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Photography: researching its history, processes, and photographers: Photography societies & associations

Photographic societies and associations

Photographic societies and associations have been founded over the years to accomplish a variety of purposes: to educate the public, to share information and promote technical developments in the field, to advocate for professional photographers, to act as qualifying or licensing bodies, to assist collectors and dealers of photographs, to act as repositories for photographs, and many more.  Below is a select list of societies and associations; some are historically significant, some are of current importance, and some are and have been both.

It is worth noting that many historical societies house important photographic collections; for example, the New York Historical Society photographic archives, established in 1906, has extensive collections that include portraits, Civil War views, steamboats, lighthouses, archeological excavations, buildings, social documentary photographs, and much more.  Many such photographic collections are being digitized and made available online.

Also worth noting is the fact that local "camera clubs" and photographic societies exist across the United State and Great Britain and in many other countries as well, and can be discovered online.  Many, such as the New York Camera Club, established in 1884, are historically important and have extensive archives which, if they have been digitized, can be found online.  Check out the "Websites" tab and explore the internet to find these local and/or specialized clubs and societies.


American Society of Media Photographers

The American Society of Media Photographers is the premier trade association for the world's most respected photographers. ASMP is aleader in promoting photographers' rights, providing education in better business practices, producing business publications for photographers, and helping to connect purchasers with professional photographers. ASMP, founded in 1944, has nearly 7,000 members and 39 chapters.


Association of International Photography Art Dealers

Organized in 1979, with members in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe and Japan, AIPAD is dedicated to creating and maintaining high standards in the business of exhibiting, buying and selling photographs as art. Acting as the collective voice of the art photography dealers that make up its membership, AIPAD maintains ethical standards, promotes communication within the photographic community, encourages public appreciation of photography as art, concerns itself with the rights of photographers and collectors, and works to enhance the confidence of the public in responsible photography. AIPAD members provide a wide range of services to the public, such as exhibitions, appraisals, expert opinions and consultations.


Daguerreian Society  

Website for The Daguerrian Society, which is "dedicated to the history, science, and art of the daguerreotype."  A trove of detailed information (check out the Daguerreotype FAQ), as well as a link to the NEA Image Database of 1,000+ daguerreotypes.



Although not strictly speaking a photographic society, Magnum does many of the things photography societies do, specifically for photojournalism: a photographic co-operative owned by its photographer-members, it is an important repository for the work of many of the century's most important photojournalists. The Magnum library, a living archive that is updated daily, houses all the work produced by Magnum photographers and some special collections by non-members. There are approximately one million photographs in both print and transparency in the physical library, with over 500,000 images available online.


National Press Photographers Association

"The NPPA is the leading voice advocating for the work of visual journalists today. Founded in the days of sheet film box cameras and newsreels, our organization fights for the working news photographer, videographer and multimedia journalist in the Internet age. Our Code of Ethics stands for the highest integrity in visual storytelling. Our advocacy efforts put NPPA in the center of today’s thorniest issues of journalists’ rights to do their work — and to earn a living from their craft. Our ongoing education initiatives seek to equip our members and prepare the emerging generation of visual journalists in the face of an ever-changing media landscape."


Professional Photographers of America

Officially formed in 1880,  PPA developed programs to deal with the financial and managerial issues photographers were facing and helped them thrive, even during difficult economic times. It also established a tradition of continuing education by providing annual forums for noted photographers.  Today, PPA is an international forum for photographic activity, education, information, and professional standards. 


Royal Photographic Society

The Royal Photographic Society is the world's oldest national photographic society and the oldest photographic society in continual existence since its foundation. It was founded in London in 1853 as The Photographic Society of London with the objective of promoting the Art and Science of photography. In 1874 it was renamed the Photographic Society of Great Britain, and in 1894 it became The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.  The Society offers various levels of distinctions in all aspects of photography and an Imaging Scientist qualification. It runs an extensive program of over 300 events throughout the United Kingdom and abroad, through local groups and special interest groups. The Society acts as a national voice for photographers and for photography more generally and it represents these interests on a range of governmental and national bodies dealing with areas as diverse as copyright and photographers' rights.


Société Héliographique

The first photographic society in the world, the Société Héliographique was founded in 1851 by a group of artists, literati, and scientists to endorse photography through exhibitions, share technical information, published reviews, and more. It existed for less than a year; however, it served as a model for later associations, just as its journal La Lumiere inspired similar journals. Many of its founding members founded the Societe Francaise de Photographie (see below).


Société Française de Photographie

Founded in 1854, the SFP committed itself to the promotion of photography through regular exhibitions, technical competitions, training courses, and lectures, functioning as both an academy and a repository of photography. From the beginning of the 20th century, the SFP set itself the task of safeguarding historic works. Today it acts as a research centre on the history and development of photography. Since 1997, it has published the twice-yearly journal Études photographiques with articles on prominent photographers and on the history of photography. The association has a valuable historic collection consisting of some 10,000 images and 50,000 negatives (including 5,000 autochromes. There is also a specialist library with 8,000 books and over 650 journals.


Society for Photographic Education

Founded in 1962, just as art departments were beginning to include photography in their curricula, the SPE helped to formulate the goals of photographic education and has become "a nonprofit membership organization that provides and fosters an understanding of photography as a means of diverse creative expression, cultural insight, and experimental practice. Through its interdisciplinary programs, services, and publications, the society seeks to promote a broader understanding of the medium in all its forms through teaching and learning, scholarship, and criticism."  Since its establishment, many noted photographers, curators, and critics have been involved with SPE.


 Women in Photography International

WIPI is the leading resource for women photographers worldwide. The web site provides member galleries, reference library, the F2-eZine which contains articles from around the world, marketing news, photography links, book reviews, and listings for competitions.