The Daily Edit – Stock Pot Images: Ophelia Chong

- - The Daily Edit

Cover photo by Bettina Monique

 

 

Feature story by Josh Fogel

 

Above Images: Seagrass Photography

 


Photographer: James Walker

Stock Pot Images

Heidi: How long did you watch the trends in market before you felt it was a viable business?
Ophelia: My sister came to visit and she has an autoimmune disease, and she took a chance on ingesting cannabis to see if it could alleviate her condition, as I was watching her I thought “whoa, she’s a stoner”, it made me sad to think she would be stereotyped as that and not as a medical patient. A day later I had an epiphany that came to me in the shower to start a cannabis stock agency, I jumped out of the shower and started to google images, and found all of them lacking and stereotypical. A month later I had the LLC in my hands. Before January 8th, 2015, I might have smoked cannabis about ten times. I hit the ground like a tornado, read, got a medical marijuana card, went to dispensaries, attended cannabis events, I dove in like a crane after a sardine. With 28 states including DC having some cannabis legislation, the timing was perfect. California just passed Prop 64 which allows adult use of cannabis, and the prediction is $6.46 billion by 2020, and StockPot Images is there to service the needs of this unstoppable industry. After launching 4/20/2015 we are now over 200 contributors and over 17K in images and video. After careful consideration of the wonderful agencies that approached us, last Monday March 6th we signed an exclusive agreement with Adobe Stock to carry our library in the Premium Collection, this was a wonderful validation of our hard work over the last two years.  NOTE: Predictions from Forbes and revenue estimates from Time Magazine.

Have you observed market trends before and responded?
When I was the creative director for Workbook Stock, I was a huge fan of DIY zines, I started to see a resurgence of the hand-made, the guerilla style, the collageing of emphera and what I wanted to do was to take that for Workbook Stock’s marketing. I pitched the idea to give an artist our stock photography and to add their own illustrative style and incorporate it into a piece that spoke about creativity inspired by stock photography. I hired Adam Larson to create his sensual photo collages, his work won multiple awards and set him on his path out of an agency to his own.

If I wanted to be a contributor for the agency, what’s the process?
Cannabis has been prohibited in the US for 80 years, and because of that access to the plant was controlled. That being said, there are not many photographers of cannabis out there, at the beginning I searched Flickr, and social media to sign my first photographers, after 3 months I no longer need to search, I get inquiries every week and on the average sign 2 – 3 a week. All anyone has to do is to reach out to me and send me a portfolio to look at.

Do you have a team that reviews the caption and strains?
No, I am a one woman band, from curator to office manager to keyworder to bill payer.

You were the creative director at Workbook, what sets your agency apart ( features, specificity?)  
The most obvious is that we specialize in cannabis digital media, and I went from a staff of many to just myself, what I learned while at Workbook was what everyones’ responsibilities were. I observed and asked questions, and learned on the fly, under at times the most stressful times. I remember there was a period where I was designing a magazine, two stock books on top of my normal workload. I produced, curated, designed and sourced everything, and because of that I was able to get the full spectrum from idea to fulfillment.

How else are you connected to the industry?
Community Liaison: THC Design
I have been given the chance to lead the community outreach for a company that has the most diverse staff I’ve been a part of. I am working with veterans, LGBT, disabled and minority communities. My program is not about putting the THC logo on an event or to get “likes” on social media, it is about grass roots work to build a community that we advocate and become advocates for cannabis.

Creative Consultant:  PUSH MAG
I have worked with Abigail Ross at Dope over a year, and we produced feature articles and covers for Dope together with the photographers of StockPot Images. After Abigail left, we along with five other women created PUSH MAG, a magazine that is for the millennial woman in cannabis. Our mission is to be a voice that pushes back, to encourage other women, to celebrate the intrinsic need to be a strong community by saying it’s okay to scream and kick out of the box.

Asian Americans for Cannabis Education: Co-founder / Presently running the whole shebang

I took over AACE from my other co-founders, they had a full plate so I am not carrying the mantel. My goal is to find like-minded Asians in the cannabis community to help de-stigmatize the medicinal use of cannabis. In the last month I’ve found many who are going to join this journey with me, from all walks of life.

What other organizations are you involved with that an aligned with Stock Pot Images?
I am involved with Supernova Women, we are women of color in the cannabis industry, we educate, we promote, we support. ( I am going to be on the board of directors in mid march)

How did that name come about for the agency?
I had names on the whiteboard; all of them were too “weed-centric”. One day I was standing in the kitchen staring at a pot….

It took me a year to get the trademark, because each time the USTPO attorney clicked on the site, their “warning” radar came up. Then it was that the term “stock pot” was too generic, so my attorney suggested “stockpot” and it went through.

My banking story is since I am ancillary, I can get a bank account. However the bank I was with over 2 decades turned me down, I took all my money out of the bank and walked across the street to another bank and they took me on without a word. Cannabis is a schedule one drug so therefore you cannot have a bank account, it is a major downside to the industry that we have to manage all of in cash.

What’s the creative ethos behind the imagery?
Our mission is to offer the true faces and communities of cannabis, none of the subjects are models, and all are real users who signed model releases because they believe in our mission. We have two portraits that I am most proud of, one is of a 70-year-old African-American man, in his Sunday best holding a joint, the other a 90-year-old Chinese grandmother tending to her small cannabis plants. The gentleman is heavy with history, the history of incarceration of African-American men for the simple possession of cannabis.

A Chinese Grandmother tends to her Cannabis Plants by Linus Shentu

African-Americans only make up 13% of the population of the US, yet they make up 25% of prisoners, 60% of the people in jail are people of color. The Chinese grandmother represents the duality of the Chinese immigrant to follow the law and to not rock the boat; she is changing the paradigm by doing what she does on a daily basis.

Do you art direct photographers?
I only art direct my photographers (195 of them) when we need specific images. I am delightfully surprised by each of their uploads, it’s Christmas everyday.

Heidi Volpe

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