School Photography and Yearbook Industry Hall of Fame Class Announced

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S.P. Barksdale and R.E. Strawbridge were among the pioneers of school photography

School Photographers of America (SPOA) is launching the Industry Hall of Fame. The inaugural class of inductees, featuring some of the most legendary pioneers of the century-old school photography and yearbook industry, will officially be recognized on July 13 at the Industry Awards Banquet during SPOA’s International Conference on School Photography and Yearbooks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenville, SC.

Individuals making up the inaugural class of SPOA Hall of Fame inductees are:

  • S.P. Barksdale – Barksdale Portrait Photography. In the early 1920s, Barksdale was employed by the Wilson Magazine Co. as a photographer/salesperson. He started out in Pennsylvania with the new concept of taking photographs of students for record-keeping and also giving parents the option to purchase the photographs. Early success resulted in Barksdale starting his own company in 1922, and locating his business in Eastern PA. Today, Barksdale Portrait Photography currently services schools in many states across the United States.
  • J.E. Strawbridge – Strawbridge Studios Inc. After working with Barksdale Portrait Photography for a year, Strawbridge formed Strawbridge Studios, Inc. in 1923, where he focused on taking classroom pictures and fall portraits in schools across the Southeast. In fact, Strawbridge is celebrating their 100-year anniversary this week in Durham, NC. Strawbridge currently has locations in more than 25 states across the United States.
  • Guy Snyder – Inter-State Studio & Publishing Co. Snyder founded Inter-State Studio & Publishing, Co. in 1933. After learning the ins and outs of the business while employed by Julius Stern’s Hollywood Studio in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he ran the business from his home in Sedalia, Missouri. Inter-State Studio, headquartered in Sedalia, Missouri for over 90 years, currently has offices located in more than 30 states and is North America’s largest family-owned school photography company.
  • Eldon Rothgeb – National School Studios. Eldon Rothgeb, a traveling salesman, along with a business partner, R. Bruce Reinecker, had worked for a school photography company in Kansas City Missouri in the early 1930’s. In 1936, they raised $500 to open their own company called National School Studios. That company grew substantially over the years and was later named Lifetouch National School Studios Inc.
  • R. Bruce Reinecker – National School Studios. R. Bruce Reinecker, a traveling salesman, who later became a master in production, had worked for a school photography company in Kansas City, Mo., with Eldon Rothgeb. In 1936, they raised $500 to open their own company called National School Studios. That company was later named Lifetouch National School Studios Inc and grew substantially over the years.
  • Olan Mills Sr. – Olan Mills Studios. Olan Mills, Sr., a former real estate salesman, and his wife, Mary, launched their business in Selma, Alabama, in 1932. Working out of an old woodshed converted into a darkroom, they started out in the photo restoration business. By 1935, the Mills had settled on a look that would become forever associated with the photographs produced by Olan Mills Studios and portraits from this period: a black-and-white bust vignette set against an airbrushed background. A hand-signed logo on each picture helped to build the Olan Mills brand name.
  • Don Walsworth – Walsworth Publishing Co. More than 85 years ago during the Great Depression, Don Walsworth started his company in the centrally located railroad hub of Marceline, Mo. In 1947, the company began producing yearbooks. Now in its third generation of family ownership, they have grown to be one of the largest printing companies in the United States.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our inaugural Hall of Fame class and recognize their role in founding an industry that has captured memories for millions of school children and families for over a century,” said David Crandall, Executive Director, School Photographers of America.

School Photographers of America was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic when the entire United States closed down schools in March of 2020. With no school picture days and the country in a financial crisis, health pandemic, and with unemployment at a historic high, an executive, David Crandall, from Strawbridge Studios Inc. had the vision to rally the industry to protect all school photographers’ copyrights and raise awareness of our industry. He recognized the immediate need for an industry trade association similar to PSPA and AASP, and that one needed to be built immediately. His vision was to ensure the industry and long-standing American tradition would be protected and preserved for many years to come through advocacy and compliance.

On March 26th, 2020, 10 founding companies shared their vision and built what we know today as School Photographers of America or SPOA. In a period of one of our country’s most trying times, these leaders and their staff rallied to build an organization that had a mission to educate, advocate, promote, and protect the great traditions of school pictures and yearbooks. School photography and yearbooks have been a staple for schools and parents across the United States for generations and serve as a key component for some of the nation’s top safety initiatives within schools today.

Seventy years of school photography associations

School Photographers of America isn’t, however, the first school portrait trade association. The American Association of School Photographers Inc. (AASP) was incorporated on May 26, 1953, after three years of conducting unofficial business with the purpose of developing respect for the profession, affecting efficient operational processes, developing marketing strategies, regulating cooperation and exchange of ideas, and “encouraging members to exhibit ideals and qualities of leadership commensurate with the great responsibility which the profession owes to the educators, youth and parents of America.” American Association of School Photographers, Inc. amended the Charter of Incorporation to become Professional School Photographers of America, Inc. on April 27, 1977. PSPA transferred its ownership to Photo Marketing Association in 1984 and was later called Professional School Photographers Association International. In 2014, this association dissolved. Today, SPOA has taken the torch and continues the mission for the industry.