The Society for Photographic Education is a nonprofit membership organization that provides and fosters an understanding of photography as a means of diverse creative expression, cultural insight, and experimental practice. Through its interdisciplinary programs, services and publications, the society seeks to promote a broader understanding of the medium in all its forms through teaching and learning, scholarship, and criticism.
Joan and Nathan Lyons (around the kitchen table, Rochester, NY) with students
Prior to the 1960s, photography was taught primarily in departments of journalism at American universities. SPE emerged at a time when art departments were beginning to offer photography in their curriculum. Nathan Lyons, then associate director at the George Eastman House, recognized the newly emerging academic field; he coordinated and hosted a conference in November 1962 in Rochester, New York, to address the concerns of these educators. Beaumont Newhall, Walter Rosenblum, Arthur Sinsabaugh, Aaron Siskind, Henry Holmes Smith, John Szarkowski, Jerry Uelsmann and Clarence White were among the thirty attendees at the "Invitational Teaching Conference."
Representing the intersection of fine art practice, education and history, these early participants aimed to formulate the goals, future and improvement of photographic education. The first annual national conference was held in Chicago in 1963 and the articles of incorporation were signed in May 1964. Since its establishment, many noted artists, curators, and critics in the field of photography have been involved with SPE or its programs. Although the majority of its 2,200+ members are fine art photographers and educators, curators, critics, historians and artists are also members. SPE is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to promote a wider understanding of photography in all of its forms and to foster the development of its practice, teaching, scholarship and critical analysis. The national headquarters are located in Cleveland, Ohio, and the archives are at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona.
Read SPE's Bylaws.