By Bill Hedrick
They call him “Guy T,” and he is the 2024 President of the Texas Professional Photographers Association, the largest affiliate of the Professional Photographers of America. It’s an awesome responsibility that Guy T. Phillips does not take lightly in a time when professional photographers face new challenges in an ever-changing world of new technology that constantly reshapes the face of our profession.
Like many others before and after him, Guy T was drawn into the world of photography as a child while quenching his thirst for knowledge. “I enjoyed wandering through the World Book Encyclopedia or an Oxford Dictionary, learning meanings and definitions and the backstories the schools didn’t cover. While doing so, I was drawn in by the photographs that accompanied the entries. The works of Matthew Brady and his team stood out, but so did many other black and white images,” he explains. “In the end, I don’t think I chose photography as much as it chose me.”
His own photographic career began about a dozen years ago after more than 26 years with Pitney Bowes, Inc., where Guy T worked as a Technical Sales Consultant before advancing to a position as a National Sales Training Instructor and then Development Manager. “I was very fortunate to work with a constantly-changing group of wonderful people in Fort Worth, Peachtree City (outside of Atlanta, Georgia), and then across the majority of the United States both in-person and online.
“My years with Pitney Bowes took me from sales to a more technical role and into my favorite position as a corporate educator, working with everything from new hires to C-level leadership and external customers as well,” he explains. But when the company decided to down-size, Guy T requested a package quote and, pleased with what was presented to him, decided this was the perfect opportunity to change his life. “It was time.”
His corporate background experience proved to be most useful when Guy T made the decision to become a professional photographer. He had become a goal-driven individual who enjoys understanding how things work and how to help himself by reaching his goals through education. To attain his immediate goals, he looked closer at the works of Matthew Brady, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Gordon Parks, and others. “I’m sure time will introduce new works of interest,” adds Guy T, “as it always has.”
Even before he made the switch to doing photography full-time, Guy T took advantage of the learning tools that the Texas Professional Photographers Association had to offer as well as key individuals like Steve Kozak, Doug Box, Randy Kerr, Mark McCall, and others who sparked those “light bulb moments” in his mind and who were a constant source of encouragement. That list of mentors continues to grow.
His new market area for photography would be DFW and, in the beginning, he would go on-location almost anywhere in the Metroplex. Being a “people person,” Guy T was right at home meeting new people, engaging them in dialogue, and finding their real personalities as they come alive in an image designed to reflect their real selves. However, there was also a need to structure his business along the way for efficiency and profitability and sometimes that is not necessarily by choice.
After lugging photography equipment from one location to the next, Guy T one day noticed some pain in his right hand progressively causing intermittent, yet intense pain. “It was as if a bolt of electricity was shooting up my arm and into my shoulder.” After some tests and discussions with a surgeon, it was determined that the pain was the result of the weight of the equipment Guy T had been carrying around, especially when holding his camera at his side with the weight resting on his index finger.
This unexpected turn of events was an excellent opportunity to minimize his business. Admittedly, his least favorite assignment was photographing large groups, so Guy T decided to concentrate on individual headshots and more intimate portraits. This one-on-one interaction with clients suited him just fine and things could not have been going better… until the summer of 2021.
Guy T’s wife, Janet, was at a regular appointment with her hair-dresser when they found a suspicious-looking place no bigger than a pencil eraser near the top of her head. Medical tests confirmed it was melanoma. She would undergo surgery and several months of follow-up checkups and tests. “For the next six months, Janet and I became closer than ever as we focused on her recovery,” he explains. “She also switched jobs to a less stressful environment. Her confidence was damaged more than anything else.”
It was a challenging time for the Phillips family. By February of 2022, Guy T and Janet were closing in on retirement age and the outlook seemed bright. In April of that year, Janet and their daughter, Laura, decided to take a “girls-only” trip to celebrate Janet’s 60th birthday. While packing for the trip, Janet tried to brush off the mild but steady headache she seemed to be experiencing.
“We checked for COVID, checked for flu and allergies, and even did a CAT scan,” he explains. There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary, so it was off to Puerto Vallarta with daughter, sister, and other family and friends.
On April 9th, the day before her birthday, Janet thought she had tripped when she fell into a water feature in the lobby of the majestic hotel. She was bruised and embarrassed, but everyone missed that second clue.
Not long afterwards, scores of photographers gathered for the TPPA Image Awards Ceremony at the Texas School of Professional Photography. Those of us seated at the same table with Guy T and Janet only noticed a loving couple who were enjoying the evening. None of the rest of us noticed anything out of the ordinary. But Guy T noticed that Janet seemed to be a bit off-balance and stumbled just a bit.
Those of us seated at the same table with Guy T and Janet only noticed a loving couple who
were enjoying the evening. None of the rest of us noticed anything out of the ordinary.
While Guy T was at Texas School that week, he regularly checked on Janet, who indicated her condition was becoming increasingly problematic. Teams of doctors and rounds of tests confirmed their worst fears. “We enlisted a walker and other aids and simply tried to enjoy our time together, 24/7. Her condition deteriorated slowly, but she smiled with every setback and never complained.”
The news would never get better. “Her mood and behaviors also shifted. She became uncharacteristically impatient and blunt. She was disappearing right in front of us.” The only thing left at this point, according to the medical experts was to “take her home.” That time at home was spent with her loving family and Guy T never left her side. Time passed much too quickly and, on June 20, 2022, she was gone.
So, how does someone recover from such a personal tragedy? It is a question that perhaps nobody can answer until it happens to them. Often the road ahead is a long one, and the strength to carry on comes from the memories that will never die. It has been said that adversity makes us stronger and more resilient, helps us to develop new perspectives and a greater appreciation for what we have. Life must go on.
Guy T is no stranger to members of the Texas Professional Photographers, and his webinars and in-person workshops on Adobe Lightroom have made a huge impact on the lives and careers of scores of photographers. He is an energetic teacher who is able to captivate the attention of everyone in the room, and his sincere and caring demeanor sets listeners at ease. He makes friends quite easily.
His work and dedication to the Texas Professional Photographers Association is well-noted, and his advice and expertise on business structure has been invaluable. Along with this, Guy T understands how life and careers evolve, whether it be on purpose or as the result of outside forces, and that photographers and other professionals must be prepared to cope with change and adversity.
He is a man who is driven by a desire to make things better and takes his role as an educator and as a leader very seriously, one who firmly believes that there will always be a market for a truly professional photographer.
His journey to become President of Texas PPA has included leaving behind another great career and committing himself to self-reliance. His involvement with TPPA began early in that transition so he has a special appreciation for what TPPA has to offer to other photographers making their own journey.
Guy T. Phillips, 2024 President
Texas Professional Photographers Association
His work and dedication to the Texas Professional Photographers Association is well noted and his advice and expertise on business structure has been invaluable. Along with this, Guy T understands how life and careers evolve, whether it be on purpose or as the result of outside forces and that photographers and other professionals must be prepared to cope with change and adversity.