The industry lost one of its icons on July 1 with the retirement of Willard (Bill) Clark who, for the past 10 years, has served as executive director of Photoimaging Manufacturers & Distributors Association (PMDA), a 75-member, New Jersey-based industry association, founded in 1939.
Many of us have spent years in the front line of the photo business selling, processing or dealing with customers at retail one at a time. Bill's contribution to the industry has been primarily in consumer and trade journalism, as a writer and photographer, and more recently with PMDA.
Bill, 77, has been in photo for more than 40 years. Over that period he has worked with the senior executives of virtually every firm in the photo industry in his role as journalist and organization director. He served as confidant and advisor to many and earned the respect of all.
PMDA has been a strong promoter of picture taking and for some years has maintained a website, TakeGreatPictures.com, to draw attention to photography. In addition, the organization sponsors monthly meetings for its members in New York City on various industry related topics with presentations made by leaders from inside as well as outside the photo industry. At the PMA convention each year, PMDA sponsors a major dinner event to honor some industry luminary. Dave Ritz was this year's PMDA Man of the Year.
Stacie Errera, chief marketing officer for Tamron USA, Inc., and current president of PMDA, said, "Bill always acted as a professional and was liked by everyone. Everything Bill did was in the best interest of the organization. His shoes will be difficult to fill."
Stacie said that a replacement for Bill is currently being sought. "We are looking at a number of options from within and outside the photo industry."
James Chung, a 30-year veteran with Fuji where he was director of financial relations when he retired, is a former PMDA president and current VP of finance and a member of the executive committee. He said, "Bill has done a terrific job for PMDA. He will be a difficult person to replace."
James indicated that Bill had been named as an honorary member of the PMDA board.
Dan Unger, Agfa's director of marketing and PMDA board member, said of Bill: "He's an easy-going guy, but when it comes to his responsibility as executive director, he does it right." Dan added, "Without Bill it doesn't happen."
Another PMDA board member and a former president, Dave Willard, director of marketing and community services for Olympus, called Bill "an industry icon."
Bill came to New York as a photographer for United Press after working for a small Ohio newspaper as a reporter and photographer. His equipment in those days was a 4x5 Speed Graphic, standard issue for a news journalist at that time but now seen only in photo museums and period movies. In 1954 he became associate editor of U.S. Camera magazine and then founding editor of Camera 35 magazine. "I was a staff of one," he said. He subsequently was appointed editor of U.S Camera by the legendary Tom Maloney, "a publication with a large staff."
After a variety of other magazine publishing positions, Bill came back to the photo industry in 1981 as editor and associate publisher of Photo Weekly Magazine which evolved into Photo Business Magazine. His final publishing stint was a short one as editor of PTN.
Bill has touched a lot of people in his years in the photo business. I was one of those people. After selling my eight Photo To Go minilabs I was casting about for something to do. I met Bill and he knew of my interest in the industry and writing. With his encouragement I wrote my first columns for Photo Business and when Billboard Publications closed that magazine, I followed Bill to PTN. This month's column is my 133rd.
How do you see the photo business today, Bill? "This is a very vital industry and it will continue to change. I expect to see more mergers as the industry streamlines itself."
What are your plans? "I have some things in the works." Not the least of which are two granddaughters who live in Oregon. ptn