Category "Artist Rep"

Paying Homage To Julian Richards, An Irreverent, Demented Master Of Ceremonies Disguised As An Agent

- - Art Producer, Artist Rep

Guest Post by Marni Beardsley, Director of Art Production at Wieden + Kennedy

the news spreading around for the last few months of julian richards closing shop was something you desperately hoped to be a silly rumor. even with his talented photographers asking my opinion on new homes and the website now defunct in such a bizarre way—classic julian—you still wanted to bury your head in the sand. for it’s hard to imagine the photo industry without its eccentric-visionary-genius-bigmouth-wizard in residence. i forgot how much i enjoy julian’s exceptionally unique writing style and musings. his pdn interview with amy wolff is without question the best i’ve read in years. no one to better sum up the industry so eloquently and brutally as julian—always with a healthy dose of sheer hilariousness.

i suppose it’s finally time to pull the ole head out of the arse and say thank you to this wildly captivating, twisted, hysterical, dirty, immensely brilliant man.

it’s long been a privilege to work with julian’s smartly curated roster including chris buck, michael mclaughlin, david barry, greg miller, sian kennedy and the late, great james smolka, among other gifted artists julian has represented over the years. he not only represented the highest caliber artist within his specialized niche, but he also knew the importance of vetting personality. in other words, no pompous assholes allowed. as such, you could count on every last photographer to be kind, dedicated and genuine, delivering nothing but top-shelf-quality content while ensuring an enjoyable, positive experience for all.

but the real treat was getting to watch a true genius in action. an irreverent, demented master of ceremonies disguised as an agent. yet we all knew he was much, much more than that. to say julian was a refreshing respite from the typical agent/art producer dynamic is a gross understatement. as you found yourself hanging onto every fascinating thought that left his crazy, often repulsive mouth, you knew you were gonna be in for one hell of a fun ride, a ride that would be filled with the purpose of achieving nothing but the finest picture taking and creative problem solving i’d ever witnessed.

there are countless stories of working with julian, but one in particular stands out the most. it credits his unconventional solutions or, perhaps better yet, his sheer insanity. and yet julian’s duplicitous plan worked beautifully; the work was off-the-charts exceptional, creatives and clients walked away extremely happy and i was left standing, jaw dropped to the floor.

the concept involved photographing the talent in some sort of bizarre-looking space suit in an environment that obviously didn’t make any sense for him to be in. visually it needed to have a bold, modern, arresting quality with a photojournalistic bent. i helped the art director pull some images from one of julian’s photographers who fit the bill perfectly. we sold the concept through to the client, who also loved it. the next natural step was to enlist julian and his photographer, begin estimating and have the almighty creative conference call.

before we get to that, let me just say my art director gravitates to the outlandish, the twisted, the deranged. edgy isn’t good enough. it needs to be completely fucked up. when the art director and i got on the phone with the photographer to discuss the concept and his approach, we found him to be surprisingly soft-spoken and very sweet, with a solid point of view about his vision and how best to execute it. but when we got off the phone, the art director said he wasn’t sold. “why the hell not? his answers to how it would look were spot-on,” i implored. more than that, it was this very photographer’s images that helped sell through the concept.

the art director questioned whether the photographer’s personality was outrageous enough. he wanted someone as fucked up as the concept. i did my best to explain that, more often than not, it’s the quiet, “normal” ones you gotta watch out for. their deviance is expressed through their work. still, he wasn’t confident enough that his energy would bring out the crazy in the talent. “he’s wearing a fucking hazmat space-suit thingy. how the hell are you supposed to bring out personality in that?” i just didn’t get it.

i immediately called julian and explained the situation. after a barrage of hysterical ricky gervais-esque retorts, he said, “i’ve got it! if he wants an outlandish, perverted personality, let’s give it to him. let’s do the call again after the weekend.”

“how would that change anything?” i asked.

“because i’ll pretend to be the photographer.”

monday came, and we did the call again. this time “the photographer” appeared to have dipped into his secret stash of crack cocaine. he was explosive, spastically spewing all sorts of deranged nonsense at 150 miles per hour. there was no getting a word in if you wanted to; between his brilliant psychobabble he was panting profusely, as if he were simultaneously doing one-handed push-ups.

the art director LOVED it. ate up every word and the crazy energy behind it. toward the end of the call they exchanged some perverted absurdity, and the next thing i knew it was locked and loaded. i stood there in complete shock, desperately trying to contain my laughter. my art director didn’t seem to think it was odd that a person could do a complete 180 in personality. even more shocking, he also didn’t notice that halfway through the diatribe, a heavy british accent crept into the conversation. people often overuse the expression “peed my pants,” but i literally urinated—not in a toilet—from the hilariousness of it all.

sadly, with julian out of the business these ludicrous stories are now a thing of the past. thankfully i have the reminder of a six-foot blow-up doll bequeathed to me by lord richards—much to the confusion of my coworkers and my kids when they visit my office. i do, however, now semi-hide a photograph created by julian’s alter ego, a highly conceptual pervert who goes by the name perkin lovely. the photograph in question is a tightly cropped shot of a naked, pasty-white, hairy man with his package tucked between his legs. in its place is a ridiculously huge black dildo with a toy piglet perched on top, happily waving “hello!” “look, mommy, there’s piglet!” squealed my then-four-year-old daughter when she visited. i realized winnie-the-pooh would have a whole new meaning if i didn’t move it pronto.

better yet are the scintillating emails i’ve squirreled away that span 20 years. these unrestrained and dirty poetic reveries would be better served in the publishing world instead of a folder titled “fucked up brilliant shit” created just for him. if i could share one i would, but i don’t want to get sued.

as wildly successful as julian has been all these years as a photo agent, this legend is more than likely going to blow our minds even further with his next adventure—whatever that may be. i hope it fully utilizes his fantastical performing ability and enviable storytelling that are deeply rooted in this brilliant wordsmith’s dna.

as julian takes his well-deserved final bow, we are left with no other option than to applaud wildly with much gratitude and respect. and maybe even a little bit of urine in our pants.

—marni beardsley on behalf of the art production departments at wieden+kennedy

What To Look For When Signing A Contract With An Agent

- - Artist Rep

On the heels of our interview with Howard Bernstein about photographers landing agents I have a question from a reader about contracts with agents. I asked APE contributor Suzanne Sease since she’s seen it all to weigh in on what percentage is reasonable and what to look for when signing a contract with an agent. Here’s her answer:

So many times folks think just because they have an agent, the phone is going to ring and the bank account is going to be full. STOP! Make sure you do your research before you sign any contract. A contract is a legal binding agreement that costs some photographers 6 figures to get out of. Before you sign, you must have it reviewed by a lawyer who understands this business.

The standard is 25-30% of the fees, but you need to be really careful with house accounts – you have to decide if you are going to be in charge of your house accounts with no compensation or a reduced compensation. You have to make a detailed list of who are on those accounts from the beginning since you usually can’t add someone in later. You have to discuss up front the expenses for travel, portfolio showings and marketing.

I believe it is crucial that you handle all financial expenses through your business and not the agents. When you receive payment, then you send your agent their cut. All estimates should be sent to you and the client on the same e-mail so you know what they received. That way there’s never a problem with missing fees, underreported income or timely payment.

Severance should have a limit of time for the payment of the accounts they either have established a solid relationship with or brought in as an account. I have seen clients who can’t switch agents because the severance is too lengthy and would cost them too much money. There are a lot of great agents but at the same time, there are some really bad ones. If your agent has a good reputation, they will be great for your business but if they don’t then they can kill your career. It is important for you to talk to photographers in their roster and ones who have left. If you can reach out to a consultant, art buyer or art director.

How Does A Photographer Land An Agent?

- - Artist Rep

APE contributor Meaghen Brown interviews Howard Bernstein about the most often asked question we get.

Considered among New York’s most respected photography agents, Howard Bernstein, has been keeping an eye on talented photographers for over 25 years now, and his artists management firm, Bernstein and Andriulli, now boasts a hot-list of clients ranging from Adidas to The New Yorker. We caught up with him for a bit of insight as to how the relationship between photographers and agents actually works.

MB: So how does it start? How does a photographer approach a rep?

HB: I think it kind of happens in two ways. Sometimes we’re approached by recognizable talent that we’re definitely already aware of, and in that case it’s a pretty straightforward email. Basically, “Hello Howard, I’d like to discuss possible representation.”  And that’s usually fine, but part of doing our job is knowing who’s out there and what’s going on. The other type of email we get tends to be, “I’m looking for an agent, please look at my work.”

MB: What does a photographer do to get to the point where they’re even on your radar?

HB: It’s a whole host of things. It could be that they’re shown by a gallery that we recognize or follow. It could be that they’ve published books. It could be that they shoot for magazines and we’re seeing their editorial work out there. And then there’s just being contact with art buyers and art producers at various agencies. The point is that we’re aware of who’s out there and who’s shooting with who.

MB: Once that initial email has been sent, how are you vetting those photographers?

HB: I get many emails every day, and I used to be able to look through all of them, but that’s not really possible anymore. My advice to photographers is that their website be easy to navigate. Not a Flash site, and not one that takes time to load. If I’m not recognizing the person, it’s also helpful if their note to me is more in a traditional cover letter style where they’re saying why they want to be represented by us, not just that they’re looking for an “agent,” and also how they think they would fit into the agency. That’s very helpful.

MB: How many photographers can you take on at a time?

HB: Not too many. There’s only a few people every year that get hired. Our firm represents about 50 photographers. We also have quite a few agents so the ratio is about six or seven to one of agent to talent.

MB: Do you think that allows the agents to form a strong relationship with the talent?

HB: Absolutely, there’s no other way to do it.

MB: Do you ever have trouble with photographers saying “why aren’t you getting me any work?”

HB: There’s always that question when a photographer is busy or slow. I think we try to manage that with our talent as a collective process. The photographer and agent work together to take a look at everything- from what we’re doing to the work that we’re actually showing.

MB: What is your day to day interaction with your talent?

HB: It really just depends on the talent. There are photographers who we speak to occasionally when we have work, but they may be in Europe or other parts of the world. And then there are photographers that we talk to 15 times a day because there may be work that’s going on. With some talent we may be involved with the complete management of their career.

MB: I think you touched on this during the talk you gave in Palm Springs in April, but what are the right questions that a photographer should ask when seeking representation?

HB: From smaller agencies to larger agencies, the primary question is, “who’s the actual agent that will be managing my career,” which means asking questions like: How will they manage, and what kind of personal selling will they do? How often? Are they out there nation-wide or just in a specific region? Do they cover New York, LA, Chicago and Texas; or are they just in the Northeast? What is the business arrangement that takes place? How are agreements handled? What kind of marketing dollars are involved? etc. Sometimes people do their own marketing while other times agencies do their marketing as a group, so that’s something else to be aware of.

MB: And in terms of pairing a photographer with a client, how does that part work?

HB: It’s a combination of marketing your talent properly so the clients are aware of what’s out there and then, of course, name brand talent. There are people we represent that client are very aware of and about 80% of the time, they’ll call and request a specific photographer for a specific job.

MB: Would you ever take on a photographer who was fairly ‘green’ but very talented and had maybe written you a great cover letter?

HB: Definitely. There’s a photographer by the name of Jamie Chung. I saw his work at a portfolio review at a college and basically I signed him right of college.

MB: So is that another thing that you’re doing, looking within the realms of Universities and Colleges too?

HB: Usually at this time of year, all the colleges reach out to us- whether it’s SVA or Syracuse or College of Art- different colleges come to New York with their senior class, typically wanting us to see what the students have been up to and to offer whatever advice we can. These students are about to go off into the real world. The portfolio review I attended had to do with a class. I was asked to come in and talk to the class about the business of photography and I happened to see that portfolio.

Lifestyle Photographer Wanted

- - Artist Rep

Once in awhile I see a cryptic email from someone who knows someone who is looking to add a photographer to their roster. I received this non-cryptic email a couple days ago and think it’s pretty bold and cool of Mollie to just put it out there. The language on the request should give you a good idea what all agents are looking for when you approach them: who are you, how much money do you make, who are your clients, what do you want from an agent and what do your pictures look like.

Mollie Jannasch from Agency MJ is currently taking submissions to consider new lifestyle talent.

Please send your submission for consideration to:
Mollie Jannasch – mollie@agencymj.com
Please submit:
1 paragraph (no more) stating who you are, your current client roster, 2009 billing, what you are looking for from an agent and what you can offer (no more than 300 words please)
1 PDF portfolio – (with a minimum of 20 images)
Link to Website
All submissions are confidential