Do’s And Don’ts For Finding A Commercial Photography Agent

This guest re-post comes from Mark Winer at The Gren Group. The original post appeared here.

We’ve added some new talent to our roster recently, and with that often comes questions from photographers about how to find representation. So this is for you, the aspiring photographer searching for that perfect relationship with an agency representative. There is (as of this writing) no for the photography industry – so we are are going to summon up 18 years of experience and give you the tools for your big search.

Rather than writing a long dissertation on the process of finding a rep, we’ve decided to give you a Cliffs Notes version – a handy, tried and true list to follow throughout your search. Please keep in mind this is aimed at photographers who are interested in working with agents who have mostly commercial clients. The TOP TEN Do’s and Don’ts below will vary based on your objective.

Here goes:


DO know that we get between 15 and 20 unique photographer requests each month. We may add just one new photographer a year, so you really need to stand out.
DO your research. Personalize your message to the rep you’re reaching out to and reference something worthwhile and specific. Find some common ground.
DO prove your business model. Show us that your own photography skills and marketing efforts have gotten you enough work where you need a business partner to help manage your growing business.
DO know thyself. What kind of photographer are you? Fashion? Lifestyle? Conceptual? Still Life? You should come to us already with a strong brand and self identity. We should be able to ‘know’ you in 90 seconds or less.
DO support the US Postal Service (before they close your branch)! Mail us samples of the great promos you’ve been sending to clients.
DO share your most recent commercial success stories – recognizable brands really get our attention. This is kind of a ‘what have you done lately’ business.
DO tell us about the industry trade shows you’ve attended and the Art Producers or Creative Directors you’ve met with recently. Feel free to name drop – we may have connections in common!
DO be respectful, appreciative and humble. A good personality goes a long way.
DO be patient and realistic. This is a relationship business. It can take years for the rep to build relationships with both clients and photographers.
DO have a reasonable advertising & promotion budget. Attracting the attention of ad agency clients, and building relationships with them, can require an extensive financial commitment.


DON’T email us generic comments like “new website!” or “just want to take my photography to the next level”. Be creative – include the whats, whens and whys. First impressions are important!
DON’T worry if we don’t get back to you right away. We make every effort to respond to all requests – which can sometimes take several days or weeks, depending on our workload.
DON’T be a beauty, fashion, conceptual or product photographer if you’re reaching out to us. Nothing personal, just not our area of expertise. Do your research first, and know the agent – there are plenty of great reps who market celebrity & automotive work.
DON’T be lazy. Success in this business requires a ton of ambition, passion, and a positive outlook. Enthusiasm is contagious – clients and reps can feed off your energy.
DON’T worry if most of the projects come from your leads in the first year or two. That’s to be expected. After all, you’ve been promoting your own commercial work for the last 5-10 years, and we’ve just gotten started.
DON’T send us a personal Facebook request after just one email. We’re big fans of social media, so show us you know the difference between networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, etc …
DON’T be a photographer with only personal, fine art or wedding work. It may be beautiful, but we are advertising assignment reps – the work must be commercially viable and contain high production value.
DON’T be a prima donna. Character is very important – we prefer humble, appreciative, collaborative and genuine.
DON’T get bogged down into thinking that you must have a rep to build your business! Plenty of great photographers have achieved commercial success without representation.
DON’T get frustrated if you have no luck getting a rep in the first few months (or years) of trying. Take that as a sign that you have to continue working harder and smarter to appeal to an agent.

Hope this helps a little. The right photographer/agent partnership can be a great thing – creative, challenging, lucrative, rewarding and fun. It’s also a lot like a marriage, whose success relies on mutual understanding, respect and communication. And like a marriage, know your partner well – maybe even consider living together for awhile first – the goal is to be together for a long time.

Good luck in your search!

Newly Formed Agency Avec Artists

Recently launched Avec Artistsis a new boutique photo agency run by Carrie Ferriter in NYC. This new agency is part of Bruce Kramer’s growing fiefdom, the Kramer Creative Group which is set to launch this month along with a relaunch of JAW (Just Add Water ) as Selected to be run by Rebecca Fain former photo editor of XXL Magazine.

Heidi: What was your concept when developing this roster? 
You have quite the range from editorial, advertising, documentary, personal, and fine art.

Carrie: I wanted to create a company that appealed to advertisers but also take on photographers that had a range and were involved in other aspects of photography, whether it be fine art, publishing, directing, etc. I find that when photographers are involved in projects other than commercial work – they are in turn more interesting.

( Stephen Toner) 

What made you select someone like Stephen Toner and decided to open his book with the landscapes, do you see that type of work applicable for car advertising or….?

I have known Stephen for many years and have always felt strongly about his photography.  We originally met through an old friend while I was living in London and I have worked with him throughout the years with EXIT.  I wanted to work with Stephen because not only is he an excellent photographer he is very much tapped into the pulse of what is happening in the photography world. His work appeals to creative directors because he is a creative director and has also founded and runs a really respected and award winning magazine called EXIT.  I approached him to join Avec because his photography has never really been shown in this sort of outlet.  It’s almost as if I’m introducing someone very new but also very established at the same time.

The reason I opened with Landscape is because the pictures are stunning.  They grab your attention.  That’s also the work that he loves and wants to shoot all the time so I thought I would just put it out there from the very start.  Whether or not it’s applicable to car advertising I’m sure going to approach all car advertisers along with everyone else.

( Perou ) 

Are you the only agent?

Yes, I am the only agent but Avec is part of the Kramer Creative Group which is a group of agencies my partner Bruce Kramer owns. Bruce is fully involved  with avec and all the agencies in the group. Each agency is unique and has it’s own style of talent. It’s great to have that because we all really work together and help each other out.  For example, I work alongside another agent, Bridget Flaherty, who runs Bridge Artists. She represents stylists, set designers, hair and makeup. Her and I are constantly feeding ideas off of each other and helping each other out with clients.  It’s a great team.

What kind of content will be on your news section?

It’s going to start with mainly news on the photographers.  I would like it to be a very visual blog but eventually I want it to grow into something a bit more and allow the photographer to contribute on it.  I want it to be accessible to people on my roster and give them the freedom to post whatever they would like.  Avec translates to ‘with’ so the essential core of this agency is to be ‘with’ the artists.  This isn’t an agency about me, it’s very much about them and I want the blog to showcase that.

Where were you before this agency?

I started my career working in production at an agency called JGK, after that I worked for Moo Management (now Trish South management) and then for a more commercial agency in NY.   Working at Moo was a great springboard to where I am now – the roster there was great and really allowed me to develop my own working style and eye for type of photography that I feel strongly about representing.

( Lauren Ward ) 

How would you describe your roster? and who are your premiere clients, mostly European?

My roster is a group of photographers I feel passionately about and enjoy working with.   There is a definite fine art and documentary feel to avec but once you look a little deeper you will see that there is a good range than can appeal to many different clients.  My clients are across the board –  I wouldn’t say that they are mostly European though.  Throughout my career, the agencies I have worked for have all been European or have had European founders so that definitely comes into play but I’m heavily targeting clients in the US.

As an agent what do you think is the single most important aspect in getting your photographers to work in the current economy?

Target to the right client, be persistent, be genuine, follow up consistently but in a way where you are respecting the clients time and space.  Sorry, I realize that was more than one thing!

( Cyrus Marshall ) 

What will you do differently with this particular agency?

I’m launching as a traditional photography agency but competition is fierce so I think it’s important to stand out and be a little more modern in my way of thinking.  I try to stay on the pulse of what is happening industry wise – blogs like ‘A Photo Editor’ are a huge resource.    I really want avec to grow and as the industry changes I will adapt the agency accordingly.

When did you launch?

Just this month!

Times Are Changing – Less Books, More Video and Profits Are Up

Speaking with an agent recently (small to mid-size, top shelf roster) who told me that last year 20 or more books would go out the door each week and now it’s more like 2.

Also, 80% of jobs now come with requests to see a video reel. They commented that it reminded them of when the internet got hot and everyone wanted web rights but they had no idea what they were going to do with it.

Finally, they told me last year’s profits were up. This was chalked up to clients wanting to go with safe, proven photographers.

The books slowing down I would have predicted but that’s a pretty dramatic drop. I didn’t really think video woould take-off so quick but it makes sense that clients are asking for it even if they don’t need it or have any clue what to do with it. The profits? There are still big campaigns up for grabs each year so I’m guessing while most people are flat or down if you are a small shop and land a few of those, things are looking pretty good.

Introducing Hello Artists

Hello Artists is a newly founded photography/illustration agency created by former Wieden + Kennedy art buyers Rachel Shapiro and Leah Jacobson. By way of introduction I asked them a couple questions.

APE: Give me a little background. Tell me how you got started as art buyers at W+K and how long that lasted then about forming Hello Artists?

Rachel: After a few years of working at Blind Spot Magazine I met an Art DIrector from Wieden + Kennedy. His favorite magazine happened to be Blind Spot and he mentioned that WK was looking for a new art buyer. This connection eventually led to a move to Portland, where I started my career in Art Buying at W+K. After a few years at the W+K Portland office, I moved back to New York to freelance and figure out my next move. I’ve spent the past few years freelancing in the city, as well as some time working for the W+K office in Shanghai.

Leah: I was working on my BFA at Pacific Northwest College of Art In Portland when I started as an assistant in in the Art Buying department at Wieden + Kennedy. That was in 2001. It turned into an Art Buyer position a few years later. I left WK in 2007 to do freelance art buying and production, and also to explore the next chapter of my life.

As co-workers we always got along well. There was definitely the sense that we wanted some of the same things for our careers. We talked about starting a gallery someday, both excited by the idea of using our art backgrounds and visual skills in a more entrepreneurial way, but not entirely convinced that a gallery was exactly the thing for us.

We were each doing a freelancing gig at the W+K Shanghai office when we got our first taste of working very closely with each other on the same projects. Based on that experience we knew we’d work well together, so after Shanghai we began to think about how that would take shape. The idea of Hello Artists came about a year later.

We created Hello Artists because we wanted to use our skills and experience to help guide the careers of artists. Equally important is that it also allows us to do work that enhances our own creative lives. As art buyers we had followed the careers of all of the artists on our roster, and we worked with many of them on projects. So it’s very significant to us that we have an ongoing connection with each of them.

APE: Tell me something that might surprise me about Art Buying?

One thing that was initially surprising about art buying was how much mobility it could offer; it’s a field that allows you to explore the option of living in many different places. One might equate the industry to professional sports, the way people change teams all the time. Having the opportunity to live and work in China was an awesome surprise.

APE: Tell me something that might surprise me about W+K?

You’d be surprised how many W+K employees end up marrying one another.

APE: Do you have any advice for people wanting to start their own agency?

We’re a bit new for too much advice. However, we can say that a rep should genuinely like the artists that they’re working with, because they’ll become a big part of your life.


Carol LeFlufy, Getting Started As A Photographers Agent

Several of my readers have asked me how you get started as a photographers agent. I put the question to Caol LeFlufy owner of LA based agency Eye-Forward who handles photographers Patrik Giardino, Sam Jones, Frank Ockenfels 3 and Christopher Wray-McCann.

APE: How did you get started as an agent? Walk me through the beginning of your career.

My brother and father were both amateur photographers growing up and I spent time in the darkroom with my Dad when I was very young. Then I studied photography in high school with an inspiring and encouraging teacher who I am still friends with. After high school I traveled taking pictures and then returned to Vancouver, Canada where I grew up and started working in a camera store and freelancing as a photographer. In that regional market I did a little bit of everything to stay alive but mostly did editorial portraiture. I started to work for national publications and was successful marketing myself as a West Coast photographer that the magazines could hire instead of flying someone out for assignments in the Western Provinces. After seven years of earning my living that way and also teaching photography at a local community college in Vancouver, I moved to Toronto to expand my business but with my sights really set on getting to NYC. I loved magazines like Vogue and Rolling Stone and I figured that sooner or later I would have to challenge myself on that level.

After some struggles in Toronto I started to feel like maybe taking pictures for a living was ruining my love of photography somehow and I started to think that I was a good photographer but not a great photographer. I began to realize that not every photographer is suited to being a working commercial photographer day in and day out. Then I was visiting friends in NYC one weekend and one of them was assisting Steven Meisel. On a Sunday night there was a call that Steven’s other assistant had put his back out and my friend had to find a new assistant right away for the shoot in the morning. I got the job, loved it and got a long with Steven, so he said if I wanted to stay around and assist I could. Being around a photographer of that level and working on shoots for the major magazines thrilled me. For a while I went back and forth to Toronto still shooting and then coming back to NY to assist.

Steven was represented by Art + Commerce and they represented Annie Leibovitz who was one of my heroes at the time. The agency was very small then and two of the three partners came to Steven’s shoots and I got to know them. Annie’s studio manager quit suddenly so I asked to be considered for the position and with their help and Steven’s I got the job. This was one of the most important work experiences of my career. I realized here that I loved the business of photography and could use my organizational skills as well as my other strengths and work with a photographer and not be one every day. I was thrilled and challenged in a way I had never been.

I began to work closely with Jim Moffat one of the partners of Art + Commerce on all of Annie’s jobs. After working for Annie for several years I went to Art + Commerce to be Jim and Anne Kennedy’s assistant. In addition to helping with them with all the photographers I started to produce Annie’ s American Express portrait campaign because there were no print producers in those days. After several years doing that I went to work for Outline Press to run the NY office and start a representational wing for the company. Outline had tremendous growth over those years in both the stock sales and the assignment work. Art + Commerce had been asking me to come back to be an agent so I eventually returned and brought Frank Ockenfels along with me from Outline. I worked at Art + Commerce for ten years as an agent representing Frank, Mary Ellen Mark, Taryn Simon, Ellen von Unwerth, Max Vadukul, Perry Ogden, Max Vadukul and Richard Burbridge. During this time I began teaching at ICP and actively collecting photography and photography books.

APE: What was it that made you realize it was time to start your own agency?

I moved to Los Angeles for personal reasons and that was why I started my own agency.

APE: For aspiring agents out there what are the essential skills to have? What things should they be working on?

The skills I think you need are in no particular order:

-A knowledge and love of photography – the history of etc. (seems obvious but you would be surprised…)
-Be an organized person
-An ability to multi-task
-An ability to solve problems and think outside of the box
-Good people skills and good communication skills
-Be a good listener and not just to the clients but to your artists (Some times you may feel like you are a therapist)
-Be an effective negotiator
-You have to be a pro-active person not a passive person
-You have to be willing to work hard.
-You have to really want to do it.

APE: This is going to sound insane but how do you land jobs for your photographers?

Hard one to answer…
I think I land jobs by representing good artists and developing good relationships with clients and promoting my artists effectively and trying in every job to make sure that not only the client is happy but that the artists has all that he or she needs (support of all kinds) to do a great job so that we continue working with the client.

There is also a huge element of luck and I am not joking.

APE: What advice would you give aspiring agents?

To carefully research and select the artists that they decide to work with and understand it is a partnership and hopefully one that will last a long time. I would also give the advice that it may take a while to build your business and that you have to be patient. A lot of your time will be spent planting seeds with clients and sometimes the results are not as quick to come as you would like. The whole business is about forming good relationships with your artists and your clients.

Photographers Looking For Agents – Q & A With Deborah Schwartz

One of the top questions photographers ask me is “how do I get an agent” but since I’ve never been a photographer I really have no clue how you get an agent. Recently a photographer in LA with some nice work emailed me after getting zero response from the agents he’d been contacting and I started to wonder what it takes, if you’ve got good work, to land an agent, so I called up Deborah Schwartz (, an LA agent I used to work with and asked her a few questions.

APE: Do you get inquiries from photographers looking for a rep?

I get them all the time, but I just don’t have the time to respond, even when I find the work interesting.

APE: When you brush someone off because you can’t take anyone on at the moment but tell them the work is great do they email you back angry, because you think their work is good but you won’t represent them anyway?

Sometimes the response is angry, but most of the time they write back with more questions and eventually I have to be rude and not write back because I just don’t have time. No matter what, I basically feel like I have to be rude at some point along the way. It’s not intentional but I’ve gotten to the point where I need to prioritize my work, and I don’t have time to get everything done that I have to get done. The two things that have made life more difficult is that everything has gone digital, which means more work to go through and edit for my photographers and tons more email coming in from all directions.

APE: It wasn’t always this way right? Before the web blew up people had to write you a letter, send you a book or come see you right?

I’m sure that it was difficult for reps to keep up even then, but now there are just too many photographers trying to get the attention of reps. I think that in the same way that a photographer needs to put together an amazing promo piece to sell themselves to an art director, they’re going to have to do the same thing for reps too.

Not to long ago, I think that photographers began to look for a rep once they were too busy to handle all of the work that they had coming in. Now, it seems that people put a portfolio together, put together a promo and then start looking for a rep as if that is the next step in the process. Add this to the fact that the economy is bad right now and imagine how many photographers are out there looking for a rep.

APE: So, do you think a lot of the volume is coming from the simple fact that there are a lot of people who can take good pictures, put together a website and then just start emailing agents?

Yes, I do think that this is happening. Three things that I see a lot are, photographers whose work I like, but I can see that they’ve not done any work yet which is a problem because they don’t know how to deal with clients, estimating, creative calls, meeting new potential clients and all that goes on with shooting professionally. I really don’t think that photographers should look for a rep before they have some of this experience under their belt.

The second thing that I see a lot of is portfolios that look like they’re copying what is trendy right now, not a real point of view or vision.

Thirdly, I get inquiries from people whose work is similar to my other photographers. I do not want to have any more crossover in my group. Too much competition within one group of photographers creates a different set of headaches for a rep.

APE: Do you think that there are more photographers than there has ever been and there are more good photographers than there’s ever been?

I think that there have always been great photographers out there. I do think there are more good ones who are not getting work, but that’s just because the economy is bad. And in general, yes, there are more photographer than ever.

APE: Is there a big difference between being a good photographer and having a career in photography?

Yes, of course. It’s about the ability to get out there and relate to people, so they like you and want to see more of your work. Then, not only does your work need to be good but you need to follow through with giving them that quality of work on a job. It’s one thing to take good pictures on your own but to be able to do it on an assignment or under difficult circumstances is entirely different.

APE: When photographers contact me saying that they’re looking for a rep the first thing I ask them is why would you want someone to take part of your income away. It seems like the time to get a rep is when you’re too busy to handle certain aspects of your business.

That’s the way it should be. It seems though that a lot of the time photographers look for a rep because they don’t know where to turn after they’ve created a website and sent out promos, and they’re still not working, so now they need help. This might sound harsh but if you’re getting out there with your work, and sending out promos and you are still not getting a response, then you’re doing something wrong. Like maybe the work is not up to speed yet, or you need to be patient. It takes time to build relationships with clients and to build a base of work.

APE: Are there reps who will take photographers where you see the potential in the work and you help them?

When I look back to when I first started and was trying to get established as a rep I only had photographers who were just beginning to get work. I saw something special in the work, so I told them what they needed to do with their portfolios in order to be ready for a rep and they came back and had done it. Then I took them on.

I am still able to do this sometimes, but it is all about timing. For example, I’ve worked with photographers on a freelance basis for a year and suddenly I had room to take on someone else and since I had been successful in getting them work during that freelance period, I felt that it would be a good move to take them onto my roster. So, their patience paid off and we were also able to get to know each other and see how we worked together in that time as well.

APE: How do you know when you can add a photographer?

I have a limit of 12. I know every agency is different but since I edit my photographers work–which is very time consuming–that’s my limit.

APE: But the photographers would probably like you to have less?

Yes, but they understand that I have limited it to what I can handle. I might want to take on more photographers whose work I love but I’m not going to do that at the expense of the people I already handle. My priority is to take care of my photographers, the photo editors, art directors and art buyers who we work with.

My agency is a bit different from the model where you have one of each style of photography; all my photographer have a style that I love and that I know I can sell because I can relate to it and I believe in it. I don’t have car photographers for example because I just don’t get that kind of work. I just feel like I wouldn’t know what a good car book was, and I would have a hard time getting passionate about selling car photography.

APE: So, the question you still need to answer now and every photographer wants to know is “what does it take to get a rep?”

I think that you need to be at that point in your career when you need help to keep up with the work that you are getting, and when you have met the person who feels like the right match for you.

Being a photographer is a huge investment of time and money. You need to be able to show an art director that you not only have a good eye, but also that you can put it together in a unique way. Then, you need to get out there and hustle like a mad dog.

Some people think that a rep is just there to get you the work, but I am one half of a team. Photographers need to be proactive in getting out there themselves shooting personal work, meeting with people and getting editorial work. In order to make it, you have to be really likable, professional, responsible and a really fantastic photographer. If you are all of these things, you will be getting work and you will need a rep on your team.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is they have a portfolio and then they just wait for the work to come in. If you aren’t constantly pushing yourself and growing as a photographer–you see this all the time where the work doesn’t change and the book is the same from year to year–then you’re dead in the water and not getting work and will continue to not get work. You need to be testing and shooting for yourself all of the time.

APE: I’m sure you’ve had a situation where you lose out jobs to photographers with a style that’s not in your camp, do you then consider hiring a photographer with a hot style of photography?

No, only because trends change and I feel that chasing them is a waste of time. Plus, like I said before, I like a particular kind of photography so I stick with that. I can only sell what I believe in and I believe in photography that is authentic, humorous and sometimes a bit ironic.

APE: I will hear art buyers say that you don’t need a rep to get a job but do you think that’s really true? Are they really willing to hire photographers who don’t have a rep backing them?

I think that’s true. I mean, if you have a great crew and you know the business and understand the art of estimating then no, you don’t have to have a rep in order to land a job. On the other hand, if you are not adept at this, it can be a hassle for an Art Buyer to have to walk someone through the entire process and not all Art Buyers have the time to do deal with that. And, their ass is on the line too, so if you estimate incorrectly and you do get the job, it will make them look bad having to go back to the client for more money.

APE: Any more advice for photographers?

Don’t put all of your energy into getting a rep. Put your energy into shooting and doing good work. And, stay on the radar of a rep that you really want to work with, without being pushy. If you are green and a good photographer, work on getting experience as a shooter. That’s most important. If I say your work is good and to stay in touch, get out there and get more experience and stay in touch with that new work. Continue to hone your skills and to hone your vision.

APE: Is it possible to take someone who’s work is great but they’re just green and get them work based on the Art Buyers trust in you, your ability to produce a shoot and put together an estimate?

Probably, but here’s the downside to that. I have built relationships with Art Buyers and Art Directors for the last 15 years. I have to know that whoever I recommend for a shoot is going to do an amazing job on all levels. There’s just too much at stake to take chances. It is not just about packaging someone well with a good portfolio, website, promos and representation. I need to really know that they can back it up.

In the end the rep-photographer relationship is a serious. It’s like a marriage. You don’t get married after the first date.

I think that if you are a good but green shooter you will be even better if you have some business skills and experience behind you.

APE: I understand but I hear from photographers who look at those who have reps and are getting a lot of work and making a lot of money and they say I can shoot like that what’s the big deal?

That’s just copying other people. Whenever I hear that I think, they just don’t get it. It’s not about “I can do that,” what other people are doing. It’s about getting out there for yourself and shooting what you love because you love doing it. Have a strong vision and have something to say that people want to hear. Copying is just chasing trends and if you’re trying to do what everyone else is already doing you’ve missed it, because it’s already happened.

Interview With Jen Jenkens of Giant Artists

Good interview with Jen Jenkens founder of Giant Artists over on Too Much Chocolate (here).

“Clients in the editorial or advertising world are constantly looking for fresh, creative talent, and I wouldn’t say that having years of experience or having a rep necessarily makes you more or less of a commodity. If a client is looking for a specific style and a younger artist fits that style, they’ll want to consider them.”

“What advice can you give on new photographers’ portfolios, and what is the one thing that could be improved on the most?

Consistency, a strong edit, and a high quality portfolio and prints. I want to see a consistency in terms of the photographer’s style, and I want the client to walk away from a portfolio review confident in what they’ll get if they hire that photographer. It’s important to invest upfront in the right presentation, in order to get taken seriously. If the prints look cheap, so do you!”

Finding A Rep or Starting A Collective

Good piece by Nick Onken on his quest to find a new rep (here). This part rings true for me:

“The roster of talent is a huge factor as well as I’m realizing. Being repped by an agency that only reps a certain level of talent, automatically takes you to that level(at least it appears that way from the outside). Brand association is huge, and by associating with other brands that are maybe bigger than you, creates a credibility.”

One of the big reasons for Photo Editors to work with a rep is not the photographers we already know but the people we’ve never heard of, who they basically endorse and lend considerable expertise.

This new photographers collective Luceo Images (here), got me thinking about how photographers can just band together and form an agency and certainly there’s a few high profile photojournalist collectives that exist and seem to make it work.

David Banks, one of the founders with Luceo told me this, when I questioned him about the value a collective creates on the client side without the rep to “vouch” for the photographers:

“The other reason for all this is our belief in helping each other out and being open in the photo industry rather than the one-for-all mentality that is so engrained. We can all work together to edit new projects, work up budgets, make pitches and generally have power in numbers.”

Makes sense and it’s not something I’d considered since this probably doesn’t occur with the reps where the photographers are brought together by the rep and not each other.

(Onken via, A Visual Society)

Bruce Kramer Opens Bond Street Gallery

Bruce Kramer is the owner of Art Mix in Los Angeles, one of the top photographer agencies in the country. They’ve always been an editorial friendly shop handling several of the biggest names in this industry. When I heard that Bruce was opening a gallery in Brooklyn I had to ask him a few questions to see what was up.

The gallery is called Bond Street Gallery (website here) and the first show is March 27th featuring Harold Feinstein’s Coney Island work.

Tell me about your new venture Bond Street Gallery?

I was visiting with a friend Robert DiScalfani who lives on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens and has lived in the area for over 10 years. We were walking around the neighborhood and came across a derelict yet beautiful building and both of us looked through the window and at the same moment said “this space would make a great gallery.” I had the idea of doing a gallery in the back of my mind so I cleaned out my bank account and stated this journey.

Over the last few years we started to receive emails regarding the images from the talent I represent at Art Mix and I had been making sales with very little effort and noticed a trend of younger people wanted a photo of their favorite celebrity and in general a much wider interest in photography.

I recruited Robert to be my partner, he’s been a working photographer for over 30 years who still does platinum prints in his own darkroom. We had the building restored, keeping it as original as possible. It’s a small 3 floor town house with a backyard–very much a different vibe than the large white boxes in Manhattan. Our vision for the space was to make it seem like you are visiting someone’s home or a photographers space where he might have his and others work hung around for inspiration.

The area in Brooklyn where it’s located is changing rapidly yet still has a sense of the past. Many new residents are restoring townhouses instead of buying new and we feel the area, in time would appreciate a gallery that had roots to the past but with a vision for the future.

I started to research photos of Coney Island and came across the work of Harold Feinstein a noted flower photographer who has published many books on subject. As a youth he would walk on the boardwalk in Coney Island with camera in hand and take pictures of one of the most culturally diverse areas in the country.

I continued to research photographs of Coney Island and came across many others who also had great imagery: Bruce Davidson, Bruce Gilden, Harold Roth and Sid Grossman to name a few. I contacted their galleries and I arranged to exhibit their work in the show.

We have plans to continue to exhibit work by forgotten and undiscovered talent from the New York area and around the world.

What skills can you bring over from running a successful photographer agency to running a gallery?

Having run a successful photography agency with varied talent I have developed a strong sense of what I consider to be good or even great photography and the ability to recognize talent.

Running a photo agency is very competitive as there are many agencies and photographers and less and less jobs available these days. I’m a firm believer in marketing and advertising which has really been the cornerstone of my business and I intend to bring that style to running the gallery. We are not expecting buyers to walk in off the street, we will go to them. While I’m new to the gallery world I’ve been in the photography business a long time and I’m getting a great response from established art photographers and galleries.

Do you think commercial and editorial photographers should sell their commissioned work as art?

For years photographers commissioned work has been selling in galleries. Penn, Avedon, Bailey, Newton, Outerbridge, Bourdin, both William and now Steven Klein. There have always been and there will continue to be commissioned photographers who are hired for their eye, lighting, sense of style and aesthetic. Even though the images were created to sell a product I feel they are no less art than the photographer who creates images on their own. In fact in some ways I feel the commissioned photographer has a harder job as they often have to work with other people’s ideas and parameters yet still be true to themselves.

How do you pick an exhibition for the gallery?

Picking to photographers to exhibit is not as easy as I thought it would be. I want to show work that speaks to me, that has soul and guts and I do feel I’m a good gauge of talent but I’m trying to view the photography from a non-commercial point of view. Photography was a medium many hobbyist got into and some of them were pretty good. The guy who sold me a car recently asked me what I did and when I told him about the gallery and he mentioned he use to take photos of jazz musicians. Well he certainly did: Miles, Dizzy, Lou Rawls, etc. Joe’s work has a raw quality to it that you no longer find.

I’m trying to dig a bit. I’ve contacted photographer clubs and have sent emails to their members. I’m also attracted to commercial photographers. Many do personal work to balance out the what they have to do to earn a living and I’ve come across some great work.

Do photographers need to decide between becoming an editorial, commercial or fine art photographer or can they be all three?

I don’t think a decision can be made concisely. If you are the type of photographer that has a vision and you stick with it, perhaps adapt a bit to the right and left if need be, remain passionate, your work will stand out. I do believe photographers when starting out are not just working towards a pay check, It’s more about expressing themselves. Often somewhere down the road they lose direction and do as told and stop using the judgment that got them there. All photographers no matter how successful should always be challenging themselves, exploring and experimenting to keep there creative juices flowing. More and more I am seeing photographers successfully working in all areas without compromising. My hopes are I can take an art photographer and get them commercial work and get commercial photographers into the art world.

5 Questions for Boda, WIB Agency

Boda, Director of Photography at the WIB Agency has a 20 year career as an agent under his belt and in that time he’s worked with some very talented photographers at a few of the biggest agencies in town (NYC). He also has the good fortune to have one of the most memorable names in the business. I didn’t know about the move to WIB and he was telling me about it and I thought I’d ask him a few questions for everyone to read. I even found a couple photographers I like to add to my list (below).

1. Boda, you’ve been an agent for quite awhile now. Can you tell me how you got started in this business and why you’ve kept it up for so long?

When I first moved to NY, I met the Art Director Paula Greif and Director Peter Kagan, they were just editing the video of Chaka Khan and Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” I worked with them for about 2 years and always seemed to gravitate to the client, making sure that they were happy and they were getting what they wanted. From there I started at Art + Commerce assisting Jim Moffat with Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe and Steven Meisel. I knew then that my passion was making people happy, making sure things got done, and making sure that in the end everybody had what they needed and that nobody got hurt doing it. Paula Greif called me a “Gentlemen’s Agent” meaning one not to backstab or do anything malicious. Just a good guy trying to do good work with good people.

2. Tell me about your agency? How big is it (offices, number of agents, photographers)?

Our agency started in Paris about 13 years ago and then grew to Milan and London. A little over a year ago, it seemed only natural to open in NY, most of our artists had apartments in NY and Paris and were traveling often. In NY we have only 2 agents, our office is very minimalistic. We consider it to be a boutique, an agency that pays attention to the photographers. That when they call they talk to their agent, not the assistants. We want this to be our “Thing” a boutique, small, cozy and friendly.

3. You’ve got a top roster of what appears to be mostly European photographers. Do you find it difficult to convince clients to bring in someone from Europe to shoot in NYC?

We always tell our clients that travel should not be an issue, most of our photographers have places to stay when in NY and will fly themselves here at anytime. Dean Isidro, Mary Rozzi and Alexandre Weinberger live in NY and the same goes for them when they have to go to Europe.

4. Juggling a photographers schedule with fashion clients seems like it would be awfully stressful. Do you have any special techniques that keep everyone happy?

It is just what I do, I love to keep people happy, I don’t get stressed ever. Everything will always get done if you just breathe and do one thing at a time, lists are very important. You will never, ever hear me say to a client or photographer the phrase, “I AM SO CRAZY,BUSY,INSANE” I am so sick of hearing agents say that, the truth is if you are well organized it will all get done. And there are never EMERGENCIES, yes a belt or a lipstick may be forgotton or Salmon wasn’t delivered at lunchtime, but really, nobody is being rushed in an ambulance to the hospital.

5. What’s the best way for an emerging photographer to get on your radar for potential representation someday?

I love links to their work, I love seeing all work, personal, editorial, catalog, advertising. The more the better. If I like their work then I will always meet with them, but they better be a good person and have a genuine nice personality, because that is who I surround myself with.




The Agent AKA The Photographers Rep

Agents are of course the best way to find photographers. Sometimes when I’m in a huge hurry to find someone in a city that’s not LA or NY on photoserve, I just look for listings with an agent so I don’t have to click on every single link. I posted my list of photography agents over on the sidebar (here) for anyone who wants to browse them. For a photo editor a really good agent is like having an extra person in your office. You place the same trust in their skills that the editor or creative director places in mine so their ass is on the line too. Ha.

There’s 3 basic types of agent I deal with. Editorial friendly, advertising heavy and fashion flacks.

Editorial friendly agents know their photographers love to shoot editorial and will bend over backwards to accommodate any job. They can juggle the tightest schedule to land a shoot, are quickly back with an answer about availability, let you challenge a first hold and have several other capable photographers available should your first choice fall through. All this for a paltry cut of the $500/day fee. Since these shooters take so many editorial jobs I always try and accommodate when an advertising job suddenly lands on dates I’ve confirmed.

Advertising heavy agents tend to favor shoots with $$$ attached to them. I’ve got no problem with this at all, everyone needs to pay the bills, but some of these agent will stall you for days as they try and get the advertising jobs to land while keeping the editorial option alive. It’s really impossible to challenge a first hold and sometimes it’s impossible to get the agent on the phone to see what the hell is going on. Sometimes I just let it slide because these ad jobs can be a bit finicky but when I get burned I’ve lost 2 or 3 days and still don’t have a photographer.

Fashion flacks primary job is steering their photographers career and that means investigating any potential editorial jobs to see how they will benefit the photographers climb to the top of the fashion food chain. Who can blame them really, the fashion industry feeds heavily on the perception of cool and photographers who want to land the next big campaign or high profile editorial spread need to pay careful attention to their image. Get caught shooting for an uncool magazine or having your brilliant photos hacked to death by an incompetent photography director and you’re off the list.

Jackonary asked a few questions in a post (here):

Hey APE while we are at it and now that I am representation free whats your feeling on agents, are they a help or a hindrance, do you prefer to deal with them or the photographer direct and if you are not so keen on an agency in general does that taint your view of the individual talent. Does it help your cause if you are on an uber roster. Do you feel more safe and secure if the photographer has a safety blanket of support or do you just not care. Oh and do you huck agency promos in the trash too ! I would love to hear about your experiences and I think it may be enlightening. Any advice and insight would be appreciated as I go through my own transition. I don’t think you have really posted heavily on this topic yet.

When picking a photographer for the most part I don’t pay attention to who the agent is or even if they have one. Landing the photographer I’ve picked can sometimes be challenging if the agent doesn’t like the shoot or there’s big ad jobs floating as I indicated above.

I usually always go through the agent especially with photographers I have a long standing relationship with. That way if a photographer is not interested in a job the agent can turn me down and that always seems to work out better for everyone.

I think having a ringer photographer on the agency roster is critical. It gets your agent on everyone’s list and there’s just more of a chance someone will bump into you. There’s also a little bit of unspoken horse trading that goes on where hooking up the other photographers on the roster will give you a crack at the big shot.

I don’t really huck agency promos in the trash because they’re so expensive to create and I really feel bad doing it.

When you’re looking for a new agent I would look closely at the other photographers to get a feel for their taste in photography and then see what kind of jobs their other photographers are getting because that’s a pretty good indicator of the types of clients that have the agent on speed dial. Most of the agents out there have photographers who’s work kinda hangs together in one way or another and I think that has to do with their likes and dislikes and their ability to sell a particular style.

In the end the best agents have a little bit of each trait I described above. They manage the editorial clients well by keeping the process transparent, they keep the advertising clients happy by letting them float around the schedule at will and help photographers make smart decisions to steer their career.

The first time I ran into one of these really great agents I was putting a shoot together and kept trying to cut all these corners to save a little money here and there and the agent refused to allow it in the nicest way by saying “I just don’t think it will turn out the way you want if we do that.” After it was all over and the shoot turned out great I realized she was protecting her photographer because if the shoot failed I’m no longer a client and even worse if the shoot failed and I published the results many future clients will be lost.