(Text by Matt Cashore; 2018 Symposium group photo by Lauren Martinez Olinger; All other photos credited to photographer when metadata was included in the file)

The 2018 UPAA Symposium in one word?

Unprecedented. 

The 2018 UPAA Symposium at Wake Forest had several ‘never befores’:

•More new attendees than ever

•Greater percentage of women members than ever

•Most Pulitzer prizes represented by our speakers (okay just one speaker, but c’mon!)

•The first time a member went 6-for-6 in the APC

•A new format to APC voting

•A new format to the triple play

(photo by Kurt Stepnitz) Lauren Martinez Olinger takes a group photo of the women attendees.

“"Un-" is the word,” said UPAA President Glenn Carpenter. “Unbelievable the speakers we heard and interacted with, unimaginable the amount of new members who attended and the number of first-time attendees. Not so unimaginable that Nate Edwards would win POY but to place all six prints, unreal in a talent pool as deep as this one. Unprecedented unity in such a diverse group.”

(clockwise from upper right: Sam Abell's presentation, photo by Autumn Driscoll; Sam Abell's presentation, photo by Thomas Shea: Danielle Guerra Mains and Carol Guzy, photo by Glenn Carpenter; APC judging, photo by Thomas Shea)

Other notable moments of the week included:

•Susan McSpadden was elected to the UPAA Board and Mark Carriveau was re-elected

•Nate Edwards of BYU repeated as POY with a 6-for-6 performance in the APC

•Bill Bitzinger and recent retiree Robert Jordan joined the handful of members named Master of the Profession--a sort of UPAA Hall of Fame.  

(photos by Jay Ferchaud) L-R, top to bottom: Bill Bitzinger receives the Master of the Profession citation from UPAA President Glenn Carpenter, (Robert Jordan was too busy enjoying retirement to pick his up in person!) MIC Chair Jay Ferchaud presents overall MIC winner Joe Howell with a roller bag from sponsor Think Thank, (photo by Glenn Carpenter) Nate Edwards picks up his POY camera kit from sponsor Canon, Kristen Grace gets a Nikon D850 and 8-15mm fisheye zoom from Kristine Bosworth and sponsor Nikon, Lauren Castellana wins a lens from sponsor Tamron, and UPAA Board member Amanda Pitts presents Paul Chouy with a body and lens from sponsor Sony.

Now 2-time Photographer of the Year Nate Edwards reflected, “I was not at all expecting to win Photographer of the Year again. I knew there was a slight chance if I did well in the print competition, but I was fully expecting Joe Howell or Jay Drowns to win it and I was really excited for them! They, and many others, had really done some amazing work and probably deserve it more than me. It really did catch me off guard. I did not realize I was the first to place all six images in the Print Competition. Is that really the case? After seeing all the prints that were entered, I thought my slight chance of winning was gone because there were some amazing photos that I for sure would have picked above mine.”

(bottom left: Host Ken Bennet, photo by Autumn Driscoll, bottom right: First Responder portrait event, photo by Bill Bitzinger)

Besides trophies and prizes, participants left with the satisfaction of another successful service project photographing local first responders and the most important takeaway from a Symposum: The inspiration and motivation from being around our colleagues.

Glenn Carpenter continues, "When I look back at the week I am blown away with the all new members and first-time attendees, especially the number of female photographers that we now have, to see small groups developing, and to see and hear interest in leadership at UPAA from these talented women is very encouraging. As a board member and president these signs point to a healthy organization that is growing in the correct direction."

(Joe Pallen shows off his depth and layers at the Nikon Shootout, photo by Ryan Brandenburg)

Membership Chair Jeff Gage said, “Thanks to the unparalleled line up of speakers to entertain us, unequaled support from our sponsors, unmatched location, and the unique bond of the photo family willing to welcome the new and unknown into its open arms, the family grew right before our eyes, an unbelievable sight to see.”

(Veterans and first timers chat)

“My first experience at the UPAA Symposium was outstanding and exceeded all my expectations!” Said new attendee Maggie Bean of Marquette University. “I was able to meet and connect with so many photographers, who I look forward to keeping in touch with and learning from for years to come.”

(Joe McNally gives some hands-on instruction at the portrait event)

At the Friday business meeting Nate Edwards mentioned the idea of tapping into the new energy with an ongoing mentorship initiative: “I love seeing the creativity of the newcomers, and I think it is just as important for those of us who become complacent, to be able to push ourselves to get better by learning from others. I think it would be nice to have a designated time to sit down, for those who would like it, and have some kind of critique- a real critique; not just saying what we like about an image, but how can I do better the next time? What can I do differently or change? Why does this-or-that work? Or why doesn’t it?... I believe UPAA is a great place to have meaningful mentoring experiences.”

(POY Nate Edwards, center)

The final thought on the 2018 Symposium arrived via a postcard from new attendee Katherine Seghers to UPAA President Glenn Carpenter, reproduced here with permission:

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"What do you call an alligator wearing a vest? An 'investigator'" Blog ideas/critiques welcome any time, email editor Matt Cashore at mcashore@nd.edu