Wisconsin PPA History

Everything we do today has a base in the past – HISTORY! What is history, anyway?  Some say what happened in the past, happened and it should stay there.  History is what shapes our lives and makes us who we are today. It should not be forgotten, be remembered and cherished, it is our building blocks for the future. You will see with a little “research” that the Wisconsin Professional Photographers Association (WPPA) is not just a bunch of people interested in taking pictures.  Who are Gus Malme, Bill Wollensak, Art Pohlman, Aida Price, Lester Baker, Gerhard Bakker, Mille Totushek, Verna Madigan, and Lionel Lewis? They were some real great image makers who shared with us their experiences and knowledge of the craft they loved. They taught us the principles of Lighting, Composition, Exposure, Retouching, Quality, Competition, just to name a few.  They were gutsy and front runners, … THEY set the standards for today.

Did you know…  The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) was formed in Milwaukee by a group of WPPA members? The studio strobes that we all use was invented by an engineer/WPPA photographer in Racine and were first installed in a studio in Appleton? How many of our members have gone on to serve as presidents of PPA and the American Society of Photographers (ASP)?  Could you imagine going to a program on Constant Light vs Flash in the heyday of Black and White?  Who started the Fellowship Program? Who moved the convention out of Milwaukee? Dig into colorful past and you’ll find out why the WPPA has been around for over 117 years and what it means to be a member!


Did you know that…

It all started in 1896…

The original name of WPPA was “Photographer Association of Wisconsin”.
The first convention was held in 1897 with Cyrus Chadbourne of Fond du
Lac, being the first president. (The 100th Anniversary President and the
first woman president (Kris Fehrenbach-Alt) is also from Fond du Lac.)
The “convention” was held in Milwaukee and it was reported that photographers
from all over the nation came to learn in Simon L. Stein’s studio.

1933… There were currently 226 paid members. Regional Associations were…
South Central, Fox River Valley, Photographers Association of Milwaukee,
Southeastern Wisconsin, Commercial and Illustrative Photographers of
Milwaukee, Western Wisconsin Photographers and Northwestern Photographers.

On July 20th, 1949, The State of Wisconsin, Department of Secretary, Fred
R. Zimmerman, officially certified that there was an Amendment of Articles of
Incorporation from the Professional Photographer Association of Wisconsin, Inc.,
to change their name to the Wisconsin Professional Photographers Association,

In 1953, the “Court Of Honor” was established for the best of the best “prints”.

In 1958, Indianhead Regional was organized which replaced the dormant
Wisconsin Valley Photographers. Art Pohlman received the first National Award
presented by WPPA.

1961…the first WPPA picnic and camp out was held at Castle Rock Park near
Mauston. Mert and Francis Walcott were made famous with their “Wash Boiler

1963…the “Colorist’ Competition” was established (later to be renamed Art/Tech
Competition). The “Traveling Loan” exhibition began this year by selecting the
top photos from court of honors.

1964….The Professional Photographers Association of America moved from
Milwaukee to its new headquarters in Des Plaines, IL.

1969…SEWPPA was formed
1970… The Man & Wife Award was established (Later being renamed to The
Husband and Wife Award)

1977…WPPA by Laws were changed so that future Conventions be held on the
fourth weekend in February.

1979….The “Fellowship Degree” from WPPA was established and the first one
was given to Milton Rueckl.

1986…first time in PPA history that three members from the same studio
received their master of Photography degree at the same time…they were Dave
Keel, Bob Zettler and Paul Tishim from John H. Keel Photography.

In 1990, The “Learning Experience” Program was established with the help of
Robert Fehrenbach. A portrait entitled, “Caring”, created by Charles Leininger,
received the first score of 100 points.

In 1992, the “Wright Award” was established in memory of Donald Wright. The
Award recognizes group participation and quality work by professionals in all the
WPPA regionals.

1995…Treehaven was established.

Did you know that…

In 1881, a Wisconsin farmer, David H. Houston of Cambria, WI, secured a patent
on a roll device for cameras BEFORE roll film was even in use?


For More information contact Randy Peterson, Kris Alt, or find a current WPPA Board Member here.

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