School Photography: Celebrating Over a Century of Capturing Memories and Providing Safety in Schools Across America
School Photographers of America was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic when the entire US closed down schools in March of 2020. With no school picture days and the country in a financial crisis, health pandemic, and unemployment at a historic high an executive, David Crandall, from Strawbridge Studios Inc. had a vision to rally the industry to protect all school photographers' copyrights and raise awareness of our industry. So many small businesses were being left behind by government aid and his vision was to ensure that the industry and long-standing American tradition would be protected and preserved for many centuries to come through advocacy and compliance.
On March 26th, 2020 – ten companies embraced this vision and founded what we know today as School Photographers of America or SPOA. In a period of one of our country’s most trying times, these leaders and their staff rallied to build an organization that protected the copyright law for pictures and increased national awareness of this industry. School photography has been a staple for schools and parents across the United States for generations. School pictures are used every day for student safety through products like ID Cards, safety cards, digital directories and urgent safety initiatives like Amber Alerts. In addition, other industries rely on school photography for the creation of their products such as yearbooks, administration software, online learning and many more. School photography plays an integral part in all US public and private schools.
School Photographers of America is the national trade association for school photography and yearbooks, replacing the former PSPA and AASP.
We are an organization dedicated to ensuring the health and vitality of the school photographic industry.
Our mission is to educate, advocate, promote, protect and preserve the great traditions of school photography and yearbooks.
Our vision is that school photography remains a rich tradition in schools across the United States of America.
THE HISTORY OF
School Photographers of America has done extensive research with national archives and has come to the conclusion that the first organized company to formally facilitate school photography traces back to 1922.
The story goes that a man employed by Wilson Magazine Company, a camera company, was really good friends with the superintendent of the Philadelphia public school system. The superintendent asked his buddy at Wilson for a favor. He said his schools were making folders for students' cumulative records and his principals realized that they really wanted a picture to go in the file so they could remember what each child looked like to ensure they were discussing the correct ones. The friend told the superintendent absolutely, as long as he could sell them to the parents to help pay for the service. That story spread and started to sell schools on the concept of taking student pictures for record-keeping purposes while giving parents the option of purchasing one picture for 10 cents and six pictures for 50 cents.
After learning of the huge interest and success, S. P. Barksdale elected to start his own company, Barksdale School Portraits, later that year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As Barksdale traveled and expanded his business from state to state he came in contact with a sharecropper, J. E. Strawbridge, in North Carolina, and shared his vision for the industry. Based on that one conversation, J. E. Strawbridge left farming immediately to become a photographer, and within a year, started his own business in Durham, North Carolina. He formed Strawbridge Studios, Inc. in 1923, where he focused on taking classroom pictures and fall portraits in schools across the Southeast.
Like all business ideas, it took little to no time for the idea of school photography to spread across the country. These companies built many of their own “box” cameras with long rolls of film to capture the vast number of students in each school. Their focus was to capture a head-and-shoulder look on each student that is consistent and would allow schools and parents to see the progression and journey of each child through the years in education.
In the 1930s there was a boom of photography companies opening across the country. Even as the concept spread, most of the Midwest and West Coast only did class pictures outside of the school house. However, one gentleman named Guy Snyder, from Sedalia, Missouri was working for Julius Stern’s Hollywood Studios and presented the concept of offering both individual and class pictures to schools. Because of the Great Depression, people were wary of traveling salesmen and paying for a product before they saw it. So, Guy formed his own company, Inter-State Studio and Publishing Co. to take both class and individual pictures to send home and let parents decide what to keep and pay for and what to send back. That huge risk and trust paid off and allowed his company to grow rapidly across the Midwest. Inter-State is still owned and operated by the Snyder family.
Stories like these are the foundation for our industry- vision from entrepreneurs and great partnerships that focused on becoming real partners in education. While these are only a few examples of companies and leaders that made their mark on our industry, there are hundreds of school photography companies across the United States today. Amazingly enough, two of the three pioneers of this industry, Strawbridge and Inter-State Studio, are founding members of this association to help ensure school children and their families keep this great American tradition in schools across our great land.
AASP - PSPA - SPOA
1951-1952: Cal Wheat- Wheat Photo Service
1953: Virgil Renfroe- Delmar Co.
1954: Laurance Bradley- Bradley and Newell
1956-1957: Eldon Rothgeb- National School Studios
1958-1959: Charles Symington- School Pictures, Inc.
1960-1961: Robert Bremson- Bremson Photo Service
1962-1963: Carter Harmon- School Pictures, Inc.
1964-1965: F.S. (Val) Valentine- National School Studios
1966: Abe Rothbard- National Color Labs
1969: Norbert Dompke- Root Photographers
1970: Sid Curtis- School Pictures, Inc.
1971-1972: Robert Lynden- All States Studios
1973: Tom Hennessy- Camera Art Studio
1974: Henry Barr- Royal Color
1975: Karl Segall- Segall-Majestic Inc.
1976: Dick Erickson- Lifetouch
1977: Jack Renfro- Delmar Co.
1978: Harold Strawbridge- Strawbridge Studios, Inc.
1979: Ray Curtis- School Pictures, Inc.
1980: Hubert Gentry- Gentry Studio
1981: Bill Stoeltzing- Bryn-Alan Studios
1982: Joe Zizzi- Hewett Studio
1983: Harry Fitch- Roberts Studio
1984: Hamp Johnston- Olan Mills
1985: John Segall- Segall-Majestic Inc.
1986: Tom Smith- Delmar
1987: Jim Pool- Lifetouch
1988: Norbert Dompke- Root Photographers
1989: Mike Ward- Portrait Industries Corp./ Max Ward- Delmar Studios
1990: Dan Stone- Stone’s Studios
1991: Tom Sherwood- Portrait Express
1992: Dave Koentopf- Lifetouch
1993: Dan Bell- Olan Mills
1994: Ken Strawbridge- Strawbridge Studios, Inc.
1995: Jeff Segall- Segall-Majestic
1996: Calvin Harrell- ABC America’s Beautiful Classmates
1997: Bill Orman- Olan Mills
1998: Tony Perez- Hialeah Photo Service
1999: John Davies- Davies Colour Ltd.
2000: Gary Kranz Sr.- School Portraits by Kranz Inc.
2001: Pete Boynton- Herff Jones Photography
2002: Scott Cubberly- Cubberly Studio
2003: Aric N. Snyder- Inter-State Studio, Inc.
2004: Jurgen K Schuster- Boys and Girls Fotografie
2005: Jim Wingard- School Portrait Group of Arkansas
2006: John Mark- Dorian Studio
2007: Harvey Parido- Bryn-Alan Studios
2008: Robert Kerr- Royal Photographics Inc.
2009: Todd Wilbert- Creative Images
2010: Mark Schoenrock- Lifetouch
2011: Bill Glover- Strawbridge Studios, Inc.
2012: Michael Bell- Bell Photographers, Inc.
2013: Bill Freeman- Freeman Photography Group, LLC.
2014: Ed Sanders- Inter-State Studio, Inc.
2015: Brian Fox- Fox-Mar Photography Inc.
2016: Courtney Lutz- Visual Image Photography Inc.
2020-2021: Chairman, Ed Geskus- Geskus Photography Inc.
2022-2023: Chairman, Claudia Dencer- Leonard’s
President, Doyce Crandall- Focused School Photography