As IMAGO welcomes a new president, Mustapha Barat ABC, and the organisation continues to be a global force, Ron Johanson OAM ACS reflects on IMAGO’s history and its founding members.
The Spirit of IMAGO has existed long before the ACS became an Associate member of this illustrious group in 2007. The founding fathers – particularly the “Maestro”, Luciano Tovoli AIC ASC – had created the concept with a feeling of camaraderie and fellowship, so the Spirit of Imago was no accident, and was defined by the generosity of all those founding countries.
But at that time, it was very Eurocentric. While this was not a bad thing, the president at the time, Nigel Walters BSC, and general secretary, Louis-Philippe Capelle SBC, had the inspiration to reach out to invite non-European countries to join, with a long-term view to becoming an international body. At that time, non-European countries could become Associate members, which both the ACS and the New Zealand society did without hesitation.
In 2008, we invited Nigel Walters BSC and Capelle to attend the ACS 50th anniversary celebrations in Sydney. It motivated us to commit to become Full members in 2015 in Jerusalem.
In 2009, my first trip was to the IAGA in Bradford, UK, as ACS President. The following year, walking into that room in Rome for the next IAGA was like coming home and being met by real family, with Luciano Tovoli at the head of the table. That is what IMAGO was and, in many ways, remains to be. However, sometimes we all need a reminder that there are more important things to focus on.
To further advance the potential International Society concept, at the 2015 IAGA in Jerusalem Tony Costa AIP and I suggested that the possibility of an IMAGO International Awards for Cinematography be explored. After much work by primarily Tony Costa, this became a reality. Alex Linden FSF suggested the award be designed and made by renowned Swedish artist Åsa Jungnelius. The Awards were first presented in Helsinki, Finland, in 2017 under the presidency of Paul René Roestad.
In 2021, the presidency was also voted international, which first saw the esteemed Kees van Oostrum ASC elected for an all-too-brief period before I took over as interim chair for a short time, followed by Roger Simonsz BSC and Alex Linden who led the Board to the next IAGA and election. This saw Elen Lotman ESC from Estonia, and I elected as co-presidents – a first for IMAGO. The co-vice presidents were Bojana Andrić SAS and Adriana Bernal Martinez AFDC from Colombia. The very proactive general secretary was Aleksei Bercovich RGC.
There was some internal turmoil which saw the resignation of both Elen Lotman and I and the co-vice presidents becoming interim presidents until the IAGA in 2022. They led with vision and patience through an interim period until the most recent General Assembly.
Newly elected president, Mustapha Barat ABC, exudes integrity and lateral thinking, and is the first single non-European president of IMAGO. Looking at the bigger picture, the organisation that now celebrates its 30th anniversary has concluded a 10-year transition to become a fully global force.
Nigel Walters was a staunch advocate for internationalisation, ably supported by Louis-Philippe Capelle. They worked tirelessly to recognise and welcome the Latin American countries into IMAGO, so much so that now we are proud to have a president and vice president from Latin America.
IMAGO continues to offer a real heart to our profession as well as a safety net. The fact that IMAGO is trying to level the playing field in the world of self-employed and freelance cinematographers to enhance their rights and working conditions, particularly in Europe, says a lot.
All member countries need to be thanked for their friendship, camaraderie, and hospitality, which, like cinematography, truly transcends borders. Our membership of IMAGO should be fostered and always encouraged as it is a vital and positive link to our fellow cinematographers worldwide. Having said that, it is the friendships that matter, and this has been sorely tested in recent times.
But through the gloom, clouds dissipate and the sun shines through. I have worked alongside some very fine leaders within IMAGO including Nigel Walters, Paul Rene Roestad, Kees van Oostrum, Elen Lotman as a co-president with myself, Adriana Bernal Martinez, and Bojana Andric, and now Mustapha Barat. Their sole aim was and is to lead IMAGO into an era of prosperity and likeminded thinking.
At times, this has proven to be difficult and seen some member countries decide to leave IMAGO. Those countries include Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, to name a few. However, the ASC has now become a member and the AFC has returned. This has resulted in a revitalised way of thinking that is all inclusive. One can only think that the corner has been turned and we are on a course set for success.
What is tangible about IMAGO? Potentially the greatest gift of all – a voice. A voice for all cinematographers no matter the country or genre. A place where all opinions can be heard and acted on. The capacity of a new, revitalised Federation to bring so many countries together cannot simply be dismissed. IMAGO represents all that is considered fair and representative of our global industry and is open to all opinions. Cinematographers for cinematographers.
IMAGO must and will continue to grow and that is reflected in our Instagram society weekly takeover where British Cinematographer readers can engage with all IMAGO member countries and their incredibly rich and varied cinematography.
Communication: The Spirit of IMAGO.