So often people want to know the story behind the photographer or the creative on a project, but what about the art producer? Art production is such an interesting job to say the least. The people I know in this position come from such rich and diverse backgrounds and rarely do they follow the same path to become one. Understanding this, I thought it would be fun to host a series of interviews with art producers that doesn’t just address how to get their attention, but instead celebrate the art producer for who they are, where they came from and what is important in their life.
Kathy Lando, is currently a Senior Art Buyer for Team People at Bank of America. I loved learning that she too has a connection to Polaroid and I laughed out loud when I read what she answered on her SAT questionnaire to the interests question. Seems like an art buyer is the perfect combination of all those interests! Thank you Kathy Lando for agreeing to be part of this series.
Here is what she had to say:
Not all art producers take the same path to their job. Where did yours start and how did you end up as an art producer?
As a child growing up, I was fortunate enough to have young parents that appreciated the arts and exposed my siblings and I to various art forms by visiting museums, live performance, craft stores and festivals. They encouraged creative aural and visual artistic expression by providing us with instruments and supplies to explore our creativity. My mother sculpted clay, created pastel paintings, and my father played in rock bands. Creative expression was a necessity in my home growing up and still is today.
I developed a love for photography in elementary school and then continued on from there. With a 110 camera, a Polaroid and later a Ricoh KR-5. I enjoyed setting things up to tell a visual story. I used to set up scenes and take pictures of my Barbie dolls dressed up for a date, having a dinner with friends, frolicking in the pool you name it. In junior high I would have my youngest brother pose while eating his oatmeal with the Quaker oats box next to him and ask him to make different expressions while lifting his spoon. In my final semester of high school, I had an internship at celebrity stock photo agency Retna Ltd that opened my world to photo editing and research as a profession. This led to a full-time job at Retna working in photo research and assignment services. I really enjoyed working with photographers to make client requests become a reality. I find creative people endlessly interesting both in the work they choose to make as well as their temperament and different approaches to accomplish their work. After gaining experience at two other stock agencies — Gamma Liaison Agency and Photonica, now part of Getty — I heard one of my clients, Loni Pont, had an opening. She was rumored to have a dual life as a nightclub singer. I liked that and sent my resume to her and landed the stock buyer job at the ad agency that had too many names: Messner, Vetere, Berger, McNamee, Schmetterer which after many name changes is current-day Havas. She was my manager for a week and then left but I stayed for 5 ½ years and went from only buying stock to commissioning shoots.
How does being an art producer differ from your other jobs?
From the beginning of my adult working life I sought out jobs that worked with photography or art in one capacity or another either with the artists selling or promoting their work to purchasing or commissioning original work. I have had to change my perspective as buyer or seller but the work has been very similar. There is always a creative challenge that needs to be tackled and a budget that has to be managed to get me there.
What are the most important skills from your previous jobs that transferred over to an art producer?
It seems obvious but going into every job kick off with an open mind, listen, take notes, contribute to the dialog and be flexible so you can collaborate with your team and have a great end result.
Did you always know you wanted to work in advertising?
I recently came across my SAT scores and apparently the application asked what occupations interested me. I put advertising, journalism and psychology. So, since I was a junior in high school the industry had an interest to me.
Did you ever consider becoming a photographer yourself?
I attended SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology for commercial photography which was a two-year AAS degree program then. I enjoyed taking portraits and working in the darkroom there but quickly knew fashion was not my thing. From my time at Retna I developed a desire to photograph entertainers so I would try get photo passes for concerts I wanted to see or assist photographers. I submitted spec work to the Village Voice, Spin, the New York Press and fanzines. At one point, I put up flyers around the East Village to take headshots or band shots but that did not last because it wasn’t really enough to buy better photo equipment, or to pay the rent for that matter.
We all grow up with influences that make us who we are today. Can you share one or two experiences that have influenced your art producer style?
I worked to pay for college and my own apt off campus which meant I was very busy and money had to be budgeted and planned for carefully in addition to my time. I had many part time jobs that had to fit with my schedule so I could accomplish classwork, pay bills and still enjoy myself once in a while. Often times I tried to combine efforts. It was the beginning of multitasking that is required of being an art producer.
My first agency job, at Messner, the person who later became my manager, Julie Rosenoff liked to see many photographers and look at a lot of work. She had an open door to up-and-coming photographers as well as established ones. She always had tons of portfolios and magazines in her office. She taught me that it is really important to see as much new work as possible and keep your eyes always open.
Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?
I feel like I am kind of all over the place but I like it that way. I lean towards the more natural, seemingly less retouched, however thoughtfully composed. I like imagery that tells a story or that has a sense of wonder, humor or mystery to it. I also like work that is so complex that I can marvel at the skill of the artist and want to see them in in their process and in action. My personal aesthetic does not always meet my clients’ needs though.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Being an art producer is being a visual problem solver and a liaison between different personalities. The client and the creatives do not always agree on how to handle certain ideas both from a budget perspective and visual perspective. It is part of the art buyer’s responsibility to aid in bringing visions together so that in the end both are happy with results and it is successful.
What are you known for on your team?
I work well under pressure have a good memory and I am good at noticing details.
What do you love about your job?
Aesthetics change in advertising therefore the creative teams you work with change. With changing visual trends or clients it enables me to work with different people but also I am presented with new visual challenges and problems to solve.
What one word describes your style as an art buyer?
I don’t like to label myself or anyone else because things change but wide-eyed might say it.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday?
I have hard time with picking a favorite of anything. If I can be with my family, and/ or friends enjoying the outdoors and/ or seeing some kind of art and having good conversation I am at my happiest. I also enjoy cooking with fresh ingredients from the farmers market or our CSA or creative projects at home, with my children such as making natural homemade bath bombs, lotions and scrubs, and art from recycled materials.