Continuing the Conversation with NYC Art Producers. Part III: The Dessert

For those of you just joining us, welcome to Community Table  NYC  – the latest series of blog posts sharing conversations held directly with our community leaders about top of mind industry issues. Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.

To see the two previous posts , please link to the  Appetizer and Main Course  portions.


As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing.  Not surprisingly, many of the answers were similar to those of our LA colleagues.   Therefore, rather than sharing the entire conversation, we included the original question and then the quotes and notes that were most relevant.  Please note, often times the person leading the conversation spoke most often. The first question in the Main Course portion of our series was addressed to Hilary Jackson of  Saatchi & Saatchi.

CONVERSATION STARTER #7: The Power of Pay to Play Events

There is a rise in the “pay to play” events where photographers pay a fee or pay into a program that allows them direct access to creatives and/or art producers.  The organizers sometimes offer compensation to the reviewers in an effort to elevate the seriousness of the event and show a respect for the reviewer’s time.  Have you participated in these events in the past?  If so, do you see this as a positive trend and if not, why?  What is it about these types of events that are most successful and what do you feel could be improved upon? 

“I’m new to New York so I’ve had a very positive experience with this because it allowed me to meet with a lot of photographers I hadn’t met before because I was primarily a West Coast art producer. I’ve been doing a lot of FotoWorks and was paid $100 for 3 hours. For every terrible photographer you meet, you meet someone you think you might be able to use for something. It could be someone you would never have come in contact with or ignored on email or promo and actually had a face-to-face with them. And I thought it was a good event. The more you can face-to-face with an art buyer or producer I think it’s a win/win. And it’s a good way for artists to connect and get feedback on their portfolio, especially those with no rep.” Hilary Jackson, Saatchi & Saatchi

“I’ve been to the Art Director’s Club photography and illustrator reviews. It depends. I think it’s a good way to connect with art buyers, especially if they don’t have an agent and don’t have a lot of opportunity to get a lot of feedback on their work. It can be awkward when you don’t like the work.  Overall, I thought there were so many passionate people and it made me realize I loved the industry I’m in because there is so much passion. Ultimately it’s art.  And when they followed up with me, I had a connection and stayed on top of them.” Unattributed

I had a moral sense that I couldn’t take their money for something I would have done for free, but I did do it. So felt I had to be very honest.”  Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.

The amount of money is not a huge sum, but the idea of compensation is more about being respectful and so you take it seriously.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“I have found that when the people I’ve found through these events have followed up with me I’ve been attentive, have responded and followed them. You kind of owe it to them. If you’ve asked to see me in this forum, I’m going to give you a little bit more.  I also think people are very stretched and don’t have the luxury of time that they had in the past to sit down and take appointments. Everyone is understaffed. If you can donate a day of your time and give something back, it’s a good thing to do.

And it’s a great thing for photographers. I think they need to do their homework and find out what kind of work reviewers do. And if they go, they should take advice and make changes before going again. It’s not the place to get work necessarily. It’s about feedback as well. And if they come back and sign up with you again, they should make the changes you recommended.”  Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

Our time is valuable. I remember asking for a bottle of water and was given a Dixie cup.” Andrea Kaye, McCann

Julia Menassa, Amy Zimmerman, Jamie Applebaum

CONVERSATION STARTER  #8: Email marketing

Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

The use of email marketing has greatly expanded in the past few years.  As email campaigns are something that we all encounter on a daily basis, how do you currently view email marketing? What type of email blast breaks through the clutter in your inbox and entices you to open it?  Will you provide thoughts and experiences on successful and unsuccessful email campaigns?  Is there a general consensus with your creatives on how they view email promotions. Do you think they evaluate email campaigns in the same way that you might or do they have their own criteria?

“I feel like this was touched on earlier. Email marketing is something we obviously get overloaded on, but it’s ingrained as part of our work and we go through promos every day. It’s very personal as far as what catches my eye because it’s what I like or is relevant to what I’m working on which I don’t think people can necessarily target. Do your research and send to relevant art buyer or producer. This is the best you can do and there is nothing else that can be done about the volume.” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

“Do you think the fervor over people who have gone crazy over too much email has gone down?”  Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“I think when things get slow, people tend to market more and we end up with hundreds of emails in our inbox and I delete, delete, delete, especially when they have large attachments.” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

“I assume you would rather get an email from a photographer saying they liked your work on a specific project with some relevant images. It says a bit more about what they are thinking about.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

Sometimes I’ve deleted things with big attachments and then five minutes later will get another one. Do people track who opens their email and re-send if you haven’t opened it?” Unattributed

You can’t see who has deleted it, so if it’s resent it is generally a mistake.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

“Would you be more apt to open one email from a rep with news from all their photographers? If I know you’re deleting a lot of emails and I send from all eight of my photographers separately, then you may get to see one of them.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“I personally like the newsletters. I look through them, click and take the time because it’s got everyone in one email. I can click right through to what I want to read more about.” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch


When hiring a photographer for pro bono work, is there an expectation that the photographer will cover some or all of the expenses as well as donating their time to the project? When you are given a pro bono project to manage, do you normally assign it to be artists you have already worked with or are you open to new artists?  Do you think it is a positive thing for a photographer to mention their willingness to shoot pro bono work? 

I never expect the photographer to pay part of the expenses. We expect a skeleton crew and we pay the crew.”  Betsy Jablow, BBDO

I’m going to tie this in to the subject of awards. I think the creative directors really go for the people they want to work with. They come with a half-baked idea and then it gets more expensive. And then the photographer might be expected to pay for it. Agencies want to win awards, so call important photographers who want this as well.

A pro bono  account has a moral responsibility to support their client’s cause. There’s a huge pressure for awards. You’re not going to work with someone who might be good at it. They want to win awards, whose really good and they have confidence in. You’re basically calling in favors from photographers who also want to win awards.

I just did a project where I wouldn’t have expected the photographer to put in any money. But their reality is that it took three days instead of one day. It can also be a way for a photographer to work with a creative they are interested in working with.

I’ve seen photographers go all in and have it turn to nothing and also some who have had their careers reinvented.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

QUESTION FOR ALL: Collaboration

What one word would you use to describe a successful collaboration?



Enough time





On same page


Creatively inspired mutuality



Happy Enthusaism





QUESTION FOR ALL: State of our Industry

What one word would you use to describe the state of our industry right now?











No rules


(chaotic) Dynamic

In flux




If you would like to read  insights from the Community Table LA or our Community Table NYC Appetizer and Main Course posts, please link here.  And, stay tuned  in 2013 for our Community Table San Francisco.  We will be totally changing our questions so please submit any you would like for us to consider here.

And, as always, thank you  Allison McCreery of POP Blog for your flawless transcription and partnership on this project.


Kate Chase, Heather Elder, Lauranne Lospalluto, Matt Nycz, Alison McCreery

9 thoughts on “Continuing the Conversation with NYC Art Producers. Part III: The Dessert

  1. Pingback: Are “Pay To Play” Events Where Photographers Pay For Access To Creatives Good?

  2. This past October I participated (as a photographer) at two “Pay To Play” events. I met with 40 reviewers at NYC Fotoworks, and 10 reviewers at the PSPF PDN Jacob Javits events. I did my best to research the reviewers I was scheduled to meet with, and to incorporate any reviewer preferences mentioned in the PSPF bios (these were very helpful). Over the past two-years I’ve been working on an ongoing collection/portfolio of new black and white photographs. My main motivation for signing up for the portfolio reviews was to obtain feedback on the new work, and to use this feedback to improve additions to this collection/portfolio.

    It would have taken me a year, and a lot of time and expense to schedule the same number of meetings, providing of course it were even possible. And in that time I would not be able to develop as quick or complete a consensus on what was working best or least with the audience. Additionally, I would rather devote my energies to being a photographer and not a marketer. Allotting one week for a concentrated marketing/interaction made sense, and going forward allows me to use my time more wisely and productively.

    During the downtime waiting to meet with the next reviewer, photographers in the holding room adjacent to the meeting room had the benefit of networking and sharing their work with fellow photographers. This lent an additional and often beneficial viewpoint.

    There’s really no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. I believe both reviewer and photographer learned as much from what was spoken and was not. Seeing someone’s expression as they look at each photo in the portfolio, and which photos elicited comments was valuable. Personally, I found the events energizing — now I’m over-energized — if I drank a cup of coffee I’d be in orbit.

    From my vantage point each event showed great appreciation for the reviewers time — both had catered food and offered a pleasant (even if occasionally chaotic) environment. I know my fellow photographers and I were very grateful and appreciative.

  3. Regarding CONVERSATION STARTER #8: Email marketing

    I’ve been hearing lately from Reps and photographers who are getting nasty emails back from some advertising creatives they’re sending email promos to. Nasty in the “I’m going to make sure you never work for us or anyone I know if you keep sending this junk” vein. This isn’t just a couple instances, it’s actually becoming more common from what I’ve heard (I’ve had my share of “take me off your list now!” responses, but nothing that I would consider nasty.).

    I find this a little disturbing and unprofessional that these people would threaten someone in that way and even somewhat hypocritical given the industry they’re in.

    I think if you’re a photographer marketing to someone over email you need to have an easy opt out method and to stop when asked. If you’re sending to people who have already told you to stop… then yes, you deserve to get called out on it. But for a creative to threaten you because you’re sending them an email is out of line. I get quite a lot of emails from recent grads asking me if I need an assistant. I may not love the emails, but I’m not going to be rude or threaten the people sending them. It just goes along with the industry.

    Regarding CONVERSATION STARTER #7: The Power of Pay to Play Events

    I think I’ve posted in the comments section here on a past post about NYC FotoWorks… I’ve gone two years in a row and I think it’s a good use of time and marketing money as long as the reviewers are quality and change enough year to year so I’m seeing new people each time I go.

    However, I’m starting to worry that these portfolio review events are going to become the new “photo contests” of the photography world. There used to be a few good photo contests that were worth photographer’s time and money for the exposure if you got in. Now, there are photo contests literally every week (I’m sure PDN would have a photo contest of the day if they could). These contests are just a way to collect money off photographers hoping to gain some exposure. With the over saturation of contests, if you do get in, chances are nobody will even notice. Hopefully the portfolio review events won’t go down that road with more and more review events providing less and less return on the photographers investment.

  4. I went to my first portfolio review at PDN Expo this year. I researched the reviewers carefully before I went. Saw 10 people. I got excellent constructive feedback. I was very happy with my investment in time and money. It was a great way to see several quality reviewers in a short amount of time. I plan to go back next year.

  5. On the subject of paying reviewers: It’s near impossible to get a photographer’s work in front of most of the people who are reviewing – so the reviews are a great opportunity – but is this tantamount to slipping a few bucks to a high-level person to look at your work when they won’t see you in their offices? I don’t think the reviewers should take money to do this work – it’s an important part of their job to see new photographers – isn’t it?

    • HI there.

      Thank you for commenting – we really appreciate keeping the conversation going. Yes, the reviews are great. I do however think it is important for them to charge for their time. If they were charging while at their desks during a workday, that would be different. However, they are taking their off work time to offer their expertise and insight and for this they should be compensated. Just my opinion….

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