WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award & Caesium-137

Of the radioactive isotope caesium-137 with a half-life of about 30 years, the wiki on it says “It is among the most problematic of the short-to-medium-lifetime fission products because it easily moves and spreads in nature due to the high water solubility….”

Of the WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award…. well i am still trying to wrap my head around that. It was decade ago that during a speech i showed an image of an empty shelf devoid of any awards or accolades.  Matter of fact, i even kind of branded myself as a non-award-winning photographer.  Well that just got fucked up.   That “empty shelf” now with one accolade, is pretty damn full.  It wasn’t until Luke Edmonson, who’s father was awarded the accolade in 2015, gave me a list of past recipients that i started to realize the full gravity of the honor.

Arnold Newman, Monte Zucker, Steven Rudd, Debby & Rick Ferro, Jerry and Bonnie Costanza, Terry Deglau, Bill Hurter, Denis Reggie, Tony Corbell, Bambi Cantrell, Dennis Orchard, Yervant, Joe Bussink, David Anthony Williams, Cliff Mautner, David Edmonson, Skip Cohen.

This short list is made up of some legends in our industry not only for their photographic talent but also for their pursuit of teaching, elevating and giving back to the wedding and portrait industry and the community of photographers that is WPPI.  I have been attending WPPI since the early 90’s and at one time or another i have either attended a workshop, platform class or have had the opportunity to have been mentored by a majority of the those on this list.  One name in particular – David Anthony Williams i will credit for having the most influence on my career.  His ideas and love for art changed the way i approach and photograph people.  David also directly inspired us to create and pursue our “pay-it-forward” project, Roadside Families, which has become a passion of ours.

I seem to have always done things a little backwards, taken a different path, avoiding conventional processes.  I was totally blindsided as Jerry and Melissa Ghionis and Jason Groupp presented the WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award which elevates me into a group of legendary photographers of which i feel like a little kid amongst.  Do i deserve to have my name beside them? I don’t know.   Maybe i received the accolade as a challenge or as something to live up to. Can i start my empty shelf off with one of the most top honors and work backwards? Maybe a lifetime award is merely something to receive and then spend the 2nd half of a career living up to it.  I’ve been in this career a little over 30 years maybe it is time to go backwards and travel roads i’ve skipped and processes i’ve avoided.  Maybe this is a time to be galvanized in a new direction. Maybe this is just a mid way point.  A half-life.

Of the radioactive isotope caesium-137 with a half-life of about 30 years, the wiki on it says “It is among the most problematic of the short-to-medium-lifetime fission products because it easily moves and spreads in nature due to the high water solubility….”

Of the WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award, well i’ll just try to live up to that honor and with a career of 30 years and possibly another 30, hopefully we will continue to be problematic, dangerous and unconventional and just hoping to continue to spread and share what we’ve learned so far…

Half-Life.

.jmc.

Below is the whole awards presentation, forward to 2:10 is presentation of the Lifetime Achievement award.

The absolute best part of the whole experience (other then me trying not to cry) was that i was surrounded by such close friends: Jerry, Melissa, and Jason on stage presenting, Tabitha to my right and my beautiful wife to my left which has actually contributed more of the hard work to all of our accomplishments for altF, Roadside, and personal projects that the accolade is really ours rather than mine.   And to that, ironically a few hours before the event we actually had a discussion and committed to restart and do another round of our Roadside Families Project.

A big thank you to Cheryl Walsh and Christine Jade capturing some images of the presentation.

Author john michael cooper

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  • Tara Kneiser says:

    Much deserved, John. When I stumbled into this industry 11 years ago, your work gave me hope that wedding photography could be whatever the fuck we wanted it to be. Thank you for being amazing.

  • Addie Talley says:

    congratulations! keep doing what youre doing and elevating the business!