo and broader creative community. We don’t sell a product; we provide a portal—whether it is to connect with crew, with hiring agents or with peers who inspire one another. We are here to provide those lasting connections and help people get the important information they need to succeed in the industry.
APA’s primary efforts behind-the-scenes are focused on advocacy and working with lawmakers to ensure our members’ voices are heard. We do what no individual has the time or wherewithal to do. Associations spend millions to fight for the rights of content creators whose legacy depends on protecting their copyright! To that end, I am constantly on the phone with other associations collaborating to ensure our laws, protections, and rights for the creative community are equitable and just.
Another key element of APA’s mission is to foster community. We feel it is critically valuable for photographers to get to know and inspire one another. With that in mind, throughout the year each chapter hosts unique opportunities for people to share their stories, learn best practices in marketing and be inspired by our inventive programming. APA also fosters new business opportunities for our members by hosting portfolio reviews and events tailored to draw together creators and buyers in collaborative settings.
APA is about creating community, educating, inspiring and advocating to protect the livelihoods of our members and the industry at large. The success of our members is our guiding mission.
How do you communicate what APA does to members or potential members, especially concerning advocacy work?
Communicating what APA does can be challenging because we have many compelling front-facing initiatives, while at the same time, we need to message our equally important, yet not as exciting, advocacy work with Congress on copyright reform. In addition, as an association, we balance our efforts between offering the important connections to hiring networks and peers, and being true to our core of protecting photographers and advocating on their behalf. We want to know if something of consequence is happening in the industry that is of a concern to the community so that, as a group, we can come together to resolve the challenges facing us. As an association, we are a platform of support for photographers so we can guide them through options. We aren’t lawyers so we might refer our members to an attorney or someone who can best advise them. But, whatever the path, our goal is to guide photographers.
What have been the highlights of working as the APA National Executive Director?
Rebranding was really special work for me. Everyone worked really hard on our messaging and graphics to better reflect our identity, character and user experience on our awards book, website and all our marketing material. We really wanted to elevate the sense of our community that is made up of so many high-end photographers. And, the community has noticed the change, which is rewarding.
We also have such talented board members and photographer members. I love honoring them, showcasing their work and sharing the inspiration they bring to their peers and me. The APA board members are professional photographers who volunteer to serve for the betterment of the community. I am proud to be someone who can admire all the great work they are doing. Photography is a tough business and you can get worn down easily in the day-to-day.
What do you wish non-industry people knew about the photo industry?
I wish people understood the craft, talent, and amount of work that goes into producing a job. There is so much creative collaboration that happens before the moment the camera rolls. Our members have learned so much beforehand to make the photo happen. It really is much more complex than “just take the picture.” I think there is an eroding understanding of the expertise and craft of photographers and I want to reinstate that understanding.
Additionally, I want the public to better understand copyright. A photo you find on the Internet or in a magazine is not available for everyone to use. It belongs to somebody and cannot be shared without permission. I’d love to initiate a specific campaign that educates the public about photo usage. This applies to everybody, everywhere. Individuals who work so hard to produce a photo may find their work is being used without their permission, with the biggest concern being that someone else is profiting from it or the unauthorized usage is undermining the future value of the image. Whether it’s a company using the image to sell products without paying for it or a mother blogging about children and the neighborhood, Neither one is supposed to use the image without permission; even if the intent wasn’t to steal it.
If you see an image you like, contact the creator and see if you can use it. Don’t hesitate to reach out because there are real consequences for everyone when images are used without permission.
What’s the future of the photography industry and community?
My hope is that equitable standards will be established and enforced so that photographers are being presented with fair contracts and that people who are creating original art are not being taken advantage of.
Lastly, there are so many associations and organizations that are coming together. We are speaking on a weekly basis and working together to collectively help content creators. The connections are extraordinary. What a special time for all of us to come together to see what we can do for the greater good.