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Industry Hall of Fame Announced

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

School Photographers of America announces the industry inaugural Hall of Fame class for the school photography and yearbook industry

GREENVILLE, South Carolina– School Photographers of America (SPOA) is launching the Industry Hall of Fame. The inaugural class of inductees, featuring some of the most legendary pioneers of the century-old school photography and yearbook industry, will officially be recognized July 13 at the Industry Awards Banquet during SPOA’s International Conference on School Photography and Yearbooks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenville, SC.

Individuals making up the inaugural class of SPOA Hall of Fame inductees are:

· S.P. Barksdale - Barksdale Portrait Photography. In the early 1920s, Barksdale was employed by the Wilson Magazine Co. as a photographer/salesperson. He started out in Pennsylvania with the new concept of taking photographs of students for record-keeping and also giving parents the option to purchase the photographs. Early success resulted in Barksdale starting his own company in 1922, and locating his business in Eastern PA. Today, Barksdale Portrait Photography currently services schools in many states across the United States.

· J.E. Strawbridge - Strawbridge Studios Inc. After working with Barksdale Portrait Photography for a year, Strawbridge formed Strawbridge Studios, Inc. in 1923, where he focused on taking classroom pictures and fall portraits in schools across the Southeast. In fact, Strawbridge is celebrating their 100-year anniversary this week in Durham, NC. Strawbridge currently has locations in more than 25 states across the United States.

· Guy Snyder - Inter-State Studio & Publishing Co. Snyder founded Inter-State Studio & Publishing, Co. in 1933. After learning the ins and outs of the business while employed by Julius Stern’s Hollywood Studio in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he ran the business from his home in Sedalia, Missouri. Inter-State Studio, headquartered in Sedalia, Missouri for over 90 years, currently has offices located in more than 30 states and is North America's largest family-owned school photography company.

· Eldon Rothgeb - National School Studios. Eldon Rothgeb, a traveling salesman, along with a business partner, R. Bruce Reinecker, had worked for a school photography company in Kansas City Missouri in the early 1930’s. In 1936, they raised $500 to open their own company called National School Studios. That company grew substantially over the years and was later named Lifetouch National School Studios Inc.

· R. Bruce Reinecker - National School Studios. R. Bruce Reinecker, a traveling salesman, who later became a master in production, had worked for a school photography company in Kansas City, Mo., with Eldon Rothgeb. In 1936, they raised $500 to open their own company called National School Studios. That company was later named Lifetouch National School Studios Inc and grew substantially over the years.

· Olan Mills Sr. - Olan Mills Studios. Olan Mills, Sr., a former real estate salesman, and his wife, Mary, launched their business in Selma, Alabama, in 1932. Working out of an old woodshed converted into a darkroom, they started out in the photo restoration business. By 1935, the Mills had settled on a look that would become forever associated with the photographs produced by Olan Mills Studios and portraits from this period: a black-and-white bust vignette set against an airbrushed background. A hand-signed logo on each picture helped to build the Olan Mills brand name.

· Don Walsworth - Walsworth Publishing Co. More than 85 years ago during the Great Depression, Don Walsworth started his company in the centrally located railroad hub of Marceline, Mo. In 1947, the company began producing yearbooks. Now in its third generation of family ownership, they have grown to be one of the largest printing companies in the United States.

"We are thrilled to celebrate our inaugural Hall of Fame class and recognize their role in founding an industry that has captured memories for millions of school children and families for over a century,” said David Crandall, Executive Director, School Photographers of America.

School Photographers of America was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic when the entire United States closed down schools in March of 2020. With no school picture days and the country in a financial crisis, health pandemic, and with unemployment at a historic high, an executive, David Crandall, from Strawbridge Studios Inc. had the vision to rally the industry to protect all school photographers' copyrights and raise awareness of our industry. He recognized the immediate need for an industry trade association similar to PSPA and AASP, and that one needed to be built immediately. His vision was to ensure the industry and long-standing American tradition would be protected and preserved for many years to come through advocacy and compliance.

On March 26th, 2020, 10 founding companies shared their vision and built 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 had a mission to educate, advocate, promote, and protect the great traditions of school pictures and yearbooks. School photography and yearbooks have been a staple for schools and parents across the United States for generations and serve as a key component for some of the nation's top safety initiatives within schools today.

Seventy years of school photography associations

School Photographers of America isn’t, however, the first school portrait trade association. The American Association of School Photographers Inc. (AASP) was incorporated on May 26, 1953, after three years of conducting unofficial business with the purpose of developing respect for the profession, affecting efficient operational processes, developing marketing strategies, regulating cooperation and exchange of ideas, and “encouraging members to exhibit ideals and qualities of leadership commensurate with the great responsibility which the profession owes to the educators, youth and parents of America.” American Association of School Photographers, Inc. amended the Charter of Incorporation to become Professional School Photographers of America, Inc. on April 27, 1977. PSPA transferred its ownership to Photo Marketing Association in 1984 and was later called Professional School Photographers Association International. In 2014, this association dissolved. Today, SPOA has taken the torch and continues the mission to preserve, protect, promote, educate, and advocate for the school photography and yearbook industry.

“On behalf of the SPOA Hall of Fame Selection Committee, SPOA Governing Board, Executive Board and entire SPOA community, we wanted to thank as well as recognize these founding leaders and innovators for their contributions to the school photography and yearbook industry,” said Crandall. “When thinking of the inaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees, so many names came up and we heard so many stories from members of the industry, but we felt like this first class needed to be the individuals who truly created the industry forming some of the first school photography and yearbooks of our nation.”

About SPOA’s Conference

The annual SPOA conference was built to unite the industry and bring together school photography company owners and employees as well as industry suppliers and partners with the goal to have every person leaving knowing the impact they make on schools, children, and families across the world. Their entire conference is dedicated to helping business owners and leaders have expert training and provide expert resources on how to successfully run their business. Their training sessions are led by national trainers with companies such as Dale Carnegie, Sandler, Bambee and Education partners such as NADS and WE LEAD. This year’s conference will be held in Greenville, SC the week of July 10th. Interested attendees may learn more by visiting:

About SPOA

School Photographers of America (SPOA) serves as the national trade association for school photography and yearbooks. The association, which is led by David Crandall, executive director, and a volunteer board of industry leaders, has been growing rapidly in membership and advocacy activities. In addition, the association started The American Foundation of School Pictures and Yearbooks to serve displaced and students in need, grants for school pictures and yearbooks, starting in Fall, 2023.

To learn more about SPOA, visit:

*The historic details presented here are based on limited available information and involve many topics that have few documents. The findings presented should not be considered as definitive or exclusive. SPOA is using past documents from PSPA and AASP, company websites, and stories from family members of the individual inductees. The intention of these stories and honors are to recognize the achievements of the founders of this industry. There is much still to explore on these individuals and the companies they founded. Readers are advised to consult additional sources for exact dates and facts. We know there are other industry icons that helped build this industry and we hope over time we will be able to find their stories and honor their work and sacrifice as well. SPOA is currently spending great resources on building a robust history archive of industry facts, old archives, yearbooks and camera equipment in their mission to celebrate the traditions and to eventually have space in a museum.

1 Comment

Malcolm Anderson
Jul 16, 2023

nice photos

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