by Joe Campanellie, Master Photographer, Craftsman, CPP, Fellow-ASP
It’s not often that you achieve something like the ASP Fellowship. I have been actively working on this for the past ten months but have possibly been preparing for ever since I picked up my first camera. And now with the help of God and some very good friends and my wife I have achieved this honor.
I could not have done this without the help of such people like Pat Hansen, Rich and Esther Beitzel, Don and Nancy Emmerich, Bob Golding, Doran Wilson, Jim Chagares, and Randy McNeilly who was the first person to encourage me to do this, Joyce Wilson who gave me the basis for my thesis, and of course, my wife and family who have always been there as a constant source of support through this project and who have always believed I could do this.
Several years ago after one of our annual print competitions a couple of the judges approached me and encouraged me to apply for my Fellowship with the American Society of Photographers (ASP). For those of you who are not familiar with ASP you are invited to join this organization after you have received either your Craftsman or Master's Degree from the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
Well...I kind of laughed it off. This is the highest degree and honor that ASP can bestow on one of it's members. The list of recipients reads like a who's who in my world of photography. Such names as Joyce Wilson, Monte Zucker, Don Blair, Joseph Simone, Tim Kelly, and Phillip Charis. All giants of the industry. To this date there have been only some 104 recipients of the Fellowship worldwide. So...for me to even consider that I was worthy of such an honor was well...just a little intimidating at first.
But...my wife and some very well meaning friends kept at me for the next several years. They watched as my passion was reborn in the form of my wildlife photography and felt I was ready for this life challenge.
Fellowship is comprised of two parts. A thesis and a portfolio of your work that is judged by a panel of ASP Fellows and one non-Fellow. First is a thesis of at least 3,000 words on your philosophy of photography and how you have arrived at this point in your life and why you deserve such an honor. The second part is the portfolio judging. The portfolio is comprised of 25 images up to 20x20 in size and is to have more of a fine art presentation and feel to it. The portfolio has to be more than just pretty pictures. The individual images are not only judged on technical execution but how they flow as a body of work. The portfolio can either represent your life’s work or in my case I chose a special project in the form of my Avian images from Florida and my recent trips to Alaska.
Believe me when I say this... this was a very...very painful process. A process that brought with it a whole lot of self doubt and a whole lot of frustration. As a friend of mine told me, this would be a journey of incredible self discovery. Even if I was not accepted that I would be a much better person for having gone through this process.
When my Dad passed away in July of 2009, I really didn't think I would be able to finish everything in time. The deadlines were only weeks away and I was in the middle of all of the arrangements for my dad's funeral. Fellowship was the last thing on my mind. After his funeral and being called upon to do his Eulogy, I came to realize just what an influence he had on my own photographic career. He was a photographer, too, and I worked for him for many years. I can remember it like it was yesterday sitting under those hot lights for hours on end while he did our portraits. My kids don't know how good they had it with flash and softboxes. I can honestly say he taught me just about everything I know about traditional darkroom processes. He gave me my first camera...helped me set up my first darkroom...and showed me how to process my first roll of film. He was an incredible influence on my career.
So July wasn't a good month and it really took the wind out of my sails. At that time I had not even started printing the 25 prints for the portfolio and was ready to put the project aside for next year. Then some very good friends and my wife interceded and encouraged me to complete it. Bob Golding told me that my dad would have wanted me to finish and to do a good job to honor his memory. Ouch...no pressure there…!
Those words really hit home so I dug my heels in to complete all the requirements. It was too late to send the prints to our lab and I still had a couple of images to finalize for the portfolio. Then came some divine intervention or fate…whatever you want to call it. A friend of mine called me and had an Epson 7800 printer they wanted to "give" me in exchange for some work by our daughter on their Facebook page. A printer that would handle 24" material and would be perfect for this project. Sometimes things happen for a reason. No sense trying to figure out what the reason is. Just go with it. In this case I just feel this was meant to be because so many things had happened to guide me in the direction I was meant to take.
In August I got the call from Bob Golding who chairs the ASP Fellowship judging that I had been accepted as a new ASP Fellow. Of course, he played with me for some time before giving me the good news. Told my wife that there was stuff missing from the case I had submitted. I talked to him and he went into some long thing about needing a new case. The case I sent was pretty big and it would be impossible to send to National. He strung me along for some time. Dense ole me just didn't get what he was trying to tell me. He finally just came out and told me and I was sincerely blown away. I didn't even know when the judging was so I wasn't even expecting the call!
Being accepted on your very first try is indeed an honor and somewhat rare. And...it was a unanimous vote based on the power and the impact of the thesis and the portfolio presentation. Some of the people involved in the judging process have called or emailed me and said it was a wonderful thesis. And that the portfolio was an amazing body of work in a class of it's own. I was really worried about doing a thesis and portfolio based strictly on avian photography. Nobody had ever done that before and had been accepted. Didn't know if the judges would appreciate the work. I guess I got my answer.
Needless to say I have been on cloud nine.
People are always asking me why I have competed for so many years. I entered my first print competition in 1992 and have been active ever since in Maryland, Pennsylvania, our Southeastern Regional Competition, and our annual International Competition.They always ask why keep at it for so long when I have won my share of awards. I guess this is the answer. All of that was in preparation for this. I believe that print competition is not all about the awards. Yes...the trophies and the bling are nice but print competition is much more than that. For me it has always been a constant source of inspiration to do better. That I am always looking for that next great image. But most importantly, on a very personal note, for me print competition has taken me on an incredible journey of self discovery that has allowed me to discover my true passion in life. I have never thought of myself as a great photographer. But...when you find your true passion in life…all things are possible. I think I’m the poster child for that message at this point in my career.
So...it has been an incredible couple of months for me. Image Maker of the Year in both Maryland and Pennsylvania, three awards at our regional convention, then I find out that out of some 4300 entries that I am one of only eight people to have all four of my prints included in PPA's prestigious Loan Collection, then the top print award from ASP with the Gold Medallion, an Excellence In Imaging Award from PPA, and now,,,Fellowship with ASP.
I would have been happy with any one of those in a single year. But to achieve all of that in one year really defies all the odds. Someone has definitely been watching over me.
Not even sure how to set my goals for the future, since it will be pretty hard to top my accomplishments in 2009