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History of AIPAD




© by Kathleen Ewing

October 15, 1978, in Rochester, New York, was a decisive day in the history of buying, selling, and exhibiting fine art photography.  That date marks the birth of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD).  What is AIPAD, what happened before that pivotal day, and what has transpired over the past three decades?

In the summer of 1978, the powers that be at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, came up with the concept of organizing a symposium for fine art photography.  The Photographic Print Collecting Symposium was intended to bring together photography dealers, collectors, curators, and photographers for three days to promote the concept of collecting photography.  The meeting was to be held from October 13 through October 15, 1979.

To accomplish their goal, Eastman House invited a number of fine art photography dealers to come to Rochester.  For an exhibit fee of $400, the dealers were offered some tabletop space for display and one framed image on the wall.  This event would be something very new in the United States.  In the two previous years, the now legendary photography dealer Harry Lunn had organized a few photography galleries and dealers to participate in art fairs in Europe, displaying photography in such established venues as Art Basel, Switzerland.  A special event for fine art photography had not been attempted in the U.S.  Harry Lunn, who was also my mentor, said we must participate.  In those days, whatever Harry wanted, I was willing to do.

In 1978, there were three active photography galleries in Washington, D.C.: Harry Lunn, Gerd Sander, and myself.  To save on crating and shipping, I offered to drive our inventories to Rochester.  I borrowed a Ford Van from my brother, Wayne, and loaded up our photographic portfolios and our three framed images.

The drive from Washington, D.C., to Rochester is not an easy one, but that was okay.  I felt I was on a mission.  I had portfolios by my Washington photographers that needed to be seen by a larger audience.  Plus, I had to deliver Harry Lunn’s and Gerd Sander’s photographs.

More than seven hours later, I arrived at the hotel where everyone had made reservations.  When I pulled into the parking lot, I suddenly realized that the gears on my brother’s van were gone.  I could only put the stick shift into first gear; the second, third, fourth and  reverse gears were useless.  Trying not to panic, I felt totally doomed.  I left the van running in the parking lot, found a phone book in the hotel lobby, and desperately searched for a Ford repair company.  A garage mechanic on the far side of Rochester said, “Bring it in.  We’ll see what we can do.”  At the shop, the mechanic explained that parts had to be ordered and that it would take at least 24 hours to do the job.  While they were working on the engine repairs, the only thing they had to offer as a “loaner” was a double van, which looked to me like the size of an 18-wheeler, but I had no choice.  With the help of the Ford workers, we loaded the photographs from one van to another, and I went back to the hotel. 

At the hotel, many of the photography dealers and curators were in the lobby or at the bar with Harry Lunn.  Always the gracious host, Harry was determined to take everyone to the best Chinese restaurant in Rochester.  After several abortive efforts to call for multiple taxis, I offered to drive Harry to the restaurant, just to get the dinner started.  When Harry saw the size of my van, he went back into the hotel and told everyone to grab a chair from the hotel lounge.  More than a dozen of photography’s major players took him up on the offer and pulled wooden chairs into my empty cargo space.  

As we started off, a somewhat rotund dealer from Los Angeles took the passenger seat next to me and whispered: “Can you do this?”  I looked into the rearview mirror and thought, “Oh my God, if I crash and burn, half the history of photography is going down with me!”  The cast of characters in that van was unbelievable.  It was a daunting experience.   Somehow, I managed to pull out of the hotel driveway and found my way across Rochester to Harry’s Chinese restaurant.   Once there, knowing I had to make the return trip, I was too nervous to eat or drink.  But the rest of the photography crowd had great evening, compliments of Harry Lunn.

The next day was full of high expectations, with dealers, who had come from all over the United States, setting up in the parlors and spacious rooms in Eastman House.  Matted photographs of every size and vintage were spread out on coffee tables and side boards, leaning against couches, propped up everywhere. The range of photographic material in a single location was inspiring.  Lectures by various photography experts were being held in the Eastman House theater.  Although we knew one another by reputation, many of us had never met face to face.  It was all very exciting. 

In addition to the photography gallery dealers, there were museum curators, photographic collectors both new and experienced, and photographers both young and established.  It was an incredible mix of participants.

At some point, Eastman House had decided to host a photography auction, with the proceeds to benefit the museum.  Over 130 photographers had been approached to donate one or more photographs.  The roster of photographers ranged from the highly respected, such as Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, to relatively newcomers.  A small catalogue had been printed with estimates of prices, but no minimum bids were required.  With the exception of Paul Caponigro’s Stonehenge Portfolio, estimated at $3,500 to $4,500, the suggested bids ranged from $75 to a high of $475.

Though the catalogue was circulated in advance of the symposium, none of the dealers envisioned the impact this auction would have on our own efforts.  It became all too apparent that the potential collectors and curators were going to wait for the auction before spending any of their funds with the dealers.  

The auction on Saturday morning was brisk.  Despite the professional efforts of the Swann Galleries auctioneers, extraordinary photographs sold for as little as $25.  The photography dealers were embarrassed and in a state of shock.  Later on Saturday afternoon, when Harry Lunn gave his lecture on collecting, he referred to the auction as a “debacle.”

The results of the auction became a call to arms and united the photography dealers.  The Saturday evening cocktail and dinner conversation was dominated by complaints and frustration over how the weekend event had been handled and the lack of sales among the dealers.  To address those issues, a Sunday morning meeting was held in the hotel restaurant.  It is hard to remember how many were there --  probably at least a dozen. Stephen White, from Los Angles, seemed to lead the group, along with Tom Halsted, Cusie Pfeifer, Gerd Sander, Harry Lunn, G. Ray Hawkins, Stephen Rose, Janet Lehr, myself and others.

The resolution of that Sunday meeting was that if anyone was going to organize a symposium on collecting photography or create a venue to display photographic art, the dealers should be the ones to do so.  There was unanimous agreement to start an association to promote fine art photography.  A future meeting with more players was agreed upon.  And thus on October 15, 1978, AIPAD was born. 

Six months later, in the spring of 1979, we all met again, at Daniel Wolff’s gallery in New York City.  The word had spread, and the number of dealers grew from the dozen or so in Rochester to nearly 30 potential players.  The enthusiasm amongst the participants to establish an association for fine art photography was contagious.  Still it was a tedious process to create an association out of thin air.  The other precedent was the prestigious Art Dealers Association of America established in 1962 to set standards of respectable art dealing.  With the attending photography dealers, there were extensive discussions about the mission, standards, qualifications, bylaws and financials.  Hours were spent debating the appropriate name for our new organization and what would be a long-lasting acronym.  Everyone had an opinion, and for a while, it seemed like we would never reach a consensus.  Yet there were many in the room with a vision of the future benefits of professional cooperation. 

That’s how AIPAD was founded.  Stephen White, of Los Angeles, became the group’s first president.  The primary goal was to create a professional trade association with industry standards and to create a fine art photography art fair, organized by AIPAD, within the next year.  Exactly how that would be accomplished was a mystery to many of us.  The future was set in motion and there was no turning back.  By October 1980, the initial goals were accomplished. 

That month, AIPAD proudly hosted the First Annual Fine Art Photography Exposition at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.  With 39 galleries exhibiting, the 1980 show was an auspicious beginning.  No attendance records were kept, and no one would comment on sales.  Nonetheless, the event was deemed a success.  The following year, the number of exhibitors more than doubled to an amazing 63 participants.  In the first years of AIPAD’s exhibitions, both AIPAD members and non-members were able to participate in the annual show.  The actual association membership in 1984 was 40 dues-paying members.  

AIPAD continued the annual trade shows at the Roosevelt Hotel for five years, until 1984.  By then, it became obvious the Roosevelt Hotel was not a suitable venue for AIPAD’s show.  At the same time, the economy was not supporting photography purchases.  Working with an annual budget of less than $40,000, AIPAD was struggling financially. AIPAD simply did not have the resources for a more elegant venue in New York City.  

From 1985 to 1992, AIPAD hosted the Annual Exposition in various cities across the U.S.:  in California, Texas, and Washington, DC.  With a stronger economy and an increased AIPAD membership, the Exposition returned to New York City in 1993.   Unfortunately, this event coincided with the March blizzard of that year, which shut down the entire East Coast and trapped the 76 exhibitors in their booths at the Sheraton Hotel.  Weekend attendance for the show was less than 400.  

In 1994, AIPAD branded its annual exposition as The Photography Show, a title which has been trademarked, and moved the show to the exhibit halls at the New York Hilton Hotel.  For 12 consecutive years, the New York Hilton was the venue for the annual Photography Show.  Each year, physical improvements were made for it, the event’s reputation increased, and weekend attendance regularly grew.  Despite this success, there was the never-ending desire to hold AIPAD annual event at the prestigious 7th Regiment Armory (now the Park Avenue Armory) on Park Avenue, the home to many of the best New York art fairs.

After years of intrigue and byzantine negotiations, and thanks to Robert Klein’s determination, The Photography Show entered the hallowed halls of the Park Avenue Armory in February 2006.  Again, a record snow storm hit New York City.  The dealers marched on undaunted, and AIPAD reported record sales and attendance.

Today, AIPAD’s membership continues to grow and it enjoys even greater international representation.  The Annual New York City event, The AIPAD Photography Show New York, is considered the premier event for fine art photography in the United States.





• Initial informal meeting of photography dealers, Eastman House, Rochester, NY 


• The Association of International Photography Art Dealers officially incorporated


• Stephen White, Stephen White Gallery, Los Angeles, becomes AIPAD’s first President


• First Annual Fine Art Photography Exposition, Roosevelt Hotel, New York


• Five consecutive Fine Art Photography Expositions held at Roosevelt Hotel, New York


• Marcuse Pfeifer, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York, AIPAD President


• Robert Samuel Hardison, Hardison Fine Art, New York, AIPAD President


• Thomas Halsted, The Halsted Gallery, Bloomfield Hills, MI, AIPAD President


• Exposition at Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, CA


• Exposition in Houston, TX, in conjunction with PhotoFest


• Kathleen Ewing, Kathleen Ewing Gallery, Washington, DC, AIPAD President


• Exposition at Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles


• Exposition in Houston, TX, in conjunction with PhotoFest


• Exposition at Shorham Hotel, Washington, DC, during citywide celebration of the 150th anniversary of invention of photography

• AIPAD invited by Art Basel, Switzerland, to create special section of photography booths and to host special exhibition celebrating 150 years of photography

•Special thematic photography exhibition continues at Art Basel until 1994


• Exposition in Houston, TX, in conjunction with PhotoFest


• Exposition at Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, CA


• Lee Marks, Lee Marks Fine Art, Shelbyville, IN, AIPAD President


• Exposition in Washington, DC,


• AIPAD Exposition returns to New York City at the New York Sheraton Hotel

•Event coincides with the March blizzard of ’93; entire East Coast shut down


• AIPAD Exposition moves to the New York Hilton Hotel

• Special Exhibition: Women in Photography  

• Annual show title changed to The Photography Show


• Robert Klein, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, AIPAD President


• The Photography Show, New York Hilton


• The Photography Show moves to the Park Avenue Armory, New York

• Another blizzard, but AIPAD’s Photography Show survives with record attendance


• The Photography Show Park Avenue Armory, New York


• The Photography Show Miami, held in December   


• Stephen Bulger, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, AIPAD President


• 30th anniversary of the founding of AIPAD celebrated with Innovation, a special exhibition during The Photography Show and a catalogue


•During the The Photography Show, Park Avenue Armory, AIPAD holds a Gala Preview benefiting the John Szarkowski Fund, for photography acquisitions at The Museum of Modern Art. 


• Catherine Edelman, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, AIPAD President


• The Photography Show, presented by AIPAD moves to Pier 94, on the Hudson River, New York. The show includes 3 special exhibitions and a Photobook Publishers section.

• The first AIPAD Award presented to photography curators Sandra Phillips and Anne Wilkes Tucker. 


• Richard Moore, Richard Moore Photographs, Oakland, AIPAD President

2018– 2019 

• The Photography Show presented by AIPAD, Pier 94 New York.


• The AIPAD Award presented to curator Keith Davis.


• The AIPAD Award presented to curator Sarah Greenough

• AIPAD and Paris Photo announce a 3 year collaboration in a new show, Paris Photo New York, presented with AIPAD. The first show is scheduled for April, 2020 at Pier 94, New York and is to be led by Paris Photo Director, Florence Bourgeois and Artistic Director, Christoph Wiesner


• Paris Photo New York, presented with AIPAD is postponed in mid-March due to restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 and 2021 show are later cancelled.

• Sotheby’s, New York holds an auction of photographs from AIPAD members, Four Decades: In Celebration of AIPAD.  Proceeds to support AIPAD’s educational program, AIPAD Talks planned for 2021. 


• Michael Lee, Lee Gallery, Winchester, MA, AIPAD President

• AIPAD launches a new series of public, online AIPAD Talks to be held throughout the year.

• AIPAD announces a new edition of The Photography Show to be held in May of 2022 at Center415 in New York. Lydia Melamed Johnson is appointed Fair Director. 


The Photography Show presented by AIPAD, Center415, New York

• The AIPAD Award presented to curator Jeff Rosenheim


The Photography Show presented by AIPAD, Center415, New York

• The AIPAD Award presented to curators Mattie Boom and Hans Rooseboom