Press Photographers

Press Photographers to Celebrate 25 Years of Digital Photos

The National Press Photographers Association marks a watershed moment for journalism and photography: the advent of digital images.

A quarter-century ago, photojournalism took a big step away from the era of film and moved toward the digital age with the Electronic Photojournalism Workshop.

Back in 1989, members of the National Press Photographers Association met with technical pros from the likes of Adobe, Kodak, and Apple in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to see what the bold new digital world had in store for them.

The first time I learned about the internet was at this conference.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the landmark event, three former NPPA presidents—John Long, Bill Hodge, and John H. Cornell Jr., will host a reunion in Crystal River, Florida, on October 4.

One participant in the 1989 event remembers the experience this way: “We all sat there with Photoshop as a beta (if that), Kodak’s film scanner, and the prototype ‘electronic’ cameras. We were told that in the future you would sit in your kitchen having breakfast reading the paper on [an] electronic screen.”

As we live in that era of tablets and smartphones, it’s important to remember just how different 1989 was.

“This may all seem obvious now, but let me put this in perspective: I didn’t have email or text messaging then (and most of you didn’t either),” New York Times photojournalist James Estrin, who attended the workshop, recollected in a recent post. “The first time I learned about the internet was at this conference.”

Granted, the transition to digital hasn’t always been picture-perfect. Photo departments at newspapers nationwide have faced severe cutbacks. Meanwhile, Kodak only recently emerged from bankruptcy. But with hand-held cameras in everyone’s pockets these days, clearly the workshop organizers were on to something.

Fittingly, the event also has a virtual element: Those who can’t attend the gathering in person may participate in a virtual reunion, being held on the same day. In the meantime, you can check out some photos of the 1989 workshop here.


Morgan Little

By Morgan Little

Morgan Little is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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