I am going to preface this story by saying I intentionally did not start writing this yesterday because I did not want my anger to get in the way of my words. To be honest, I could have started writing this back on August 9 when this all started. The writing was on the wall, the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) President/CEO and Chairman of the Board just wanted to make it official. I also want to say that I have met some very nice people at TACC and if I speak negatively about the TACC it is based solely on the actions of Donna Duperron and Aaron Aalcides. Additionally, I am not asking anyone to get involved. I am just telling my story. If you want to get involved, share this story. Let people make their own decisions. As most of you have no idea what I am talking about; I will start at the beginning.
Those that know me and anyone that has read this blog a while knows that I do event photography and photograph everything I see and do. I frequently use the photos to give publicity to the location; whether it is a restaurant or a National Park. It is free advertising, most of the time. I have yet to run into a restaurant, bar, bakery, curio shop or any other brick and mortar business owner that ever turned down free press. I get invited to the back rooms of stores and shops to see what they have that is too cool for public display. At the beginning of the year I decided I was going to start promoting local businesses and events more than I have in the past. In December, Tanya and I had joined the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce and it was pretty obvious from talking to the brick and mortar business owners that most were really at a loss as to how to proceed in the Internet market. They knew they should, but they did not know how to go about it on their own and everyone they talked to wanted a few thousand dollars to build a web site and it was just out of their budget. I have been a long proponent that if you give some things away, the recipient is going to remember when he does have a budget. I knew my free publicity for the brick and mortar business owners would be appreciated and desired.
In the course of my time with the TACC, which began with our first Networking at Noon on December 7, I have given free publicity to the following local businesses:
Olivers Cafe in Redondo Beach
The Depot Restaurant in Torrance
Alpine Inn at Alpine Village in Torrance
The Crest in Torrance
Aimee’s Bistro in Redondo Beach
Tony Roma’s in Torrance
Lisa’s Bon Appetit in Torrance
Ortega 120 in Redondo Beach
Bassett Home Furnishings in Torrance
Budris and Van Haren in Torrance
Experium Science Academy in Torrance
Coworking Plus in Torrance
Neal Bracewell Insurance in Torrance
Toyota Auto Museum in Torrance
In addition, I have donated my time and photos of their fundraisers to Counseling4Kids and the Torrance Kiwanis as a direct result of my involvement with TACC. There are other events, but they were spin-offs of my TACC involvement that came about due to my attending and photographing regional mixers. There is no doubt in my mind that a vast majority of the people sponsoring and attending these events were pleased with the presence of my camera.
In May, someone I am friendly with that is in the TACC “inner circle” (I have a few people in this category, with various titles and positions) informed me that one individual was asking a lot of questions about who I was and why was I taking photos at all the TACC events. Of course, she never asked me, but I passed along the response that if there were any photos she wanted removed to tell me and if she did not want to be photographed, just tell me. Additionally, every month at the Network at Noon we get 30 seconds to talk about ourselves and our business. At a Network at Noon, I used my 30 seconds to explain what the photos were for and where they go. I also mentioned if you did not want to be photographed, just tell me. I was told there was still some mutterings, and there may be some support by a couple more members. Still, no one had approached me and asked to not be photographed or turned away from the camera so that I would know. I have been shooting events since 2003; I can tell who does not want to be photographed. I guess the fact that Donna Duperron, CEO and president of TACC, had requested that I photograph Mayor Scotto’s State of the City Address, and it was held at the end of May and no one had said anything or asked me to not come all was okay. I was wrong.
On August 9 there was a Networking at Noon at the Staybridge Suites. The Staybridge chamber representative connected with me on Facebook a week or so before the event. I know that it was because he knew I would have lots to photograph and he wanted to be able to be tagged on Facebook. I was looking forward to the event as it was outside and I figured there was potential for some great content. As soon as I walked in the door, Donna approached me and informed me my camera was not welcome at the event. I was taken aback and told Tanya I was gone. I had no need to be there at that point. Interestingly enough, the Staybridge representative approached Tanya to ask where I was as he was looking forward to the photos. She informed him that my camera was banned from the event. He seemed disappointed. What I found interesting was that soon after the event ended, photos started popping up on Facebook. So, it was not all cameras that were banned, just mine.
A couple weeks later I was invited to another TACC event. I asked if my camera was allowed and I was told that they would find out and get back to me. As I had heard nothing by the night before, I again asked if my camera was banned. I was told that Donna had emailed me earlier to meet with her and the Chairman of the Board, Aaron Aalcides a couple hours after the scheduled event, so I should leave my camera at home until I met with them. I had not seen any email from Donna, so I started sorting through trash and spam and found her email to me. I have to admit, I never looked at it as it looked like some dating website spam. The subject was “Opportunity to meet with you” and it was from a Gmail account I was unfamiliar with. If I had not followed up, I never would have known I was being called on the carpet. The next day, Tanya and I met with Donna and Aaron.
To be continued…