Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why I am considering leaving ISAP

Now is the time for change

   I had a great time at the El Centro Photocall with the members of the International Society for Aviation Photography (ISAP). It was a bittersweet event for me, as I had intentionally distanced myself from ISAP and its events after my short stint on the staff in 2012-2013.  I only attended parts of the Tampa Symposium, with my convenient excuse of “it conflicts with my flying at SUN-n-FUN.”  As I remembered, there are some great people in ISAP, and there are always new, eager members who want to soak up as much as they can about aviation photography.  But sadly, it was also a reminder of all that is wrong with the organization.


Issue and Inaction

  With ISAP, the annual Symposium was something to look forward to as an opportunity to renew friendships and spend time concentrating on aviation photography, (instead of the constant grind of the business end of photography!)  However, the President of the Board, Larry Grace, informed me at El Centro, that the “old Symposium model is dead.”  This is unfortunate.  To move away from this model is a critical misunderstanding of the market and the core membership of ISAP.  It seems like the difficulty of providing aviation access to a hundred or more photographers has been what “killed” the model in Larry’s mind.  In my opinion, this is a red herring as many large gatherings have this problem, but continue to thrive and work through it.  But it does require creativity, time and effort on the part of the organizers, which leads me to my next point:

Catching Larry with his "backup" camera!
  For the last several years it seems that there are many missed opportunities for ISAP.  My perception is that ISAP is currently a one-man-band who just cannot keep up with the workload, nor has the spare capacity to address the fine details of everything that he wants ISAP to participate in.  Running an international organization and arranging the logistics of events are often mutually exclusive, and it shows in late-notice communication of upcoming events, and missing details in the planning and execution of those events.  This nowhere more obvious than in our ISAP website that often feels like a dead-end of the internet, with a forum that is quieter than a cemetery.

  Where this all points to is a Board of Directors who are not shouldering the workload, and a staff that is non-existent.

ISAP Board of Directors and Staff

While this may seem like two issues here, I believe they result from the same core problem.

  If any one of the rank and file members was asked when they last interacted with a member from the Board of Directors (other than Larry), one would be lucky to find if they had ever done so.   For years, members have talked about how the board seems to be absent from Facebook or any of the online interaction of the organization.  

  Along with this, why is the President of the Board the person running the social media presence for the organization and the chief organizer of events?  Do the other members of the Board have any responsibilities?  I know from my past service as a staff member that Bonnie does a tremendous job as the Treasurer, but a lack of communication from the board keeps the membership in the dark about the good work she does to keep the organization afloat financially.

  An additional question has to be asked as to why ISAP can’t seem to keep members on the staff for more than 6 months or so. I will leave this issue for others to discuss and share their experiences as staff members with ISAP.  But at the end of the day I will connect the dots a bit and say that I think the working environment amongst the Board of Directors and the tone set by the President of the Board directly drives both issues described above.

What is still good with ISAP

  There is a lot that is still good about the organization, and that is why the word “considering” is in the title of this post!
ISAP's strength is its members
  First and foremost are the members – they are great people and photographers with a variety of skill levels.  I enjoy shooting alongside them and learn something every time we gather.

  Second, the ISnAP magazine –ISnAP is still a great resource as both a starting point for photographers, and as a source of inspiration and learning for members of all levels.  Kevin Hong does an incredible job editing ISnAP!

  But I am not sure if the “goods” outweigh the “bads” enough to keep me paying my dues to ISAP after this year.

If you agree that there are things that need to be remedied with ISAP as an organization, you can:
  1. Make our voices known by sending emails to the following people on the Board:
    1. Jim Wilson
    2. Bonnie Kratz
    3. George Kounis
    4. Mike Collins
  2. But here are some things to remember:
    1. Realize these emails may not be received favorably, as was the case with Emmanuel Canaan’s complaint to the Board last year regarding the conduct of the President.
    2. You will have to correspond with them directly.  If you send your comments to the ISAP Board account on Facebook, or to the ISAP email addresses, Larry will control the discussion.  He has done it before.
  3. Discuss it on Social Media – Be professional but be direct with your opinions.  Be prepared to be retaliated against as has happened in the past.  Posts are deleted and people are removed from private groups as a result of what they say.
  4. Since the bylaws do not allow for a membership vote of confidence in the Board of Directors, if you must vote, vote with your feet.  I can’t tell any of you that you must stay to patiently await where the organization will go this year.  Even I am torn about my decision to stay or go.
  5. If you are having fun and ISAP is meeting your needs, then IGNORE THIS POST, but don’t discount the opinions, perceptions and feelings of fellow ISAP members who are not satisfied with where ISAP is going.
  I believe that ISAP can be an incredible organization again, I just have no confidence that the current leadership can deliver on any of their ideas or proposals.  I don’t say this out of personal bitterness, but rather from experience watching the dysfunction of the Board of Directors first hand while on the staff.  Hearing the good ideas firsthand from Larry while shooting at El Centro gave me a moment of hope, until he agreed with my comment of “I know how this ends, Larry.  You and I carrying the entire load, together, again.”   

  I cannot and will not be a part of such an endeavor again.  ISAP members are always welcome at 3G Aviation Media events, and the ISAP discount will still be offered.  But as for me, I will have to think long and hard about my personal participation with the organization.  I do have several ideas of how ISAP can begin this turnaround, but those are for another post.

Do you agree or think that ISAP should change?  Leave me a comment below!