SHERIDAN — In a time when everyone can front as a photographer with cellphone cameras, and digital cameras give 6-year-olds better technology than their parents ever had, there are some that still strive to become certified professional photographers.
Rebecca Pickrel’s dedication earned her an award never received by a member of the Wyoming Professional Photographers of America group. The award is certainly significant for Pickrel, but the impact it has on Wyoming photographers is also significant.
Kimberly Pezeshki is the president of WPPA and holds a deep passion for the art of photography. When Pickrel received her award, the excitement escaped from Pezeshki’s mouth, capturing the rarity of the award in Wyoming and its significance for an organization that risks extinction in the digital era.
“I think I might have cried a little bit,” Pezshki said.
In a profession where everyone claims mastery, earning the title of certified professional photographer from the PPA serves as a way to rebuild industry credentials.
“It takes the industry that’s kind of like everybody’s a photographer and so it has no value, and it puts it back to being valued again,” Pickrel said.
Pickrel never went to college but pursued higher education and a certificate of achievement through her photography and the PPA. After passing a proctored test, photographers must then submit a portfolio to be critiqued and scored by a panel of professionals.
“My first thought was that maybe it would help set me apart, but I don’t really think people in Sheridan care,” Pickrel said. “I think they find people they like and I think they like how they do things and that’s why they choose the photographer that they choose.
“But for me, it was more of a personal thing.”
Pickrel passed the written test but failed the portfolio aspect of the certification and had to start over with the process. She learned, though, how important lighting is to photography and mastered the art. Pickrel is now pursuing her master of professional photography, again through PPA, by earning merits in competitions. It is not an easy task, but the support from her peers and boost of confidence in the awards she earned in this last year’s competition helps drive her toward her goal.
“It’s a great organization,” Pickrel said of the PPA. “I try to encourage people even if you’re just starting out, I mean, what a fantastic group to learn from. It’s a great place for the camaraderie and a great place to learn together.”
Pezeshki, who has participated in groups in Utah and Wyoming, cherishes the friendships made throughout the state, country and internationally.
“One of those things about being a part of this group is I know that I can call upon any of the members anytime, no matter where I’m at, and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I need some help,’ and I know that they’re all going to be there for me,” Pezeshki said.
Pickrel took home a second-place Grand Imaging Award at the International Photographic Competition at Imaging USA in Atlanta, Georgia, in January. Her photo — of chickens in a coop — was selected into the loan collection, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of the total entries. Pickrel was also named a gold medalist, meaning two of her four merited images entered the PPA loan collection.
Although participation numbers remain small for Wyoming’s PPA chapter at around 35 photographers, the camaraderie among them isn’t quantifiable.
“I’ve developed a lot of other fun relationships with other photographers around the state,” Pickrel said. “We all do things different, but we’re all there to encourage and push each other.”