It is always flattering to hear from a reader that they enjoy the blog and find it helpful. We work hard to make the content relevant and interesting so we appreciate hearing that we are doing just that! Recently, I received an email from a photographer in Russia about how much he enjoyed the blog and even though the market in Russia was not like that in the US, he learned from it nonetheless. Connecting to people in other countries about what we are doing here and having the content be meaningful to them was something we never considered but knowing that it is happening is important to us now. Thank you Alexander Bulanov for reading our blog, letting us know it is helpful, making a connection with us and reposting our content. And, thank you for interviewing me for your blog. I wonder how I sound in Russian?
1) How did you became a photographers’ representative? What has driven you in your choice?
I was asked this question once before and think the answer I gave then still holds true.
My father worked for Polaroid for many years while I was growing up. He would bring home cases of film and let me play with the camera and take all the pictures I wanted to take. That was unheard of then. Film was so expensive and photography was not for children.
I like to think that my love for this business started then.I majored in marketing and communications at Boston University and graduated convinced that I would work in advertising for my career. My first job was at a very creative advertising agency called Leonard Monahan Lubars and Kelly. There, I learned about client service and the value of the creative process. I worked mostly on the Polaroid and Hit Or Miss accounts. Both were very photography heavy and allowed me to fall in love with photography all over again.
Then, scandal hit and I fell in love with my boss (who is now my husband!). It was totally frowned upon at the agency so I decided to reach out to my photography friends for networking opportunities. A photographer that I was very close with at the time suggested that I become an agent. I was not interested in that at all because in my mind no one liked agents!
She convinced me to meet her agent. Who in turn convinced me to meet Carol Kaplan, a children’s and still life photographer in Boston that needed a rep, producer and studio manager. I will always be grateful to her for taking a chance on me and providing me with a safe environment to learn.
Your question makes me look back on that time and realize that all the things I love about being an agent were imprinted long before I ever was one; a love of photography, an appreciation for creativity and a mutual respect for the people who make it all happen.
2) You have eight outstanding photographers on your roster. How long had it take to gather these talents together? What were the reasons you’ve chosen these specific ones?
I have been an agent for almost twenty years. Two of my photographers I have represented almost that long and one of them fifteen years. The others have been with us between one and six years. I have always felt like assembling a group is an art and it takes special attention to what the market needs as well as what we think we can represent well.
We are always looking to fine tune the group and make it stronger, whether it be parting ways with a photographer we no longer able to represent well or adding someone that will attract more clients. I would say then that it has taken a career to assemble them all.
Every photographer represents a different need within our group and we try very hard not to sign on photographers that compete in style. They may share a category such as people or lifestyle but their styles will for sure be different.
I also look to find talent that I feel I can collaborate and partner with and ones that share the same ideas on marketing and sales as we do. I wrote a post titled Dear Photographer that outline more our thoughts on how we choose photographers.
3) Let’s add a bit of personal taste. Imagine that you are about to add a new photographer to your roster. What professional, creative and technical skills you will be looking for? What about personalities? First and foremost the photographer and I have to have a connection. Our personalities cannot clash. Only nice, respectful, friendly photographers need apply. And then of course, I do look for imagery that I think is marketable.
It is important to make sure that I can market the work so if it isn’t relevant to what is happening in the marketplace, we won’t be able to sell it. It is also important that the photographer be a business person. Do they understand all that it takes to run their business beyond taking incredible images?
4) Now, from your own experience perspective, what you maybe have changed in your career, your professional relations, or your vision at some point?
A few years ago, I noticed that the landscape of the photography business was changing. New medias were being introduced and where photography had been a viable choice for advertising clients in the past, the clients were starting to consider alternative advertising forms that did not require photography at all.
I wrote a post about it called, Have You Picked Out Your New Glasses Yet? It outlined what I thought was happening in the marketplace and how we all needed to put on some new glasses to see the changing landscape more clearly. Without those glasses, we would not be able to make an effective plan. Our group found their glasses and together we navigated through the evolution and found a way to stay viable in a changing market.
5) Is there any possibility that you turn back the rep business and start doing something completely different?
I look back on my career and am proud of the decisions I made, the paths I took and the way I handled myself. If I were change anything, I think I would have parted ways with certain photographers sooner. I am loyal and always believe in the talent we represent so when it comes time to admit that something is not working, I want to keep trying. In the long run however, it would be better for everyone involved to realize this earlier on in the relationship and move on sooner.
6) As a conclusion, two advices for emerging photographers from a rep’s point of view?
1) Shoot Shoot Shoot. There is nothing more important to your career as a professional photographer than taking inspiring images to share with the world.
2) Network. If you aren’t shooting, you should be sharing your work with as many people as possible. The single most important thing you can do for your career if you are not creating new work is to share it with people.