10 Questions for Arlene Evans, WPPI’s Conference Producer

January 28, 2019

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Sandra Coan

In 2005, Arlene Evans took on the role of esteemed education director of WPPI, the largest wedding and portrait photography conference and expo in the U.S. She quickly became considered the matriarch of the community, fostering and nurturing relationships with up-and-coming voices in the wedding and portrait world. She left her post at WPPI in 2012 to become the channel head at CreativeLive, but this year she’s back as the new conference producer. We welcome her home by picking her brain on WPPI, what makes her tick and the photo industry at large.

1. As someone who isn’t a photographer, what originally brought you to WPPI, and what keeps you connected to the industry?
I was friends with Skip Cohen, who was president of WPPI at the time [2002-2009]. He was looking for someone to run the association and work on competitions and speakers with the managing editor of Rangefinder, the late Bill Hurter. Skip was impressed with my organizational skills as I was working full-time and president of a K-12 parents association. He thought I would easily be able to handle the job and hired me.

2. How have you seen the industry change over the last seven years since being WPPI’s education director?
It sounds cliché, but the internet has changed everything in photography. There’s so much online education, and you can go to YouTube to find out whatever you need about new products. Blogs and newsletters provide critiques on equipment you’re thinking about purchasing. The sense of community in the industry is more online and less in person.

3. What brought you back to WPPI this year?
I’ve been to every WPPI since I left in 2012 and always paid attention to the classes, trade show and who was attending the show. There have been so many changes, whether it’s been with larger company ownership or venue, and I feel that those factors have influenced the show. The sense of community was getting lost and that affects the brand. I want to bring it back.

4. What’s different about becoming the WPPI conference producer now from 2005, after having been channel head at CreativeLive in the interim?
People don’t feel the same need to attend an in-person conference. But since most photographers own their own businesses, it’s more important than ever to have connection on the trade show floor, in the classroom and at events.

5. Beyond the obvious, why do you think people should take the time and invest in coming to WPPI this year?
Again, it’s that sense of community and excitement to be inspired. One of my favorite parts of the show is The Annual Print, Album and Filmmaking competition. I don’t know if people realize how much they can learn just by listening to the experts commenting on each submission. Judges have their own opinions and perspectives, and I love listening to the debate. Aside from that, it makes such a difference to go on the show floor and see all of the products that you want to learn about or have been thinking about purchasing. And, of course, the people. Say hi to the person next to you in class, in the Starbucks line or at the keynotes. You may make a lifelong photography friend. I know of five married couples who met at WPPI!

6. On a different note, what’s something that very few people know about you?
I sang with a cappella groups when I lived in Philadelphia and in Los Angeles.

7. What are some of your personal goals this year?
There’s a lot to learn about Emerald and WPPI moving forward, so I want to accomplish that. Also, I want to have more work/life balance. I’m not very good at it and need to improve (ask my husband)! Along with that goes studying more about meditation and exercise.

8. You’ve changed jobs but not your home base and will continue to live and work out of Seattle. What’s the best and worst part about being there?
It was an adjustment moving from Los Angeles to Seattle after I left WPPI for CreativeLive! My first winter was hard, as the days are very short and it’s just gloomy all the time. But I have to say that the summers are amazing. The skies are crystal clear, there’s no humidity and no bugs!

9. If you could shoot any kind of photography, which genre would it be and why?
I am only a hobbyist photographer but I love to catch impromptu moments in life. How people look at each other, everyday routines, people and their pets—I guess you could call that photojournalism.

10. Which trend are you glad to see has left the industry in the last few years, and which current trend are you excited about?
HDR! And specific colorization techniques. Don’t add color to the bride’s bouquet when the image is black and white! But I love the spontaneity that is captured now in wedding and portrait images. And I’m excited about more photographers using natural light.

Learn more about WPPI 2019 (held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Feb. 25-March 1), and register here for the show.

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