In 1998, a seed was planted during a conversation between two people in a car. Corinne Adams and Susanne Katz were brainstorming about how to build a stronger photographic community in Atlanta. Why not have an event that would - bring everyone together to form a real photography community in Atlanta?
They decided to take their ideas to Mark Maio, then executive director of the Atlanta Photography Group, and the three of them began to hold meetings. Many of the movers and shakers in the Atlanta photographic community, including Lucinda Bunnen, Chip Simone, John McWilliams, Nancy Marshall, Louis Favorite, Michael Deardorff and Ted Maloof, came to these meetings. Everyone had fresh ideas, and often, very different ideas about what ACP should become, but all agreed that something was needed. Names were tossed around like Refocus Atlanta, Focus Atlanta, Lens Atlanta, Lens on Atlanta and Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
In the meantime, Susan Todd-Raque, a photo-historian and college educator, heard about the group's activities and enthusiastically started coming to the regularly held meetings. Todd-Raque had noted the dearth created by the lack of support for the arts in Atlanta, resulting in the exit of many talented graduates to New York.
Suzanne Lee joined the inner circle, bringing the idea to honor Harry Callahan as one of the entity's activities. Unfortunately, Harry Callahan passed away and much of the interest in this idea diminished. Many people drifted away and soon there were only four people: Corinne Adams, Susanne Katz, Gerald Straw and Susan Todd-Raque. It was decided that ACP was too good an idea to let die.
A 501(c)3 was formed with Susan Todd-Raque as President, Susanne Katz as Vice President, Pam Holland as Treasurer, and Corinne Adams as Secretary. Their monies, along with the generous help of Lucinda Bunnen, funded its founding. The first October event, with the help of Bob Khoury of Showcase and Jan Fields of the Showcase School, was a lecture and dinner featuring Joseph Sterling and Linda Connor. Over 100 people came out for that event and all involved were sold on the fact that this was a great idea.
Thanks to Polly Barr of Strictly Black and White Labs, ACP had its first office. Judy Pishnery made ACP look good by producing the first printed festival guide. And Phyllis Rodbell helped spread the word about ACP.
With this growth, ACP began the tradition of partnering with other organizations to increase the scope and reach of photography events in Atlanta. (The 1999 event guide listed over 30 events related to photography taking place in October, the 2000 Event Guide included over 50 events and the 2001 Event Guide listed over 80 events. Today there are over 140 events throughout Atlanta and beyond).
After several years of creating and producing programs, ACP's Board of Directors was suffering from burnout. This all -volunteer organization had gone as far as it could go on blood sweat and tears, and in late 2003, despite being financially solvent, the board of directors was exhausted and unable to continue without the ability to fund a staff person. With saddened hearts, they consulted with an attorney to start the procedure for dissolution.
Cathy Fox of the AJC heard the rumor, and wrote an article that stirred the hearts and minds of its readers. What a shame it would be for Atlanta to lose this organization because of lack of support! The community support (and donations) came pouring in and ACP decided to hire a full time Executive Director. Anne Dennington, who was then the director of Lowe Gallery, offered to become ACP's first full-time Executive Director in 2004. ACP hired Debra Ott as a consultant to help ease this transition.
With Anne's keen oversight, ACP developed a strong board of directors and started making its mark in the national photography community. The donor base grew and so did the programs. Throughout these changes, ACP maintained its commitment to excellence.
In 2007, ACP hired Michael David Murphy as Program Manager and Amy Miller as the new Executive Director, and the Board of Directors grew to 19 distinguished members. 2008, ACP developed "ACP Now!", a, dynamic online resource for photographers, venues and enthusiasts, updated weekly.
In 2010, the ACP festival encompassed over 160 photo-related events at over 125 venues throughout metro Atlanta! In 2015, ACP became the lead organization for Festival of Light, and international consortium of photo festivals from around the globe (festivaloflight.net) and in 2017, after several years working on a part time basis, Waduda Muhammad was hired as a full time Administrative Coordinator.
As ACP celebrates its 20th Anniversary - the scope of photography is expanding, and we are expanding, too. Thank you for your enthusiasm over the years and into the future!
Hear and meet leading photographers, educators, and curators during the ACP Lecture Series. Past speakers include Lynsey Addario, Gregory Crewdson, Tierney Gearon, Annie Leibovitz, Zanele Muholi (above), Lorna Simpson, Alec Soth, Pete Souza, John Waters, Deborah Willis, Dan Winters, and more.
To find out the latest on the 2019 ACP Photographers Conference, where artists and photographers will have the opportunity to meet with highly respected curators, dealers, editors, and agency representatives from across the US and beyond, please sign-up for our email list.