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ASMP's New National Board Members

New Directors in 2010

As a pictorial introduction to the ASMP’s three new national board members, the ASMP Bulletin’s Spring 2010 issue featured examples of their work at the top of the table of contents page. Featured here, we include more about their backgrounds and outlook plus a portfolio of signature images.


Q&A with Steve Whittaker

Resides: Foster City, CA
Chapter: Northern California
Photographic Specialty: Architectural, Interiors and Aerial Photography
ASMP Member Since 1983
Web site:


All images in this article are © Steve Whittaker


What is your favorite image from your own work to date and why does it appeal to you?

311 South Wacker in Chicago. It offered many challenges. This is a 60-story office tower and we needed an elevated location that was adjacent to it.


We gained access to a twenty-story office tower across the street and used the Miller Brewing Company’s patio area with a heavy table as a camera platform near the edge to give me a little more camera height.


We exposed at dusk, blending the existing exterior lighting and allowing the colors from the fading sky to reflect off of the surface of the building. It took some negotiating to get on that elevated space, but the final results were worth it.



What is your favorite image of all time created by another photographer and what do you admire about it?

Winston Link captured some of the most amazing black and white images of the railroad industry using flash bulbs against an evening or night sky. His projects were enormous and his work was stunning.



What is your favorite photographic subject and conditions for image capture?

Photographing buildings at dusk while illuminating the exterior surfaces and the interior space of a building. Clear weather is ideal and in some cases, we’ll go for multiple camera positions. You only have a small window of time and light, so you need to be on target with your lighting. My goal is to create a sense of drama and transparency. It’s a magical moment watching that lighting come together.



Please describe your biggest photographic achievement to date.

Illuminating the atrium at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco. We used over 80,000 watts of lighting, ours combined with the existing lights. The project coordination was intense as was the actual set up.


The existing lighting for the interior space was in need of dramatic lighting. We used over 10K of up-lighting on the lower portion of the elevator shafts; we used lighting from above to bathe and accent the elevated segments and the interior landscaping. For the 17 exposed elevator lobbies, we used soft Lowell Tota lights with umbrellas and did the same behind the vertical elevator tower to create a halo of light.


Our target was predawn with the skylight showing the soft blue of that time of the morning. Just as the light was changing, someone released the elevators and we were able to get each of the elevator cars lined up just in time to capture the sky.



What was your most challenging shoot and what made it difficult?

135 Main Street, San Francisco. We illuminated a 24-story tower in San Francisco at dusk, using adjacent properties for our lighting and camera platforms.


Getting the permissions to be on multiple building sites with our lights and cameras was an extreme challenge that took two months to overcome. The previous property manager had multiple negative experiences with previous photographers and we had to deal with that but, just as important, we had to get over their reluctance to allow us to be on their buildings. Lighting the 24-story building was easy; it was just getting to that point.



Can you tell us about a particularly troublesome situation involving photography that you’ve encountered in the past with and how you overcame it?

We had to illuminate the exterior of an 18-story brick and glass apartment building that covered a block in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon.


In preparation, I had made arrangements to gain access to the rooftops of two adjacent buildings for our lights and cameras, several months prior to the assignment. I felt confident when I left San Francisco for the assignment that we were ready; all seemed to be in order.


The morning of the assignment, I received a phone call from the property manager for both Home Owner Associations indicating that we no longer had that roof access unless we paid $500 per building — at the last minute.


I had a full crew of assistants arriving, the generators were delivered and everything was ready to go except for that roadblock. In addition, the weather was changing and it looked like thunderstorms were approaching.


I contacted the city of Portland’s Film Commissioner and his first question was what kind of generators and how many? I asked him why and he indicated that the Fire Marshal and Noise Abatement Officer would be in touch.


We had our insurance company fax a certificate of insurance to the Film Commissioner’s office and we received a phone call indicating that he would try to solve the issue for us.


As we wrapped up the interiors, I received a second phone call, both the Fire Marshall and the Noise Abatement Office went fishing and I was off the hook.


We went with plan B, photographing and lighting from the street and, as we were setting up, the storm clouds parted and we ended up with images that our client was happy with.



What are the biggest challenges photographers are facing today, and how do you think the ASMP can help?

Economic pressures, unreasonable terms and conditions demands from potential clients: The ASMP can empower photographers to stand their ground through the continuation and expansion of educational opportunities, learning from each other via list serves and creating mentoring programs on a chapter basis.


The Web site has been a tremendous resource. We need to continue to explore ways to expand and improve the tutorials as educational resources.


Copyright registration and infringement issues: Getting complacent photographers to understand the value of registration. Empowering members to deal with infringing firms. Outreach to trade organizations to explore ways of influencing them to get their membership to understand the damage they cause, the ethics they violate and the threat they can face when caught infringing.


Governmental on-site restrictions, harassment and permit issues: We constantly have to deal with security and fee-based site access issues as photographers. Since 9/11, the threat to commercial photographers has become an everyday concern. Access to national and state parks require permit fees, once again.


It’s our responsibility to seek permission and clearance but, at the same time, it would be a major plus if ASMP members could establish some type of identity or clearance code or card with Homeland Security, TSA, federal, state and local police agencies to make our jobs easier.



What is the ASMP’s role as a trade organization in helping members manage the decline in the photography industry?

Education is the first place to start and should be widely available to both members and non-members as a form of outreach. The ASMP has been actively following this path and we need to expand this direction. Educational outreach is crucial.


From a legal standpoint, mass electronic distribution, controlling our copyright, and the ownership of the images we author is something that we need to continue as a primary focus as well.


Dealing with trade organizations that continue to demand unreasonable access with negative terms and conditions from the images that we author or create will continue to be an on going struggle. Developing a strategic plan to sustain our fight in this arena is important.


Branding and advertising, as well as letting people in the advertising and graphics communications industry know who we are. Continued efforts in marketing, advertising in Advertising Age, Communicating Arts, and other publications related to that marketing segment are important.



How valuable do you think Find A Photographer (FAP) is for members? Should ASMP continue to promote FAP on a regular basis?

The ASMP’s FAP has value and great potential. The changes enacted in 2009 have helped, but I see continued development that needs exploring. I see the ASMP’s FAP as a plus for membership and an attraction for new members.



How should the ASMP stay current with the changes in how we communicate?

Keeping up with technology is always a challenge. The current board is doing an outstanding job in that regard. We need to constantly seek resources, upgrade whenever possible, explore new options and consider other forms of development.



Directors serve for 3 years, or 6 years if reelected. How do you see ASMP 3 years from now? 6 years from now?

Three years from now:

  1. The ASMP’s educational opportunities continue to reach out to students as well as emerging and practicing photographers who may never have considered joining. The results will pay off with increased membership and will empower photographers to stand their ground against aggressive and negative demands of the market.
  2. The ASMP is reaching out industry-wide to trade organizations in building a better dialogue regarding contracts, copyright issues and unreasonable demands and terms and conditions.
  3. Creating opportunities to offer seminars to these organizations would be a step in the right direction to help span that bridge.
  4. Looking for ways to continue to simplify the copyright registration process.
  5. Continue the efforts of building student chapters at various art schools, academies and art departments with universities and colleges.

Six years from now:

  1. Education will play a stronger role in helping photographers compete and further their control over their own intellectual property.
  2. The ASMP is continuing to work and build a dialogue, in seeking cooperation between our members and various trade organizations regarding ethics, copyright issues, terms and conditions issues and design award release issues.
  3. Our Legal Action Fund will be funded through our members’ appreciation for what they have received.



What is your stance on copyright issues? In particular, is there a place for copyright in the “new” economy?

In a way, it’s the same battle the ASMP has been fighting since 1944. Our culture has definitely changed and the opportunities for infringement are far greater. The various levels of media and electronic distribution amplify the level of distribution. The 1976 Copyright Act, the 1995 Collection of Works Act, and the current registration drive that the ASMP has been promoting are all actions of a very healthy organization. Building a bridge with the Library of Congress and streamlining the copyright registration process is a work in progress — but we are making progress! The ASMP is working with the Copyright Alliance. The ASMP copyright seminars that are presented to our chapters, and tutorials on the ASMP Web site, offer a valuable asset and are worth the investment. The Orphan Copyright Act is an ongoing issue, and Victor Perlman has been battling that pending legislation for almost five years with a valiant effort.


Complacency is not an option. Too many photographers do not understand the value of registration and we need to convince members and non-members alike that registration is critical. Offering photographers a better understanding of the value and process of registration and the understanding in how to defend their intellectual property are our strengths and we need to use them. We all have come too far to allow “the new economy” to be an excuse.



How do you propose to better serve those loyal members who live too far away to make regular weeknight meetings in the big cities?

Keeping attendance up at meetings is important, especially for sponsors and the chapter volunteers who produce these events. The social aspect of fellowship and members who attend on a regular or even an infrequent basis are an important aspect of a chapter’s survival. I also understand that in many cases, it’s just not possible or affordable to make those long trips to where the meetings are held. Streaming video and You-tube are possible solutions. I have had multiple requests that my seminar be offered on You-tube for that very reason.



Do you feel that chapters should receive increased support? If so, how do you propose structuring this?

YES! If a chapter is having leadership problems or trouble recruiting new board members, offer a chapter leadership seminar at the chapter level. We did this with the help of Lon Atkinson at my studio. That one-day seminar helped empower our future board members and offered them the direction and confidence they needed to move ASMP Northern California forward to where we are today.


Continue the Bradshaw Leadership conference as frequently as possible. These seminars are tremendous and they help guide the ASMP’s future on both a local and national basis.


From a financial standpoint, any funding is helpful, but chapters need to stand on their own. Times are tight and there are many challenges. The voucher system does work if chapters are thriving and have large memberships. Finding ways to help grow chapters through programs that have the potential to reach out to non-members is important.


Outreach and education is a way of getting through to people who have not had the confidence to change to a better business model. If we can attract them through educational outreach, we have an opportunity to expand our influence and membership.


Assistant training programs: Create new memberships by attracting emerging photographers through an assistant training program. We did it and the results worked as long as we had volunteers to run the program. We would team up with local photographic retailers, work with manufacturers and let assistants learn how to use the equipment. They have the opportunity to create a community within an ASMP community. In the long run you continue to build the overall organization with new members, new volunteers fresh ideas and future leaders.


Assistant board member positions: We started this program on my second term as an interim co-president in 2006. The goal was to give members (usually younger and emerging photographers) a chance to work side by side with board members, sharing the workload and experiencing what being on the board can be like. Giving them that opportunity can and will help sustain an active and vital board.