I Wish I Had Known... About Graphic Design!

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This is the twentieth post in my series of posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Ruby Lee, the Creative Director of London-based Studio 77, about graphic design, the role of creative directors these days and how can design studios contribute to making this a better world:

1. What is graphic design, and why is it important?

It’s written words’ better-looking sister.

Graphic design is a visual form of communication, a story-telling aid if you will, and it’s everywhere and impossible to escape. In fact, I bet if you look up right now, you can see at least 3 types of graphic design around you? Adverts? Signs? Posters?

Graphic design is such a prevalent part of everybody's day to day life, it has the power to communicate a story, emotion or feeling, so it’s important that it’s executed properly.

2. What skills do you need to become a graphic designer?

From a creative perspective, you need to have a willingness to explore ideas and do things a little bit differently, nobody likes a copy-cat designer.

From a more technical standpoint, I think an understanding of space (#ilovewhitespace) and layout skills are important too, as well as making sure what you’re trying to say with your design is clearly communicated.

However, the most important thing you need to be a successful creative is patience. Sometimes ideas can take a while to populate and form in your head, and other times, let’s be completely honest, clients can be an absolute nightmare with changing their minds. It’s important to be willing to satisfy your clients’ creative ventures as well as your own.

3. What fields can graphic designers work in?

If you’re freelance, you can work from any field as long as it has wifi (I am a dad joke person…).

Graphic design is a pretty wide market and opens up doors to all sorts of creative roles in the future. It’s totally up to you! From exploring illustration to creating brand identities to designing websites or crafting advertising campaigns, there’s a lot of specialisms to choose from.

I would say explore a few different strands of design before jumping into your chosen specialism, as it’s really useful to have a knowledge of how different areas of design work, especially if you’re looking for a creative director or art director role.

Knowledge is power!

4. You mention brand identity. What is the difference between graphic design and branding?

Graphic design is mainly a visual-focused form of communication, whereas branding is a mixture of both visual and strategy.

Most people think of just the logo when they think of branding, but it’s a lot deeper than that, think colour palettes, brand positioning, tone of voice, photography etc. A branding designer has to think about all of these things when starting a branding project.

In most cases, a graphic designer is given some sort of ‘brand guideline’ to adhere to, which will outline the visual elements of the brand itself.

5. After finishing their degree, do you think graphic designers should work for someone else before venturing into freelancing?

This is a completely personal decision for each and every designer! For starters, I didn’t go to university, I just went straight into work experience, then in-house, then agency side, then freelance and then eventually started my own design studio.

But I do think in order to be a good and adaptable freelancer, prior agency/client experience is really beneficial. Agencies are a fast-paced (and somewhat stressful) environment, quick turnarounds are expected, the ability to decipher the most scrambled briefs is a talent within itself, and if you can learn these skills within the comfort of a full-time job, I would recommend you do so.

Once you’ve successfully mastered some, or all of the skills above, if you’re feeling ready to freelance, go for it!

In the freelance community, everybody knows everyone, so word travels fast. If you’re doing a great job, your recommendations will snowball, and you’ll be swatting away work left, right and centre; but similarly, if you’re not doing a great job, it’s not good for your reputation.

The other thing I would say before embarking into the freelance world is to save up three months worth of rent and bills. It’s a pretty unpredictable market, some months you could be fully booked up, and in others, you could be twiddling your thumbs, so it’s a sensible idea to have a safety net to fall back.

6. What has been your evolution since the days when you were an in-house designer?

Geez, that was a long time ago! How long have you got? The journey from in-house designer to starting my own design studio was fairly slow and logical (which is very off-brand for me…), with an injection of impulse and ‘I’m just going to f***ing go for it’ mixed in.

As I said before, I skipped university and went straight into work experience, to in-house, then to agency side, then to freelance and then to Studio 77, my website design studio.

The biggest evolution of my design journey was somewhere between working for an agency and quitting to go freelance, and then starting my own business.

I’ve learnt a lot of lessons along the way, I didn’t know anything about how to run a business, but I knew how to design things. I guess my biggest evolution was throwing myself into the deep and learning about the business side of things!

7. What is Studio 77?

We are a website design studio based in London, we work with a breadth of different clients across a multitude of sectors, but they all have the same goal - to bring moments of joy to their customers.

Each and every client gets treated like the unique entity that they are. No box templates, no quick fixes, we take each website from original sketches through to a fully-launched, functioning bespoke digital masterpiece.

We really care about not only our clients but also our clients’ customers - as they are the ones that will ultimately keep our clients going!

We start off each website with a discovery and strategy session, where we get deep into the minds of our customer’s customers, and imagine how they think and how they’d use the website from their perspective. Then, and only then, can the visually creative process begin.

We only work with a select number of clients at a time, meaning that we can focus on their websites. This not only means we can get our creative juices flowing, but that we can take an idea, and turn it into a live website in as little as two weeks.

8. In your role as Creative Director of Studio 77, how are your responsibilities different from when you started as a Graphic Designer?

As a creative director, you not only design things, and give your creative input, but you oversee the whole creative process. My job as a creative director is to make sure that nothing leaves our studio that’s not as ‘perfect’ as it can be.

I oversee the freelance team members we have and make sure the work is up to standard and is creatively pushing boundaries. No-one wants a boring design, not us, not our clients, no-one!

9. As a client, when would I need to hire a Creative Director?

I think a Creative Director is really important for projects where you have more than one creative working on your brand.

We are essentially ‘the brand police’ and make sure that everything that goes out the door is on brand, looking good and to a high standard.

10. How involved are Creative Directors in the final outcome of the project?

We work closely with all of the creatives, copywriters and artworkers to, well, direct the project.

Any creative project is a joint effort (and if it’s not, it should be!), but Creative Directors have the ability to steer the creative outcome in one direction or another. We are the brand ‘guardians’ for projects, and we ultimately have the say whether something is approved or not before it gets sent to the client.

11. When you talk about your clients, you say that you handpick those clients who bring joy to the world, which sounds to me as if you were trying to have social impact through your work.

All businesses should have a social impact!

We only have one planet, we should treat it, and everyone on it, with respect. We like to mix up our work with the high budget luxury clients with work with charities and start-ups, think of us at the Robin Hood of design…

We also donate £150 of each website project we do to Friends of the Earth to help tackle global issues such as climate change.

12. How do you think design studios can contribute to make this a better world?

Stop using comic sans. I joke (kind of.)

In all seriousness, design is a form of communication, so just make sure what you’re saying with your design is impactful.

I think if you’re at a place where you financially and time-wise can, reach out to charities or partner up with those in need of a graphic designer with no budget.

13. How can anyone interested in your work get a hold of you?

Digitally, we exist at www.wearestudio77.com and @wearestudio77 on Instagram. Physically we’re housed in the lovely Second Home in London Fields.

Pop by and say hello!

Thank you so much, Ruby, for sitting down with me and sharing what graphic design is all about. It’s everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Painting!

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This is the nineteenth post in my series of posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

In today’s post, I have the honour of chatting with London-based Canadian-born figurative painter Andrew Salgado about his work, the state of the art industry these days and how being humble and grateful can go a long way in the art world:

1. How do you become a painter? Is it something that you go to school for or are you born with the talent?

Well, I think that you are inherently born with a talent, but that talent can definitely be honed. I don't think school is necessarily a determining factor. It’s also a mindset, a mentality. It takes a lot of drive, whereas most people think it’s quite a wishy-washy process, it’s actually quite the opposite.

2. Did you always know that you wanted to be a painter or did you try a different industry before becoming an artist?

I was always interested in the arts; originally I thought I was going to perhaps go into architecture or even dabbled in film; but ultimately I realized that my passion was in art - as in studio art, which is very self-directed and allows me full control of my life and creativity.

3. While doing my research for this interview, I came across many interviews of yours that go back to almost a decade ago, and the Andrew in every one of them sounded like a different person, a different artist. Has your growing up as a person influenced your art or the other way around?

Oh wow. Well, I think that the person I was around 2008 and the years after being victimized in a hate-crime, I was a very wounded person. I was angry and rattled; I had also just moved to the UK. I was uncertain. I've grown a lot. I've learned a lot. I think I have learned a lot from art, but also personal experience. I don't think you can have one without the other. I've become more of a business-minded person, but I've also become a bit more disillusioned with the art world. That sounds like a bad thing, I don't know that it is, it’s a reality of the industry. I'm quite well adjusted right now; I feel like a complete person.

4. How would you describe your style as a painter and how would you explain it to those of us who don’t understand about art?

I'm figurative, as in, I 'paint people'; but I embrace a lot of abstract techniques.

5. Do you think artists must have an unmistakable style or must they follow a movement or the trends of the art world?

I think it’s important to create your own inimitable style, but I also feel like style is always in flux. I think it’s also foolish to not at least be cognizant of the art-world movements; art moves in trends (which itself is such an ugly word, but it’s true) and it would be absolutely ignorant to think that anyone is operative above these trends. A trend by its nature is a reaction to the status quo or at least some sort of acknowledgement of it; art does precisely the same. My work has changed with the time in a desire to stay relevant. Nobody wants to be left behind, and the art world moves in large steps.

6. One of the hardest things to accept for artists who live from their work is that they are running a business and that there are invoices to send, bills to pay and taxes to file. Was that ever an issue for you?

Well, thankfully my gallery does it all for me. I hate paperwork. And it takes up a lot of time. Emailing takes up a lot of time. But yes, you are running a small business, and it’s imperative to consider the business-side with wide-open-eyes.

7. Did you ever have a day job to pay for your living while you painted and if so how long did it take you to be able to live from your work?

Yeah, growing up I always had jobs; until my mid-20s I worked as a lifeguard and a waiter. I have been working professionally from my art for about 10 years now.

8. To make a living as an artist nowadays do you need to be represented by a gallery or can you sell directly to collectors yourself?

I think somewhere there exists a happy medium, where the new modes of art-showing and the traditional modes of art-showing find a sort of equilibrium. The art world has stark divides, large egos, and plenty of gate-keeping. As in, in order to be respected, you need to achieve certain goals or reach certain standards that you simply cannot achieve on your own. Like, sure you can sell a bunch on Instagram, but if you ever want to get serious peer and industry recognition, and career credibility, you need to go through the relevant channels. Like, I can unclog your toilet, but that doesn’t mean I'm a plumber, right?

9. How does a starting painter know how to find their audience? How can they reach collectors?

There’s an idea with young artists that they're doing something that 'nobody has ever done before' or this bullshit 'my art is gonna change the world’ rhetoric or 'I invented said technique…’ Firstly, get your head out your ass. You're not special; learn from history and your peers. Educate yourself. Learn about the industry you're entering. Don't expect people to fawn over you, because there are hundreds of people doing what you're doing - and frankly, doing it better.

One thing my gallery (Beers London) asks artists (if and when) they actually get a meeting with the gallery, is 'why do you think you're a fit with the gallery' and 'which of our artists do you most like?' usually to a response of a blank stare. Learn about the industry before you expect it to bend over backwards for you. Be humble. Accept that you have more to learn. Check your ego at the door.

The faster you learn these things, the more approachable you and your art will become. The best artists I know are the most grateful, humble, and approachable. Well, that was a bit of a tangent. But you can also use Instagram or start something grass-roots with your friends. Don't expect too much too soon. It’s a long, long, long road.

10. What do you consider is the key to a successful artist career in today’s art world?

This is a really tricky question. There are a lot of factors for success. Are you happy? Can you pay your bills? That’s a good start.

11. When do you know that it’s time to start a new painting? How do you know when the work is done?

I think this is different for everyone. I work in 'bodies' of work and the story reveals itself, like chapters. I know when it’s done like heat, I can feel it warming up, and then eventually it’s too hot to touch.

12. What do you do when you finish a painting? Do you take some time or do you paint more?

I usually take a little holiday to recalibrate...but ironically I just finished a body last week and I'm beginning new works tomorrow. I suppose like life, it’s always different, isn’t it?

13. How do you deal with artist’s block?

Does that exist? I find I don't have the time to get it all out, so I have to edit the ideas down. I suppose you need to look to little things and stop expecting the world to bless you with divine inspiration. What are the small things that inspire you? What gets you out of bed? What song is in your head? What memory do you go back to? A conversation? A trinket? Something you're grateful for or bothered by? Think small, execute big.

14. And lastly, have you ever painted yourself?

Yeah, a few times. I find it a bit masturbatory, to be honest.

15. Thanks so much, Andrew, for being so kind and letting me interview you. Where can we learn more about you and about your work?

You can follow me on Instagram at @andrew.salgado.art or at www.beerslondon.com or my own website www.andrewsalgado.com.


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Twerking!

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This is the eighteenth post in my series of posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today, I have a chat with the power-machine that is Bami Kuteyi, founder of Bam Bam Boogie, a London-based Nigerian-Canadian fitness instructor who turned her fitness frustrations into a global movement:

1. You and I share a common past because we both worked in corporate before becoming freelance creatives. What made you quit your job and embark on this journey?

I knew that I had something bigger that I could give to the world - I never wanted my dreams to die at my desk, so I took the leap of faith to leave my job and start my own business.

2. How was the transition from financial security to freelancing?

I started working full-time at 22, so I was never really financially secure [she laughs], even though I was making a lot of money I would spend it frivolously on holidays and partying in order to escape the reality that was working full-time in a role I was not passionate about... Nevertheless, not having a monthly pay-cheque didn't affect me as much as I thought it would.

I planned to leave for some time, so I saved enough money to last me for a whole year, after which my business started to pick up enough for me to live. I read somewhere that after the basic necessities of life are met any income above that only increases happiness marginally. I really learned that this was the truth when leaving my full-time job.

3. Your business is not just a regular fitness business like others because you also aim to have a social impact. Why was that important for you when you came up with the concept?

Yes, 100%! It's always been top of my priority list to give back to my community. That was important for me because I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family growing up but was around other children who did. Seeing that difference, I knew I wanted to give back to those who had less than me in any way, shape or form.

Apart from empowering people via twerking, I've been involved with supporting refugee children and fighting period poverty here in the UK and Africa. Also, in the future, I would like to have my own social enterprise which focuses solely on helping young girls from low-income homes with high potential to get into the creative industries from a young age.

4. It seems to me that you are trying to fill the inclusiveness and empowerment gap that exists in the fitness industry. Have you found any resistance?

To be honest, not really. I truly believe that your vibe attracts your tribe... and everything always works out in the end. Even if I have ever encountered resistance, it hasn't impacted me or my business enough to remember it! My business is growing and glowing with all the right people joining and supporting this movement.

5. What has been the most challenging aspect of running a creative business?

The most challenging aspect for me is doing the stuff that I really don't like doing or want to do. When you sign up to run a business, no matter how much you love the craft, creativity and freedom, there will always be parts that are needed but aren't so interesting. For me, some of these things are admin, sales and accounting, so I find those areas the most challenging and I’m planning to outsource them sometime in the near future.

6. What made you choose twerking as your focus?

Twerking, as it's called now, is and has always been a part of my culture. I'm Nigerian, so I remember my Grandma "twerking" as a child at parties, and I always loved it and thought it was so much fun. As I grew older, I realised that there really is something so empowering for women to twerk and move their bodies in this way.

7. What inspires you when you create your routines?

I think it really depends on what I'm going through at the time I create them. I tell stories through my routines, so it depends on what I'm feeling or what I feel like the girls really need at that point in time. For example, during International Women’s Month, all my routines were really strong and powerful.

8. Who is twerking for?

For everybody! Literally, everyone can twerk! They just need to embrace their body moving in ways it hasn't before.

9. Where do you see Bam Bam Boogie going in the future?

WORLD DOMINATION ... I See it being surpassing Zumba one day, with everyone knowing a BBB Instructor or having tried a class before.

10. How can people learn more about you, about twerking and about Bam Bam Boogie?

They can pop to my website bambamboogie.com or follow my crazy twerk adventures on Instagram @bambam_boogie.

Bami, you rock! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about what twerking is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known! Keep inspiring!

Thanks a mil for this JC!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Writing A Cookbook!

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This is the seventeenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

On this post I speak with the fabulous Dina Begum, a Bangladeshi-born/East London-bred food writer about her passion for Bangladeshi food traditions and stories and her book Brick Lane Cookbook, in which she celebrates the diverse cultures and flavours of this much-loved area of London:

1. Where does your love for cooking come from?

My mother. I grew up seeing her prepare delicious meals from scratch almost every single day, using fresh produce. It seemed magical to me that she created feasts out of a few bags of groceries - that made me fall in love with cooking. My extended family are huge foodies and my maternal grandmother is also an amazing cook and this further inspired me, as I spent time with her during school holidays while growing up.

2. How does one go from writing down recipes on a notebook to actually writing a cookbook? Did you ever see yourself as an author?

I wanted to be an author before I even knew what an author was. I remember writing my first poem at the age of eight or nine and receiving a compliment from my teachers. In fact, my writing career began with fiction, poetry and narrative non-fiction including an essay on the shipbreaking trade in Chittagong, Bangladesh. While I loved to cook and write down recipes from a very young age I actually began focusing on food writing about five years ago. The two things I love are words and food, so I decided to combine the two!

3. What challenges did you face when you set yourself to writing the book?

Writing my debut cookbook was a tremendous learning curve for me. I learned how to write and format recipes properly, create delicious sounding yet relevant headnotes to accompany the recipes – which are crucial as they not only describe the dish but give helpful hints and tips. As a Bangladeshi cook, I learned through observing and helping. My mother and grandmother, like the majority of women of those generations never used measures, or wrote things down. It’s a very intuitive way of cooking. This made recipe testing a challenge at first as it was all new for me to measure ingredients exactly and time things. It’s so much easier now!

4. Did you work with a publisher or did you self-publish?

I was lucky enough to find a publisher through a friend who loved my blog and forwarded it to my publisher Kitchen Press. They’re an award-winning independent publisher and specialise in market cookbooks so it was a perfect fit for Brick Lane Cookbook. A blog is a wonderful way to highlight food writing, especially if you’re in the early stages.

5. How difficult is it to promote and sell a book? Where do you sell them?

My book is sold via my publisher and a distributor who deal with the business side of things. There’s also a PR to handle a lot of the promotional side. It’s available on Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Oliver Bonas and independent bookshops – one of which is the fabulous Brick Lane Bookshop on Brick Lane. As an author, I also consider it my responsibility to promote the book and I do this via social media posts, where I engage with my audience with regards to cooking and also promote any events I do. I also welcome press and promotional interest and do interviews where possible.

6. It has been said that people publish books nowadays for self-promotion rather than for profit? Is that your case?

I believe writing is a part of me and my life’s main purpose. Since my teens, I’ve published poetry, short fiction and wrote and edited articles for a magazine. This gave me a real sense of what it feels like to write for a living. To me being recognised for writing something interesting and producing good work is key. Self-promotion and profit is, and can be superfluous. Of course, if what you love can help you earn a living that’s a real bonus! My freelance food work is an essential part of my life and I try and connect it to my book as well as long term career goals.

7. Are there any other books in the pipeline?

Nothing concrete at the moment but I am working on a second book with more of a focus on Bangladesh. My book is split into Bangladeshi recipes and other cuisines which reflect the lovely diversity of Brick Lane, but it would be amazing to give Bangladeshi food 100% of my attention for my next project.

8. In your book, you publish recipes from your own kitchen but also from restaurants in Brick Lane. How did you get them to agree for you to publish them for all to see? How did you get their trust in the first place? Were they protective or happy to share their knowledge?

Through sheer power of persuasion and perseverance! Many businesses were easily convinced and keen to include their recipes in my book as they could envision how important it was to document the diversity in the food of Brick Lane. I think people love sharing their food stories. Some were protective of their recipes, especially ones they’d spent years perfecting or family recipes. I totally understood that as these are treasured recipes. I made it clear from the onset that they would be given credit and I would love to share the stories behind their dishes so they were happy to come on board and loved the process of chatting to me and showing me how to cook certain items, which was a real treat.

9. Have you ever worked in a restaurant? Have you thought about opening your own restaurant?

I haven’t worked in a restaurant as such, however, I have worked in them to host supper clubs and pop-ups, most recently at Darjeeling Express, which gave me a little taste of how restaurants operate. I also have some knowledge of them from family members who run their own restaurants. I would love to open some sort of eatery one day serving Bangladeshi food, with my own spin on it.

10. What are your thoughts on cooking robots like the Thermomix? Have you heard about the MIT robot restaurant that just opened in Boston last month?

I’ve literally just googled Thermomix! And to be absolutely honest this kind of cooking has never appealed to me. I’m sure it works for many people and it has its benefits but I just couldn’t imagine cooking this way. I’ve not heard about the robot MIT restaurant and find that very bizarre. I’m an old fashioned cook and not a huge gadgets person either.

11. On the day that we met, you were doing a demo on how to make one of your recipes using what you already have around in your kitchen. Do you try to apply the same concept to all of your recipes?

I believe in zero waste as a basic life philosophy, especially when it comes to food. So I strongly believe in utilising what you have lying around in the fridge or pantry first before buying more groceries. I love to create most of my recipes with that in mind. Use what you have and try and use substitutes. For particular recipes, substitutes don’t work but so many recipes are flexible. It’s all about adaptation.

12. Apart from the book, I know that you have also had your recipes published in many publications and that you host brunches where you share your delicious cooking with your guests. Have you ever considered giving cooking classes?

I love cooking for people and hosting pop-ups and demos. My teaching is currently available on Yodomo.co for whom I’ve filmed a Bangladeshi spice blend and recipe series. However, I’d love to give cooking classes and it’s something that’s on my list of things to do.

13. Where can we find out more about your book and your recipes?

You can find out more about my book and my recipes on my website (which has a recipes blog) and also follow me on Twitter & Instagram @dinasfoodstory to see what I’m cooking and eating and also find out about upcoming events.

This is wonderful, Dina! I really appreciate you sharing with me your tasty recipes and what being a food writer is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Contemporary Poetry!

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This is the sixteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Being a big fan of Erin Bolens, you can imagine what an honour it was for me when she agreed to have a chat with me about what it is like being a contemporary poet, about her inspirations and about where in the UK can poetry enthusiasts and fans go to enjoy good poetry:

1. We met in 2017 during your beautiful performance at the Thames Festival's Boat Poets session at the The National Poetry Library and since then you can consider me a huge fan! Why do you think we need poetry?

That's so kind. I think my favourite part of doing this is meeting people along the way, so it's always great to come across those who are curious about poetry.

For me poetry is like a kaleidoscope - it's a small space with such a lot of detail in. Each read of a poem is a bit like shaking the kaleidoscope - you see a different pattern, a different colour and I love that. Poetry is a great shapeshifter and rises to lots of challenges so well. We turn to it both in times of sadness and celebration and I don't think that's ever going to change but I also love it when someone discovers poems that speak to their everyday life.

If it's something you relate to then it's a mirror that makes your perspective feel seen and if it's something you have never thought of then it's like seeing a new view or a door opening on a sight you weren't expecting. I love both.

2. How does one become a poet? Is it something that you study for or is it a talent that you are born with?

I think the habit and love of writing regularly is something some people develop very early on of their own accord and you can definitely create some brilliant poetry that way. You certainly don't have to study poetry in the formal sense to be a poet but listening to and reading a broad range of writing will definitely help to keep you experimenting and will fuel a useful curiosity about how words can be used.

3. What are the career opportunities for poets today?

I think this is a really exciting time for poetry. Perhaps it always feels like that when you are immersed in a particular world, but I do think there is an increasing number of spaces and platforms for readers and writers of poetry which is very exciting.

There isn't one thing that makes it possible for writing to be my job. I have worked with children since I was a teenager so doing that through poetry was a natural step for me and I really love it but it isn't for everyone. I do a mix of teaching, performing and writing commissions both for individuals, events or companies and organisations.

4. Do you remember a time before writing poetry?

Um not really. However, I don't think I would ever have called it poetry until much later on because for a long time I saw poetry as a very structured, quite old fashioned thing. For me, it was dictated by rules and it took a long time for me to discover how fluid and varied and expansive that label can be. That's not to say those structures can't be exciting but they're definitely not the only definition of poetry.

5. How has poetry changed your life?

Oh massively. It's always sort of been there because I've written for ages but I think discovering the world of performed poetry was pretty life-changing for me. I've always enjoyed stories and talking with other people and this combined the two for me.

I have a background in acting and at that time I found the autonomy of being able to write something true and perform it yourself really liberating. It became my favourite thing to do very quickly.

Aside from it being my work, just writing for myself is something that I get a lot of benefits from. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and feelings and is just a big source of calm and joy for me. Also frustration of course, but it's the positives that are always heavier.

6. Who inspires you?

This is a really tricky one and something I'm always adding to. For me, it's a big old melting pot that includes brilliant people from history to people I've met once at a bus stop who tell me something which changes my way of thinking or encourages me to do something.

I regularly work with The Poetry Takeaway which is a mobile space where Poets chat to people and turn those conversations into poems which are taken away and often treasured for a long time. It's a really beautiful thing and last year I wrote for a brilliant woman called Enid. She is one of the biggest poetry fans I have ever met and since then we have become friends. She has given me such incredibly kind and well thought out encouragement and advice. Recently, she told me not to deny myself any pleasure and not to over analyse poems.

For that and many other reasons, I would say she definitely inspires me.

7. When most people think about poetry, they think of the classics. But, like you, there are many contemporary poets out there that are equally as good as the classics, if not better. Do you have any contemporary poetry heroes or sheroes?

Yeah definitely. So many poets I admire and know are constantly reshaping my understanding of poetry and how it can be used.

  • Hollie McNish is a modern poetry Goddess and played a big part in me not feeling embarrassed to use rhyme if I wanted to.

  • Caleb Femi was the first Young People's Laureate for London and does incredible work with poetry in film.

  • Vanessa Kissule is doing brilliant things as the first City Poet for Bristol.

  • Toby Campion is one of my absolute favourite writers, performers and people and keeps everyone on their toes with how brilliant each new piece of work is.

  • Harry Baker is one of the most joyous poets and people ever. His love of playing around with words is so infectious and is always my go-to cynicism antidote.

8. Prose or verse? Or both?

Oh, both. Everything, all of it. Like with music, I think there are space and time for all ways of making and presenting any form or style of writing. I don't think it is possible for the existence of one to dilute another. You can have favourites of course, and for me, they change all the time, but I don't think anything is ever unworthy just because it doesn't speak to me today.

9. You contribute to shaping the young generation of poets through your workshops and your involvement in programmes like the Boat Poets residency. How can aspiring poets take part in these activities?

Projects like Boat Poets have been such a big part of my writing and life. They provide time, support and connections which expand your opportunities, help your confidence to grow and your work to develop and to be influenced by things other than your immediate thoughts and surroundings.

There are absolutely loads and I'll probably remember the best tomorrow but here are a few that I have taken part in or that I know have been a big part of the journeys of writers I know.

  • The Roundhouse in London. If you are under 26 you can enter their slam (usually takes place in early summer each year), apply for their poetry collective or to be a resident artist.

  • Apples and Snakes - they regularly put on brilliant workshops across and master classes for all ages and levels of experience across the UK. Their project 'The Writing Room' is another excellent collective based writing course.

  • SLAMbassadors - The Poetry Society's national youth poetry slam championships for 13-18-year-olds.

  • UNIslam - annual poetry slam bringing together teams from universities across the UK for a mixture of workshops and performances.

  • Barbican Young Poets - annual poetry course for young writers at the Barbican Centre in London.

10. Where can people find out about your schedule and performances?

I keep up most things on erinbolens.com

Thank you so much, Erin, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and learning about what being a poet is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Pattern Making!

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This is the fifteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

I had the immense pleasure of meeting Neil J. Christopher, Pattern Cutter and co-owner of ARN Mercantile, a small company with great ideals that makes workwear combining British Heritage with Japanese technical skills and quality. Neil and I spoke about what makes a good Pattern Maker and how to successfully mix technology with manual skills within the craft:

1. What is the role of a Pattern Maker?

The main role is to interpret the ideas, ideals and vision of the designer, taking from the flat image and building a 3D garment, but also advancing the concept of what you are doing, offering advice on structure, movement and fabrics needed to build a better garment.

2. Which skills does a Pattern Maker need to have?

The ability to see in 3D is a key skill, but also fabric knowledge, construction and production. If you can sew that is a wonderful thing, but on a basic level, maths help, as does skill with a pencil. Clean lines save time and effort later on.

3. Is there a difference between a Pattern Maker and a Pattern Cutter, or are they interchangeable names?

In basic terms, they do get confused, but a Pattern Cutter cuts cloth to build garments in a factory, where a Pattern Maker makes the pattern they will work from, but a knowledge of what is needed for both jobs helps. If you can cut cloth and build garments it helps you to understand how the production works and will make you a better Maker. A Cutter can and do make patterns but that is a question of ownership

4. Why do we need patterns?

They are the building blocks of garments. To be able to make anything we need the pattern to make it from, but there is also an ownership issue and to fully have control over what you make and to keep it 'yours' is to own the pattern.

5. How are patterns made?

I cut the card by hand but some use computer-based cutting which would only become a 'hard' pattern in the factory, which is the basic answer, but the more build focused answer is with a lot of practice and understanding of the finished product.

6. There are in the market many software packages aimed at Pattern Making, but there is still a percentage of Pattern Makers who prefer to do it by hand. Are they just being old-fashioned or is it still more reliable to do it by hand?

There are many different software packages out there to build patterns but they suffer from the age of the core processes used to establish them. Many do use them and in fact, if you are making basic mass-market products they are the most cost-effective way to go. But, if you wish to build something that speaks to you and is yours, a hand-made card pattern is the best way to get your ideals out there. I am very bias on this but I have worked on many different kinds of 'software' and even helped build them and I feel you can not replace the hands of a good Maker within the process.

7. Do you think that technology has helped Pattern Making in any way, for instance, with fabric optimisation?

For layout, the cutting of cloth, yes very much so. It has simplified that part and increased fabric usage. I would always say that nothing beats the computer for that, but for shape and construction, we still have a fair way to go.

8. Can a designer make and cut their own patterns?

A few do, to begin with, but it's a skill where the basics can be simple to learn but as you grow and build a more complex garment you would need to have a skill set of hands working on that. With the basic skills, you can better help a skilled Maker to achieve your needed shapes. I would highly recommend anyone who was thinking of going into design to spend the time to understand patterns.

9. What about sizing? Why don’t we still have a standardised sizing in the industry?

Simple answer: too many markets. The clothing business can no longer focus on one market and with that comes a huge set of block patterns and sizes options. Even within one market, we are not all the same shape. Sizes have to reflect the needs of the customer; block patterns must also focus the producer to make for body type, not just size.

10. There is also some controversy with laser cutting. A lot of people criticise laser cutting because of its perfection. Do you think it diminishes the garment?

I have just seen some laser cutting and been given the option to program and cut with it. Yes, there have been issues with it, but mainly due to how it's been programmed to be used. It was not originally set up for cloth and the engineers who set it up did not intend its use in this field. In time and with care it will be a great benefit to the industry but right now it's still in a learning curve.

11. Is Pattern Making something that you study or that you learn as an apprentice?

Both, if you are lucky and find someone who is willing to teach you then an apprenticeship is a wonderful way to learn by doing. Some colleges do offer a short course, but it is normally part of a bigger design lead program. In the US and the EU it's a course in its own right, but here in the UK we tend to show the basics and hope that that will do and that you pick up more by working on it. I was lucky enough to work with a skilled Maker when I was young and then learnt more as time past, but you will always learn from other Cutter/Makers as there is little formal training outside of the bespoke business. As a Maker we find our own way around 'issues' and sharing that with your peers is a great way to improve.

12. Do Pattern Making students need to learn about the history of fashion?

I do believe they should at least look into it but within context. I have a huge collection of vintage patterns and pattern books yet some students I know have no interest in it. Most problems that you will ever have with Pattern Making are problems that others have also had, solved and, if you are lucky, shared their results.

Thanks so much, Neil, for taking a few minutes from your busy travelling schedule to speak with me about the important and often overlooked role of the Pattern Maker! This is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Creative Networks!

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This is the fourteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

I recently spoke to Owen Thomas, co-curator of the Four Corners gallery and projects coordinator of the London Creative Network programme, about his love for music and film-making, and the role of Four Corners in the history of the visual arts in the UK:

1. We met through LCN - the London Creative Network - delivered by Four Corners and several other centres in London. How long have you been a part of Four Corners and what is your role there?

I’ve been at Four Corners for over 25 years.  When I first joined, the organisation worked solely in film.  In those days, we’re talking primarily 16mm / super 16mm.  We hired out production equipment as well as providing cutting rooms, sound transfer facilities, rostrum camera and a small cinema/screening space all offered at subsidised rates. We also provided unique free training opportunities targeted at those under-represented within the film and broadcast industries. This is something we continue to do today with current schemes such as Zoom.

2. How does it feel to be part of an organisation that is such an important part of the history of contemporary visual arts in the UK?

Because of the length of time I have been here, I’ve seen the development of various careers as well as radical shifts in technology.  We used to get old-school film editors like John Trumper popping in to give advice while people cut their short films.  He edited Get Carter, The Italian Job, Up the Junction etc. We also had Tacita Dean editing all her early projects here.

I guess what is particularly interesting to me is that I’ve experienced the whole change in technologies in both moving image and photography.  When I started working at Four Corners in the early 90’s, we didn’t even have a computer.  All communication was done by phone or post.  Email and the internet were still very much in its infancy. A few years on and certain forms of analogue video technology had started to challenge film.

All very primitive compared to what we have today.  By the mid-nineties, we had managed to raise money to purchase an Avid editing suite.  This was the first in the UK to be owed by a non-profit organisation.  At the time it cost something in the region of £70K and was a revolutionary way of editing film. Now, of course, you can do the same kind of thing on a phone!  

3. Where does your love for imaging come from?

When I first went to art school, my primary interest was painting. However, I soon shifted to a more conceptual way of working, which freed me to explore different mediums; film, sculpture, sound, text, whatever best suited the ideas.

I only really touched on photography in my final year, when the university had just built a whole new photographic facility, giving me the opportunity to dabble in colour printing etc.  Even in those days (the late 80’s) photography really wasn’t regarded as a fine art medium.  It was being taught as a craft skill.

4. You are project coordinator by day, guitar player by night, having played with Blood Sausage, Cee Bee Beaumont, the Graham Coxon band and The Bristols. What comes first? Music or film-making? Or is there a happy middle?

I’d say it’s a healthy balance.  I’ve always loved music and to me, music can embrace all elements of culture, be it fashion, visual arts, photography, etc.  In a way, music gave me my first real appreciation of photography - exploring my parent’s record collection as a kid.  Those iconic 60’s LP sleeves like Bob Freeman’s elongated Beatles on Rubber Soul or David Bailey’s Rolling Stones No2. The super cool, visual representation of a band – the look and their sound contained within a 12” square format.

I’ve been making music since the early 90’s, playing in all kinds of bands from lo-fi independent through to major label supported projects.  Much like my experience with film and photography, I’ve managed to catch the music industry at various stages of transition, from the days when there were reasonable budgets for recording, promo videos, photo shoots through to the situation now which is basically no money for anything!

I’m currently working with the artist Bob & Roberta Smith on a musical project (The Apathy Band) which is very much an amalgamation of sound, art and activism.

5. In a world where the boundaries between still and moving images seem to be disappearing and where most clients expect a photographer to also shoot video, what is the future of the stills photographer? Or of the videographer who doesn't shoot stills?

Currently the converging of different technologies feels quite exciting.  Lots of people are back shooting on film, be it still or moving image, plus a growing interest in alternative & historic processes.  I guess part of the reason for this is that photographers are trying to re-instate value to what they do.

In a world where everyone is a photographer or film-maker, it is increasingly challenging to stand apart from the mass of image making out there.  As for the future, I’d like to think that, at the end of the day, talent does ultimately stand out and there is lots of really interesting work out there.

6. Four Corners and Camerawork artists where around at a time when the world as they knew it was drastically changing and they became the visual voice for the social issues of their generation. With the state of the world right now, do you think that contemporary artists still have the responsibility to document these issues? And how crazy is it that we are still fighting for the same issues that they fought for 40+ years ago?

History does have a tendency to repeat itself.

As today everybody has access to photography, and the means to instantly publish and distribute, it will be interesting to see what kind of imagery will actually stand the test of time and whether we will be left with any iconic pictures that represent this particular place in history or just a mass of social media posts...

7. I write this blog not only to speak my mind but also to share what I learn in regards to the business of photography with my readers. That is why, the work that Four Corners does, specifically through LCN, resonates with me because I too believe in building a community and in the idea that through helping others grow, the industry becomes stronger, and so does my practice. Tell us a bit about LCN.

The London Creative Network is a partnership of four arts organisations; Space, Cockpit Arts, Photofusion and Four Corners.  The aim is to support and help develop creative businesses, which in our case are photographers.  We do this through a programme of specialist workshops, mentoring support, exhibition / showcasing opportunities and networking.  The programme has been running for 3 years and we currently have over 130 practitioners working across a whole range of photographic technologies and processes.

8. Has Brexit affected the programme?

Well Brexit hasn’t happened yet and who knows, it may never happen...?

However, in theory, there will no longer be EU funding post-2020, so unless we find another form of support it is unlikely programmes like LCN will survive at least in their current form.  We’re just going to have to wait and see…

9. How is LCN and Four Corners funded?

The LCN programme is 50% funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).  Four Corners is mostly funded by specific projects.  For instance, we’ve just been working on a Heritage Lottery funded archive project exploring the first 10 years of both Four Corners and Camerawork.

We also generate income from facilities hire and from building rental.  We are in the unusual and very fortunate situation that we own our building.  That has been one of the key reasons Four Corners has managed to survive when so many small arts organisations have bit the dust over the years.

10. How has the archive project changed your perception of what Four Corners is?

It’s been really interesting to reassess those early histories. Both organisations not only produced innovative work but also radical new/alternative ways of working.

I’d like to think that exploring this past will inform and inspire future developments at Four Corners.

Thanks so much, Owen, for taking some time off your busy schedule to chat with me about the work that you do at Four Corners! This is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... A Year On!

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Two months ago, my column entitled I Wish I Had Known - where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself - turned one year old...

And I forgot to celebrate it!

As a belated one-year anniversary post, below you will find the most-read interviews of the series from the last 14 months.

I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed talking to these incredible people who were so kind to take part in them.

Which one has been your favourite thus far?


Thanks so much for reading and for your continuous support!

If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

Photo credit: my portrait taken by Wayne Noir.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Photo Editors!

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This is the thirteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

This week I am thrilled to chat to Raffaela Lepanto, Photo Editor and Photographers Consultant, about what it is like to work as a Photo Editor, on how should Photo Editors be approached by photographers and what can photographers do to produce portfolios that stand out:

1. You have been working in diverse roles in the photography industry for more than two decades, from the editorial desk and picture research to Photo Editor and working as a photographer yourself. How did it all start?

It started by pure chance, really. I had been working part-time for an independent publishing house while studying at the university and had loved the environment; talking with photographers and sorting out the photography archive was what I liked the most about my job, but I guess I didn’t realise it until much later.

I had studied International Political Sciences, and I really liked writing, so I thought that I wanted to do something related to journalism... but I didn’t know exactly how. I didn’t have any real experience and I didn’t know anybody in the field.

I also loved photography and had been taking pictures all my life, but I had been raised with the idea that I had to find a “serious” job. What was exactly that “serious” job that I could actually do, I didn’t know. Waiting for a magical answer, after university I took one year off to travel; when I came back to Europe I was penniless, jobless and still clueless.

So one weekend, I was trying to use my time constructively and give a serious direction to my future while reading Cosmopolitan on my sofa (she laughs). And on that issue of Cosmopolitan, I found this interesting interview to a famous Italian travel Photographer, and I really liked the interview and his photos and I thought it would be awesome to have him as a teacher. So I mustered the courage to call him. He actually answered the phone, and took me onboard to teach me!

This is where, retrospectively, I think I’ve been very lucky: the photographer wasn’t just a photographer, he was also running a very small Photo Agency specialised in Travel Photography. After the photography course finished, I offered my self as an intern and asked him if I could help in the agency for a few months. Now I’m making it sound like I was very wise and smart, the reality is that I absolutely didn’t know why I was doing it, I just felt that I needed more time there. So I worked there for 3 months as an intern, and then another 6 as a part-time photo-researcher and learned so much not just about photography but also about researching and editing.

So yes, Picture Editing really “happened” to me as a way to be as much in contact as I could with Photography. I didn’t even know it existed before then.

2. For nearly a decade, you were a Photo Editor at Grazia Neri, probably one of the biggest photographers agencies that ever existed (representing big-name photographers from Herb Ritts to Annie Leibovitz). Now, you coach photographers at universities, colleges and work with private clients as well. How was the transition from Photo Editor to Photography Consultant?

Yes, Grazia Neri Agency was the biggest Photo Agency in Italy, and one of the leading Photo Agencies in the world. It was the dream Agency to work for!

At the end of the 90’s, when I started working there, the archive of Grazia Neri, and I’m talking about an analogical archive here, was counting 20 million pictures between slides and prints. Can you imagine?

20 million physical pictures. It was totally mind-blowing.

And yes, as you say, the agency represented the best photographers and agencies of the whole world. From Annie Leibovitz to Helmut Newton, from Robert Doisneau to James Nachtwey, to Tim Hetherington, if you could think of a famous photographer or a prestigious agency, they were there...

That was my school, those photographers and their amazing pictures literally shaped my photographic education and for that, I will feel forever grateful.

I always felt that it was a much bigger opportunity than working as a Picture editor for a single magazine, that I learned much more that way.

Also, working in the super fast-paced Editorial Sales Department forced me to keep things very “real”. It was the humblest, no frills, no nonsense part of the otherwise high-end world of photography, and what worked and what didn’t work was pretty vital to learn there. It wasn’t much about “talking photography”, it was more about making photography happen, and getting it published!

Meeting new photographers, commissioning them new projects and working with them was again the part of my work that I liked the most. I guess that there has always been an element of empathy in there, as I felt that their dreams, their hopes, their problems were very similar to my own...

So the “transition” hasn’t been a real transition, after all. What changed was the “external shape” but it feels like my work has always been more or less the same. I don’t feel like I’m teaching anything to photographers, today. I still feel like an Editor, who has the chance to share what she’s learned.

Paradoxically, I’ve recently come to realise that working with non-famous photographers and students is, in fact, the “advanced” level of my work. Working with someone not used to a portfolio review and unaware of their potential, competition and market is something that took me a while to learn but for which today I feel very lucky. It gave me a much wider perspective, and it keeps me away from the haughty, condescending world of Art Critique.

3. What would you recommend photographers to focus on to develop their careers and make themselves a place in the industry?

Being a photographer is not easy: It takes a special kind of discipline, stubbornness, and courage.
If I think of the young photographers that I met during my career who really “made it”, three things come to mind:

  • They were all very kind: often more listeners and observers than talkers, so I’m not thinking just about extraverted PR people, here. I’m actually not thinking of them at all.

  • They all had a very personal style, one that I could recognise across different projects: something very difficult to achieve.

  • They had a deep, passionate interest in their projects. You could see it in many little details, such as their well-researched text, their relationship with their subjects, their captions... In my work you learn to read through the lines of a photographer’s work and you’ll just know how much time they have spent on it, how aware they are of other photographers’ work, if they have studied what’s out there, if they are trying to emulate what is trendy or they are really offering a bit of their soul... You learn to respect a truly personal vision because you see in “transparency” the huge work that it takes to get there.

4. What's the best way to contact Photo Editors? What are the first things that Photo Editors want to know about photographers and their work?

Well, you know, Photo Editors belong to the very same species as photographers, so they are drawn to the very same things; pictures.

A special, unexpected light in a portrait, a bold perspective, an uncommon colour to tell a story in a different way... as all visual people, they will look at images first and will make a thousand small evaluations in a second, deciding if they like them. If they do, they will read your intro text. Never the other way round.

As for how to introduce yourself, I can’t speak for all Editors in the world, of course, but I can share what I personally like to find in an e-mail. I like personal, short messages, where I can see that who writes me has taken the time to know my work and my company and introduce themselves briefly. You don’t need more than 5 lines for this; what type of photographer you are, your location, that’s it.

When I’m reading, I will have seen your images already: even one picture in an e-mail is enough, it generally tells me everything I need to know. From there, I like to be able to access the photographer’s website, and possibly see and read more.

What do Editors want to know? Photo Editors pride themselves on discovering emerging talents, so you don’t need to be an established photographer with dozens of exhibitions, awards, and publications. Of course, showing a good publication or award helps, but you don’t need to write this type of info in an email. If you have them it’s better to keep them on your website.

For your projects, again, in my view, pictures speak a thousand words; in those cases where an intro text is absolutely needed, Editors normally look for the 3 journalistic W's: who, when and where. Something I’m personally not very fond of? If someone has to explain too much the “vision” behind their photography, or if they use the third person to talk about themselves, as if they were someone else (how weird is that?).

5. How often should a photographer contact a Photo Editor? Do Editors keep records of photographers that have got in touch with them?

This is a difficult question. It’s always a matter of finding a balance, isn’t it? Between being persistent and becoming... too persistent.

I personally respect persistence very much, I see it as an achievement, a quality belonging only to photographers who went through the hard initiation of rejections and have been ignored already and didn’t give up. There is nothing more deafening than the silence after a well-crafted newsletter, one that took the photographer days to prepare, not to talk about the months spent working on the project he’s trying to promote... It’s disheartening. And it makes Editors look like cruel, evil people, I know.

The reality is that a photographer seldom knows the amount of very similar newsletters and promotions Editors receive in one single day. “Very Similar” is the key, here. It’s disheartening, too. Because you really wish to get back to (almost) everybody, but you can’t because you just don’t have the time. Unless - I’m honest - you have a glimpse of something so special that makes you jump on your chair and it becomes a priority.

For a first contact, I would write a very short personal e-mail rather than a newsletter, showing the best of my work and also showing knowledge of the Editor’s magazine, agency, whatever...I would then ask for an in-person appointment. If you don’t get a reply, I would be persistent, until, hopefully, I get one. How often? It could be... a few times, leaving a few weeks in between.

For direct marketing and keeping in touch with old clients, it all depends if you have the right project to offer, if you are looking for an assignment, what is the reason for your campaign...there is no right frequency, really. I would write down the reason, the why, first of all, for each group of clients. When I know exactly why I want to contact them, I would.

Periodical, general, impersonal newsletters or mailers don’t work much, in my experience.
I’d rather focus on building real relationships, and when you do have one, you normally also know when to call, right?

As for Editors and Agents keeping records of photographers, of course, they do. Not all of them, but the ones who emerged as somehow different, or especially talented, they sure do keep them.
I’m still doing it now, as I often use a special project as a reference in my work with photographers.

Back when I was working for the agencies, I had endless lists of websites that I actively researched, looking for a single picture that I remembered, for a whole body of work, to assign new projects... again, Editors pride themselves on finding hidden talents, it’s just something they do, so yes, perhaps they don’t answer to all e-mails but they are like elephants, they don’t forget (she laughs again).

6. What kind of relationship do you like to have with photographers, and is it one that you'd like to grow over time?

Photographers have always been “my people”, the sort of people that I feel comfortable around; perhaps because as a photographer myself, I went through the same rejections, the same insane joy seeing my pictures published. And I know we share the same obsessions, that pale light on a dark background, a perfect coupling on a book page, a moment that just the eye of a photographer can see and doesn’t make for a normal conversation with normal people. Those details. You know what I mean...

In most cases, the working relationship becomes a very friendly one; I like to be updated on their success, and I genuinely share their happiness when our hard work pays off.

7. In your opinion, what makes a Photographer's portfolio stand out from others?

  • A deeply personal vision

  • Style consistency, all through

  • Courage

8. When you are editing a project/portfolio, what criteria do you use for selecting or discarding images?

Editing is a very complex process. You have to keep in mind so many factors that I often don’t have a clue myself what the result will be until I finish. Artistic and technical merit are just the tip of the iceberg; you also have to take into account style consistency, patterns, colours, type of light, final usage, type of public, type of layout, and of course the meaning of the project, what the photographer really wants to convey and who they want to be... It’s indeed an alchemic process, one that is very hard to describe and almost has a “life” of its own.

If I have to summarise it in two words, though: no matter how long is the project and how many pictures I have to work with, I normally do a first edit which is purely emotional and instinctual, meaning that I literally just pick the images that I like without thinking twice or having other thoughts. From the second edit onwards, rationality takes charge again; here I start thinking about all the elements above, about the sequence, about avoiding repetitions and so on... eventually, I just take out what just doesn’t work.

9. What advice would you give to a photographer who is transitioning from working as an assistant to working as a full-time photographer?

Working as an assistant is an exceptional experience for a photographer; it’s not just about learning the technicalities, it’s having a chance to be in touch with the whole photography business from the inside. My best advice is to keep it as a side-job until your solo career is on (very) solid ground: this is, having enough clients, established relationships but also a good, realistic strategy.

10. Finally, what can photographers expect from your services and how can they get a hold of you?

I keep my services as much product-oriented as I can.

I do help photographers also in the medium and long-term through coaching, but I normally start with a focus on short-term results; an edit for their new book, print portfolio, homepage, a full web edit, a new website.

I believe that offering ready-to-use tools and dividing the work into practical steps works better than offering endless consultations on how to market themselves.

All my services and contacts can be found on my website www.raffaelalepanto.com

This is fantastic, Raffaela! Thank you so much for your time and for helping me understand what being a Photo Editor is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thanks, JC, speak soon!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Modelling In Your 50's!

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This is the twelfth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I have the honour of chatting with British model Nicola Griffin about how opportunities arise when you least expect them and about what is it like to pursue a career in modelling after a certain age:

1. When we met a few years ago, you had recently started modelling at a very unconventional age. Can you tell us a bit about your story?

I first started modelling when I was 53. A lady asked me in the bank if I would do a photo shoot for a new shampoo product called white hot hair. This launched me into the modelling world and I was approached by an agent to be represented. Not long after, I was lucky enough to get a job with a company called Swimsuits For All in the USA.

2. From the cue at the bank to being flown to the Caribbean for a photo shoot with the one and only Ashley Graham to be featured together on Sports Illustrated! And then the cover of Bazaar, and countless advertising campaigns, editorials and catalogues. How does it feel to be part of this new pro-diversity movement in the industry?

It is really inspiring to be part of this as I represent older women in the fashion industry. I was the first woman to appear in Sports Illustrated magazine at the age of 56. Which I'm very proud of! It's a wonderful feeling to be part of this movement showing diversity in every age, size and race.

3. What sort of opportunities are there in the industry for models starting out later in life?

I think they're all sorts of opportunities out there now for older models. Things are improving all the time and I do believe anything is possible and anything can happen. I am living proof!

4. Modelling is a tough job that requires a strong will, very thick skin and a heck-of-a-lot of self-confidence. Still, people, in general, have the misconception that modelling is an easy job where you just have to look pretty. Can you describe what a career in modelling is about?

Trying to describe what modelling is all about it's quite difficult. What I would say is it's really fabulous when you're on a shoot with wonderful people in a beautiful place and it's really the most wonderful thing to be actually making a living doing something that is truly amazing. However, it's lots of hard work. The downsides, of course, are the travelling, the delayed flights, the arriving at your hotel at midnight and having an early call at 4 AM. It's hectic and you're under pressure.

5. How much of making it in the industry is about working hard in promoting yourself to modelling and casting agencies and how much is it being at the right place at the right time?

I think that to make it in the industry involves a lot of good luck and a lot of hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Promoting yourself on Instagram and Facebook and all the social platforms is important in today's industry. Castings can be tough, the feeling of rejection when you've not been chosen can be quite upsetting but you have to move on quickly, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and tomorrow is a new day.

6. What would you suggest to starting models on how to start their careers? How does one become a model?

I think if you are starting out as a model today I would suggest getting some good photos together and start looking for an agent and agency that would suit you and your style and your strengths. Work hard and believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, be brave and be strong because you're going to need it.

7. You are represented by some of the biggest agencies in the industry, both in the UK and the US. What is the role of an agency for a model?

The role of the agency that represents you is to guide you and nurture you, to get you the best deals from the client and look out for you. They take care of your travel arrangements, check your tickets and check your hotel, check you got everything, they make sure that you're getting the jobs that suit you and the client is happy. And, most importantly, that you're happy. That's a lot for the agency to do to look out for you so picking the right agency is very important.

8. As a mother yourself, what message would you send parents whose children are interested in modelling on how to navigate the industry?

As a mother of two daughters, I always pushed for them to finish their education when they showed interest in modelling. It was very important to me that they were not distracted from their studies. I did tell them many times that when they finished their A-levels we would all get a shoot together by a photographer. But that never happened. They then went off to university and now they are in full-time employment. But, had they have been interested in the industry I would've given them all my support.

9. We are living in times when models careers are longer than they ever were. Where do you see your career going?

I do look forward to being in the industry for a very long time! I'm hoping I can continue working well into my 80's, maybe even 90's... how wonderful would that be!

Thank you so much, Nicky! Thank you for being so fabulous and taking part in my column to help me understand what modelling in your 50's is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Alternative Processes!

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This is the eleventh post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

As I explained on a previous post titled I Am An Immigrant, early this year I had the opportunity to meet Almudena Romero, a London based visual artist from Spain, and with whom I had an amusing discussion about art, immigration and alternative photographic processes:

1. On the day that we met, I posed for you for your Growing Concerns project using the Wet Collodion technique, and your enthusiasm and passion for your craft captivated me. When did you first know that you wanted to become an artist? When did it all start?

I think when I signed up for an MA in Photography with a fine arts focus is when I made that choice. I was working as a photojournalist in Canada, and I think I gradually became more interested in the artistic possibilities of the medium rather than the documentary ones.

2. You create beautiful pieces and portraits using both early and contemporary photography techniques. Why did you decide to create your art using photography?

I find photography very powerful. We consume and produce images constantly. From my point of view, knowing how to analyse and create an image is like knowing how to read and write, but with visual content instead of words. I find surprising how poor visual education we have in Spain. Not having the tools to analyse the critical context of an image, what it signifies, makes us very vulnerable. I think that the more I read and work with photography the more I like to explore the medium.  

3. As a photographer myself, I know how the industry is always looking for ways to label us into preconceived types of photographers. Do you consider yourself a Portraits Photographer, a Fine Art Photographer or don’t even consider yourself a photographer at all?

I consider myself an artist, but if someone describes me as a photographer I am perfectly fine with it.

 Almudena Romero making collodion plates at her studio in East London for her project "Growing Concerns" about immigrants to UK. With JC Candanedo (Grey Pistachio).

4. You combine your practice with teaching at the University of the Arts London, doing talks and running workshops in the UK and abroad. Is this the life of the contemporary artist? Do you do it out of passion or to make ends meet?

I work with photographic processes that are very little known, and therefore, to engage people with these processes is to engage them with my practice too. I consider teaching part of my practice, and I don't think teaching is less cool than selling pieces or taking commissions.

People always like making distinctions and hierarchies. Photographers vs Artists, Technicians vs Academics, Artist selling through small commercial galleries vs Artist working with public institutions, etc. These categories are not helpful, so I don't really worry about them. Everything has advantages and disadvantages.

I see the benefits of teaching very clearly. First, it pushes me to be precise and consistent and then it helps me enormously to expand my network.  Teaching has the same effect as when you are cooking for someone else, you put so much more effort than if you were doing it just for you, and in the end, you end up being much better at it.

5. Speaking of your practice and your business model, when you sell your art do you sell the originals or do you sell prints? Do you do limited editions? Who are your clients (collectors, museums, galleries, private clients)?

I only sell originals to other artists that are also collectors (this happens very often, and I see myself collecting pieces soon too) and other people in my network including relatives, friends, art collectors, people working in the arts.  

6. I was lucky enough to visit your recently opened studio space in London. How long have you had your own space? Do you think it’s important as an artist to work in your own private studio? How did that affect your practice?

I have this one since October. I think it depends on the work. Some people need interaction and feedback, but I need to control the light and the ventilation conditions. It's easy for me to work 8/9 hours non stop, and this complicates a lot sharing the space.

7. Affordable spaces in cities like London are rare and in very high demand, with waiting lists that sometimes go for years. What advice would you give to other photographers and artists who are looking for a space but haven’t been able to find an affordable one yet?

Sign up for those lists now. Use artists studio finder website. Avoid companies managing spaces, go for charities or artist-led spaces like ACAVA, Bow Arts, SPACE, Cubitt, Acme- There are so many good space providers!

 Almudena Romero making collodion plates at her studio in East London for her project "Growing Concerns" about immigrants to UK. With JC Candanedo (Grey Pistachio).

8. Your projects deal with issues relating to identity, representation and ideology; such as the role of photography in the construction of national identity, or the link between photographic archives and colonialism.  I tend to go towards this sort of topics in my personal projects out of my own experience as an immigrant coming from a family of immigrants. Is it also a personal journey for you? If not, why do you feel attracted to these topics?

Having lived over the past 10 years in the UK, France, Canada and Italy, I have a strong sense of belonging to the immigrant community rather than to any nation. I want to use and share my knowledge to work with one of the most archival processes and leave a legacy of a contemporary understanding of colonialism, identity and photographic archives.

9. Your work is exhibited in galleries across the globe, and your most recent project, Growing Concerns, will be at the Centquatre Gallery in Paris from March 17 until May 6, 2018. For those who don’t understand the exhibitions circle, how does exhibiting your work come about? Do you get commissioned to do a project for an exhibition space? Do you pitch a project that you have in mind and that you want to work on? Do you create your work and then the exhibition spaces come for it? Do you submit to competitions?

I create work I want to create, then I research who can be interested in the work and then I apply to open calls and other opportunities within that network.  I tailor my applications to the space/facilities available. It's crucial to tailor your proposal, otherwise, the juries might not visualise how they could bring it to their own space/platform.

10. As a visual artist, what do you consider is the role of the artist in our communities nowadays? Why do we need artists? Why do we need art?

We need art in the same way we need science. It enriches us, it gives us perspective, a different angle, it helps us to understand. I see the role of an artist very similar to the role of a scientist, it's an everyday job that you do in conjunction with other people working in the same field that ultimately facilitates understanding and generates engagement.

11. What is in store for you in the future? What sort of new projects do you plan to work on?

I am now working on a series that focuses on the deregulation of goods and capital and the environmental and social impact of this, forcing communities to migrate. I have started to use plants which are originally from Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, and nonetheless widely available at daily markets in London, to alter the photosynthesis process and print images that relate to the migration history and context in their native countries on the leaves of said plants.

Beautiful, Almu! Thank you so much for answering all my questions and helping me understand what working with Alternative Processes is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

Photo credits: behind the scenes images by Chelín Miller.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Food Photography!

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This is the tenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Early this year I had a really amusing chat with Martí Sans, a Food Photographer from Catalonia, about food, branding and how life has a funny way of turning things around:

1. We met 6 years ago and during our first conversation, you told me a really interesting story about how you ended up becoming a Food Photographer. Do you mind sharing that story with us?

(He laughs really loud) I wanted to become a chef. In fact, it was while I was studying to become one that I bought my first camera. I believe that I was about 17 years old. I studied for Chef and Pastry Chef for 5 years, but during the last 2 years of the career, I was completely sure that I would not spend my future working in a restaurant. I started doing some photography gigs while I studied and once I finished chef school I had made up my mind and became a freelance photographer.

2. Do you need to know how to cook or bake in order to be a successful Food Photographer?

It is not necessary, but it does help. Like in many other fields, having a knowledge of the subject that you are photographing helps you to understand how to face the photo and to find the most interesting features of each product. For instance, if you work as a Bird Photographer, having a knowledge of how they behave, move or interact will make things easier for you.

3. How different is food photography from other types of photography, like product photography?

In regards to similarities with Product Photography, I think they are very similar. It's a style of photography where all the details are really important and the lighting makes the difference. In terms of other types of photography, in most cases, they are related worlds but they are very different.

4. For those who are not familiar with Food Photography, can you walk us through your workflow when taking the photo of a dish?

Usually, the process starts with emails, phone calls and some meetings. The client lays the initial idea on the table, they give you some references of what they are going after and you try to give your vision on how to get the best photo possible. From there, you set the timeline for the shoot, deadlines, etc. and you start to work.

During the shoot, all the photos are built bit by bit. The point of view is decided, the props are added and the empty plate is lit. The idea is that the food arrives at the very last minute in order to have it in the best state possible. If you are using sauces or ice cream, you add them at the very end to avoid mistakes.

5. It seems to me that photographing food is a very slow process. How do you manage to get the shot on time before the food gets cold or becomes unattractive? If it's grilled meat, for instance, do you have one piece of cooked meat or do you have several ones that you cook as you go?

What we usually do is that you set up everything without the main subject. You might have the side dish or any other additional surrounding elements ready. For a piece of meat, for instance, you might use a prop with a similar colour while you are composing (a piece of cardboard might work) and then you swap it for the real thing. The idea is to have everything ready before the food arrives and that way you avoid having it for too much time on set.

6. Is it true that you can't eat the food that you photograph? How much of the food in the photo is real food?

I would say that almost everything is real. It's true that in some cases you use food that is not real but you might do that for technical reasons with ice cubes, ice cream, etc. The majority of food that we use could be eaten if you don't mind that it has been touched by so many hands. You'd be better off eating a new one!

7. What is the typical crew working on set with a Food Photographer?

It depends on the size of the production. For small productions, I try to do everything on my own, but if the production gets too complex, I would work with a Food Stylist and an assistant. For bigger productions, I usually work with a digi-op, an assistant, a Food Stylist and, more often than not, with an Art Director. Also, in the latter case, I work with a retoucher for the post-production.

8. What is a Food Stylist?

A Food Stylist is a person in charge of prepping the food for the photo or video. They might or might not be a cook, but it is important that they know the rhythm of a photoshoot as well as understand the point of view of the image and how the dish will look in camera. I don't always work with one, to be honest, because I like doing the food styling myself, but there are times when I can't control everything on my own.

9. Apart from your photography, you also run workshops in different cities in Spain where you teach photographers, bloggers and hobbyists how to take photos of food. How did that come about?

It was something that just happened organically. I did a short workshop for some friends a few years ago and they encouraged me to create a whole day course. That must have been 5 or 6 years ago and bit by bit the courses have evolved to what they are right now. I do 8-hour courses around Food Photography and people seem to enjoy them. I also have two online courses on Product Photography at Domestika (an online portfolio and tutorials platform in Spanish) that allow me to reach a wider audience.

10. You recently changed your branding from your original brand name to your own name. Do you mind explaining why?

Up until now, I had been working under the brand 365mm, but now I have changed it to Marti Sans Photography. What happened was that the previous name was prior to my professional photography career. It was meant to be the name for a blog where I talked about photography but it ended up being the name of my portfolio and my brand. With time, I have come to realize that using my own name is simpler and easier for everyone. When I teach courses, people always use my name and not my brand name, so after careful consideration, I decided to do the switch.

11. As a Food Photographer, do you work freelance? Do you have an agent?

I work freelance at the moment, but I'm considering looking for representation.

12. Lastly, what advice would you give someone who wanted to start a career in Food Photography?

We always tend to make up excuses like "it's just that the camera that I own won't..." or " my strobes don't allow me to..." In the end, I am willing to bet that 95% of the times it is our lack of technical knowledge that won't allow us to get the photo that we are going after. It is also important to remember that you can only learn photography by taking photos. Books, blogs, workshops... they are all good but if you don't shoot, you will never learn. Fewer tutorials, more shooting!

This is brilliant, Marti! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer all my questions and giving us a glimpse into what Food Photography is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Wholesale!

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This is the ninth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

A few weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with Jessica Morera, the Wholesale Sales Manager for Iberia at Guess Europe, about her career in sales in the fashion industry and on how being proactive can open many doors:

1. You have an extensive career in sales in the Fashion Industry, working for companies like Calvin Klein, Inditex, Desigual and currently Guess. What made you go into Fashion? And why Sales?

It was actually pure luck. I had never looked into fashion as a career option, but right after I moved to New York I was offered a temp job as a receptionist at Calvin Klein. Since there was little to do at the reception and I like to keep myself busy, I asked all the departments around me if they needed any help with any projects. They started giving me little things here and there, which increased in quantity and complexity over time. After a few months, there was an opening in sales and I got a recommendation from one of the people whom I had been helping.

It was love at first sight. Attending fashion shows, presenting the collection, building relationships with my customers, but, above all, learning about the business from professionals with many years of experience.

I was extremely fortunate, but I must admit that my proactivity got me that opportunity.

2. Usually, when people think of the Fashion Industry, they think of designers, models, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists and editors, but they forget about all the supporting roles that keep the industry alive. What exactly does a person in Sales in a Fashion brand do?

That is true, often people think that their role is what really makes the difference in this industry. Creatives think that without the “magic” that they make a product would not be attractive or have a demand in the market. Salespeople think that without them, the product wouldn’t make it to the point of sale and the business would not be able to survive. The truth is that one without the other would not have a future, both sides of the industry are equally important and need each other to exist. Those professionals who acknowledge this have a higher chance of success.

In my opinion, the main objective of anyone in sales (whether is Retail or Wholesale) is to promote the brand as if it were their own. It is important to do that by building relationships with your clients and understanding what they need. In the case of Wholesale, you go one step further as you must create a healthy alliance with your clients. They are the experts in their business and you are the expert on your brand. Combining those two and working with your client as a partner is one of the keys to success. Their business is your business.

3. Would you say that to work in Sales you have to study a career? Are there any studies that would help someone who was already born with selling skills?

It certainly helps to understand the basics of the business. Often people think that as long as sales are growing the business is healthy and they forget that what makes a business sustainable over time is having healthy margins. It is crucial for anyone in Sales to understand the basics of how to achieve “healthy sales”. You can learn this with a Business or Economics degree, even though I would always recommend a Business degree as it usually includes learning about Marketing.

But I think that the key to being a good Salesperson (no matter the level you are at) is mostly about common sense and being able to build relationships and trust with your customers and colleagues.

4. As someone working in Sales in the Fashion Industry, you must have some sort of understanding of fashion. What would you advice someone who wants to go into Sales in Fashion to learn before embarking on this career?

No matter the industry you work in, having some knowledge about the product that you are selling is a must. Nobody expects you to be an expert from day one, but some sort of understanding about the product that you are selling is required.

When I started out, I was quite uninformed about fashion. I guess that working as the receptionist, I was not expected to know a lot about it. But, because I was working in the reception of the Design and Product Development floor, I became curious about it. All the little projects that I was given were related to sales, sketches, fabric samples, etc… This is how I got acquainted with fashion and found out how much I enjoyed it. I was very lucky!

By the time I started in the Sales Department, I had made sure to be as informed as I could about Fashion. This was back in the year 2000 when researching information was not as easy as it is now. The rest I learned through experience and thanks to a great team that was willing to be patient with me and teach me as much as I was willing to learn.

To someone who has a real interest in a career in fashion sales, I would recommend getting as much experience as possible. Real experience. Working in a shop, for instance, is going to give you a lot of real experience about what the business is all about. You will learn about fashion (patterns, fabrics, and trends) and you will do so in a practical way, meaning that you will learn by doing, which I find to be the most effective way of learning.

5. Designers present their collections on the runways, in private shows or in their showrooms a few times a year. What happens next?

Many things!! The moment the samples reach the showroom is one of the most exciting times of the season. You open boxes with the same excitement a kid has on Christmas morning. But it is also hard work! Ironing and hanging the garments, pricing them, learning the collection (fabrics, fits, the moods within the collection…), creating a visual that provides a nice flow to ensure that the first contact that the clients have with the garments has a lot of Wow factor, etc.   

You also need to prepare each appointment as thoroughly as possible. How was your client’s season? Was your brand key for them? Why? Or Why not? What type of garment and which price point worked best for them? These are a few of the key points that you need to have prepared before the meeting starts, not only in order to be able to have a successful meeting but above all in order to help your client make the most efficient order possible. If you manage to do that, it is much more likely that your client will have a good season and allocate more space and budget for your brand.

It is also important to work on the marketing activities for your region. Each season, the Brand will work on a strategy as broadly as their DNA and resources allow. Media (Print, Social, TV), Press Events, Product Placement, etc. It is important that, as a Salesperson, you transfer that strategy and its message to the point of sale level and allocate your resources wisely. There are many resources such as brand images and logos, gift with purchases and even some events, but these are limited so it is important to try to allocate those resources in a productive way.

There are many additional steps that will go into the sales process: commercial conditions, payment terms, shipments, product exchanges and returns, etc. These tasks are undeniably more administrative (and unattractive), but they are just as important!

6. What avenues do designers have to make their creations available to their customers? What is the difference between all these channels (e.g. wholesale, retail, e-commerce, etc.)?

We live in a world that has almost endless options for designers that are just starting out to make their creations reach their target. Like everything in life, each formula has pros and cons. Retail offers direct communication with the consumer but very high fixed costs. E-commerce offers high exposure with low fixed costs but a lower emotional connection with your consumer and high returns.

A priori, Wholesale offers the best balance for newcomers; margins are higher than in Retail; you have a closer relationship with the consumer than in e-commerce; and you have your Brand in stores where they sell others brands that you might have established as your benchmark, which will give you visibility with the target consumer that you have envisioned.

It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed with the business side of the industry, in which case it’s good to partner with an Agency. They can help you to get started and provide the contacts that you need.

7. You have been working closely with department stores for almost your whole career in Sales. Can you tell us what exactly is a department store and how is it different from other channels?

Back in the day, department stores were born as shops in which you could fulfil all your needs in one place. Hence the name, department store, a store divided by departments. For many decades, this model had the upper hand as it provided convenience by offering everything one might need in one place, offering also exclusivity by always being the first to have any novelty that reached the market.

Nowadays, these advantages are not exclusive to department stores and many of them are struggling to attract consumers. Many people have shifted to online shopping, which is the epitome of convenience, or shopping malls which have all the benefits of a department store but its setting is normally more appealing than the one of a department store, including larger and more open spaces, family-oriented activities and a larger food offer.

Department stores that are thriving in today's economy are doing so by differentiating themselves from competitors (whether these are other department stores or a different channel altogether). Some of them are doing it by providing exclusivity through high-end brands or small labels that are hard to find; others are doing it by offering certain benefits to their customers (extended return dates, payment plans, promotions, additional services, etc). There are many ways that they can differentiate themselves and it is key to choose the best option according to who your consumer is.

8. Apart from the different sales channels, there are also different markets with their own particular characteristics. You have worked in Iberia, Europe in general, the UK, the US and Canada. How would you say the peculiarities of each market affect the selling process?

The base of most markets in Europe and America is basically the same, even though each region does have different needs that need to be acknowledged.    

Some markets are more professional than others in terms of how business is conducted, and it is important to adapt to that. Things like being on time for a meeting, being accurate on your communications, having a polished image are extremely important in some markets. So my recommendation would be to try to have standards as high as possible in order to be seen as reliable and trustworthy by your customer no matter what market you are working with. Even if you conduct your business under higher standards than those in your market, it is unlikely that anyone will have a negative perception of you for being too correct.

In regards to other relevant aspects of the industry, such as fashion, marketing trends or competitors, I think it is important to specialize in the market that you are managing, but it is also very important to keep up with what is going on in those markets that are close or connected to your own. Back when I started out, each market was an “island”, with its own set of rules and timings. Nowadays, everything is linked due to globalization, so having an interest in what’s happening in other markets will give you a competitive advantage.

9. If you were to hire someone to work for you as your junior today, what would you look for in them?

For me, attitude is the most important asset. Almost anything can be learned as long as the person is willing to do so. But finding a person with enthusiasm and passion for what they do is not as easy as one would hope.

10. What is in store for you in the near future?

Honestly, I’m not sure. For most of my career, I always thought a couple of steps ahead. I was a Regional Coordinator working towards being a Key Account Manager. I started my first Master's Degree because I wanted to move into international sales. I went onto Product Management because I wanted a broader view of the business so that I could have a more relevant position in the company where I was working.

For the first time in 18 years, I’m just enjoying my job and it’s quite refreshing. I have goals and ambitions of course, but these are short-term goals and ambitions related to the role that I currently have. Such as reaching my sales target, getting a big account that’s been an objective for a while, etc. And I must say that my job is much more rewarding than it has ever been because I can stop and appreciate each accomplishment instead of rushing off to the next thing.

Fantastic, Jessica! Thank you so much for all this amazing information and for giving us an insight into what working in Wholesales in Fashion is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


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I Wish I Had Known... About Makeup Artistry!

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This is the eighth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

I recently chatted with Oscar and Bafta nominated makeup artist Tina Earnshaw during her masterclass at the Delamar Academy, about her career in the film industry, her beginnings and on how aspiring makeup artists can follow her path:

1. By going into your IMDB profile or your Wikipedia page, one can see that you have had an extensive career in some of the most iconic movies of our times. But, like many other makeup artists, you had very humble beginnings working at a makeup shop in London. Did you ever imagine your life would follow this path? Did you ever dream this big?

Well, you know, I was 16 when I started in the Max Factor salon in Bond Street. I’ve always loved makeup! I’d never thought about movies and I was looking forward to working in TV. I never thought that far ahead to movies. I did think far ahead about fashion and beauty, though. I loved all the pretty stuff. When I trained at the BBC I learnt all the grotty stuff, too. The 7 years training from the BBC put me in good stead. I was good with wigs and I loved beauty makeup. I did fashion and TV commercials for years. I didn’t want to be a film mummy and be away from my children for months on end. I did wonderful commercials for brands like Chanel. So I didn’t think I would be where I am today at all! I suppose I had a lucky break!

2. How did you end up working in film and tv? Did you ever consider fashion or other creative outlets?

It was all through Carole Hemming who designed Cinderella, and Murder on The Orient Express. She took me on my first film to design makeup. I owe my film career to Carole! We did many films together. The first film I worked on was with a young Gwyneth Paltrow, and then it went back to back with films after that. I absolutely loved it! My children were more grown up then. With young children, I wouldn't have concentrated so well. I had some experience designing with War & Peace but it was Carole who gave me my break. I did lots of commercial work prior to this and worked with some of the best fashion photographers

3. What did you do back in the days and what would you advice makeup artists to do today to put themselves at the right spot at the right time? Did you test a lot? Did you network much? Did you assist other makeup artists?

I was very lucky with my career path. I never assisted any make-up artists. I didn’t have assistants and I didn’t do testing. I never did any of that working for free. Barbara Daly was a few years ahead of me at the BBC and she made a way for makeup artists. She was the one who started getting paid for photographer’s fashion shoots. Barbara was really brave. The fashion industry I found intimidating. I did a lot of stills with David Bailey, whenever he was over here. Fashion was scary and not my cup of tea. I stuck to high profile commercials, even Fairy liquid ads! Fashion is a different world to film and you do have to work for free sadly.

4. How can aspiring makeup artists manage having a day job to pay the bills and also trying to pursue their dreams? I have sometimes heard how they miss out on opportunities because they have to work full-time elsewhere to be able to make ends meet.

With hard work, lucky breaks and commitment. If it’s right for you, you won’t spend too many years struggling and you should always say yes to the job that will improve your makeup career. If you need to work in a store or something like that, make sure it’s as flexible as possible. Your employer needs to know your makeup career comes first and places like Space NK are quite good at respecting that.

5. What do you think about jobs that promise exposure to justify low payment or no payment at all? Did you ever encounter these types of jobs while you were growing in the industry? What about working only for expenses?

I didn’t have this experience, but the world of film and TV is very different.

6. Are you represented by an Agent? Do you think representation is something that makeup artists should aspire to? Or are there other ways to get the jobs?

I do have an agent! Film agents take on people with experience who they can get work for. I don’t have an agent for private work. I just have them to take care of the money. I know some people without agents! Morag (Ross) has the same agent as me. They are helpful and definitely something most successful make-up artists in my field have, but they don’t always need.

7. Do you have assistants? How do you pick them? Do you always work with the same team?

I try to work with the same team because they are brilliant – about 8 people I’ve worked with for ages. Maralyn Sherman, I’ve worked with for such a long time because she is so clever – she can do Prosthetics, hair and make-up all so well! I stick to the same people mostly because you get a good team spirit. I work in a slightly different way – I don’t have an ego, I can’t bear the people who operate with the big egos, they terrify the trainees and the juniors!

8. Do you do hair? Are you often expected to do hair on set? I know a lot of makeup artists complain that they are always asked to do both makeup and hair. Is this a common practice in the industry?

I don’t do hair anymore! In film, it's important to have lots of skills, especially in the UK.  In the US you are not allowed to do both, the unions won’t allow it. When I left the BBC I often did both makeup and hair. I get the good hair people to help me now. They are much better than me! I know exactly how it all works and this is why I’m a designer. It all comes down to money and the more you can do, the more cost-effective you are. I prefer to have everyone sticking to their particular skill.

9. As a makeup artist, how do you feel about society’s obsession with perfection? From the abuse of Photoshop in the industry to the “beautify” options in our smartphone’s cameras, it seems like we live in a Retouching-thirsty world. What goes through your mind when you see one of your makeups in a photo that has been completely photoshopped?

It’s a bit annoying, to be honest. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove that extra chin. A little bit of help is fine, but it’s gone too far where people look 22 who are actually 50 and it’s not real.

10. Finally, how does an aspiring makeup artist start a career in the industry? Do they attend an academy, do they learn from youtube tutorials, do they practice on their mums and friends?

All of them! Do everything and never stop learning or practising.  Delamar Academy is truly one of the best places to start or top up your skills.

Beautiful! Thank you so much, Tina, for taking the time to answer my questions and giving us an insight into what being a makeup artist is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

To learn more about Tina Earnshaw, make sure to visit her website www.tinaearnshaw.co.uk and discover her line of brushes and accessories.

To find out about the Delamar Academy and their makeup, hair, special effects courses and masterclasses, visit their website www.delamaracademy.co.uk


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I Wish I Had Known... About Freelancing!

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This is the seventh post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I chat with Matthew Dowling, founder of The Freelancer Club, about freelancing in the creative industries and the #NoFreeWork campaign:

1. You started out as a photographer yourself but now you help develop the careers of other creatives. How did that come about?

Yes, I was a photographer for a nearly 12 years and, like a lot of freelancers, didn't have much of a plan when starting out. I had experimented with video and photography whilst at university but didn’t have a clue how to run a freelance business.

Photography came about as I was unable to pay the rent and a friend asked me for a favour. One thing led to another and, before I knew it, I was shooting weddings, properties and events on a regular basis.

About three years into my career I landed a dream job with a fashion company who gave me plenty of work. I was so enamoured with the client and the responsibility that I gave up my other clients.

The first year was great and they promoted me to Head of Fashion. I still had a couple of days each week to focus on my personal projects and the rest of the time I dedicated to them. It was the perfect mix of paid work and artistic fulfilment.

During the second year of our relationship, an invoice went unpaid. When I asked why they told me that is was an accountancy error. After three months went by without any resolution I had to borrow money from friends and things started to get very difficult.

After five months I couldn't afford to pay rent and, without money coming in from other clients, it was a desperate situation. I was still working for the client whilst all of this was taking place and, in my naïveté, believed their excuses. I honestly thought that I would get paid a lump sum so that I could pay everybody the money I owed and get back on track.

After 6 months of unpaid invoices, I visited their head office to discover why I hadn't been paid in nearly half a year. They had gone bankrupt and were using me to produce content for their website to sell the remainder of their stock.

The story made the national press and led to many other freelancers reaching out to me with similar tales. Although it was a low point, this was the moment that planted the seed for The Freelancer Club.

2. We met when you were running Shooting Beauty with Nina Malone, which in time became The Freelancer Club. What sort of help can freelancers get from you?

Both Nina and I were freelancers for years so we know what its like to feel lost and frustrated. On day one, we listed the areas that we struggled with when we were freelancers and how we could offer freelancers that support.

Having spoken with hundreds of freelancers at Shooting Beauty, we had a pretty good idea what was missing. The number one reason why freelancers failed was due to a lack business understanding.

The Freelancer Club provides support to freelancers, not just by offering access to paid jobs, but opportunities to collaborate with other freelancers, free business and legal advice, guides on all aspects of freelance business, articles and videos that talk about the truth behind freelancing and how it feels to be a freelancer. We also provide access to a variety of events, workshops and social gatherings. The main aspect of the Club is community and all fees are reinvested into the club to support the members.

3. At the beginning, The Freelancer Club was aimed at creatives in the fashion industry but it has evolved to include freelancers from other disciplines as well. Who is this club for?

We haven’t branched out too much since launch other than to offer more paid work in other sectors. When we first launched, our focus was on photographers, hair & makeup artists, models and stylists in the fashion industry. We’ve now opened up to videographers, nail artists, illustrators and we’re starting to reach graphic designer, dancers, animators and other creative fields.

We recognised that the fashion industry, famous for poorly paid jobs and a lot of unpaid work, was not enough. We decided to list jobs in the wedding, events, corporate, beauty, sport and lifestyle sectors as well as fashion to help freelancers earn a living.

4. You have mentioned in the past that you believe in the ubiquity that a freelance career provides and how nowadays we can work from anywhere on the planet and make our clients and peers feel like we are next to them. Is this how The Freelancer Club is set up?

The vision many aspiring freelancers have when they think of the lifestyle is travelling the globe, doing something they are passionate about and being in control of their own destiny. All of this is attainable but it takes hard work, smart work, and the mental ability to accept this idea as a reality.

Most of our members offer a face to face service so travelling far is not always feasible, however, the freedom to dictate one's life is still at the core of freelancing.

The Freelancer Club is setup using a freelance structure. Based all over the world, we have sourced forward-thinking, talented freelancers who are the lifeblood of the business. Without them, The Freelancer Club would not be possible.  

5. A few years ago, you started the #NoFreeWork campaign. Can you tell us the motivations behind it and what the campaign is about?

The campaign was an extension of my personal story. We made a firm decision when we launched The Freelancer Club not to post any unpaid work on the site.

We knew hundreds of freelancers who had been asked to work for free in exchange for experience, exposure or prestige and did not want to contribute to that practice.

The #NOFREEWORK campaign was initially launched to raise awareness about unpaid work between freelancers and employers. Over time it has become so much more.

We teamed up with IPSE, the UK's largest membership organisation for freelancers and the self-employed, and released a national survey. The results were shocking. We learned that, on average, every freelancer is losing over £5,000 as a direct result of unpaid work. Moreover, the practice completely undermines the value that freelancers provide the UK economy and demeans the individual freelancer involved.

The survey results enabled us to gain press coverage. The Guardian, The Mail and a number of prominent online publications wrote articles on it. This led to a roundtable discussion, chaired by The Guardian, with some of the creative industry’s most influential unions, universities, journalists and leaders.

6. What can be considered working for free?

If a company or an individual stands to make money from a job, this role should be classed as a paid job. Many companies ask freelancers to work for the experience, the exposure or privilege of working with a well-known brand. We believe these aspects should be a consequence of a fairly paid job and not a substitution.

7. Is testing, a regular practice in the creative industry, considered working for free?

No, quite the opposite. Test Shooting or TFP (time for print) is a collaboration between freelancers to add images to portfolios, practice new techniques and meet others in the industry. So long as nobody makes money from the images, it’s a great way to develop a freelance business without bowing to exploitative unpaid work.

We’ve seen companies classify a ‘job’ as a test shoot to avoid having to pay freelancers. Understanding the difference is vital.

8. Where do you see the #NoFreeWork campaign going?

Our latest achievement took place in Parliament where we discussed the possibility of changing legalisation to offer freelancers more rights. A similar bill passed in New York and we’re very optimistic that we’ll push the NOFREEWORK bill through in the UK. The new legislation would make contracts between freelancers and employers mandatory over a certain amount, make it easier to collect unpaid invoices and incentivise the employer to pay freelancers on time. We have also proposed that the Small Business Commissioner publish a list of serial offenders.  

In regards to the issue of unpaid work, we continue to partner with influential brands, companies and institutions who have pledged their support to our campaign. Over time, we hope to see a tipping point whereby companies who do not support the #NOFREEWORK campaign will be shunned by the industry.

9. Apart from running The Freelancer Club and the #NoFreeWork campaign, you also give talks at universities and events. What sort of topics do you cover? Are these talks open to the public?

Yes, I believe it’s very important to engage with the next generation of freelancers, understand their challenges and listen to their concerns. When I have time, I speak at various universities and events on entrepreneurialism, talk about the truth behind freelancing and knowing one’s value. Some talks are exclusively for a university, institution or members club, others are open to the public.

I also consult freelancers and startups, one on one, to help with their business and personal development.

10. Where can freelancers learn more about you, The Freelancer Club and the #NoFreeWork campaign?

The best place to learn more about our various ventures and projects is on FreelancerClub.net

Fantastic! Thank you so much, Matt for your time and all this valuable information. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


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I Wish I Had Known About... Model Agencies!

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This is the sixth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I talk to Joseph Tenni, a Model Agent based in Sydney, about his career in the modelling industry and the role of the model agency nowadays:

1. You are a Model Agent for one of Australia’s biggest agencies; you have been a talent manager in what it seems like since forever, and you are also responsible for the discovery and successful careers of models of the likes of Andreja Pejić and Adut Akech. Where did it all begin?

I grew up in Melbourne and I was always interested in fashion and magazines. I moved to Sydney when I was 21. Originally I got a job at a fashion-focused photo library (years before google searches) and after that, I started booking models at a small agency. A short time thereafter, I started at Chadwick (April 1999).

2. Is this a career path that you choose or does it choose you? How can one become a Model Agent?

I think a bit of both. This job encompasses a bunch of things I really like—fashion, magazines, looking at the internet, teenage pop culture, gossip, foreign language. Basically, it’s a job of connections—knowing people and having the ability to use those connections to score bookings.

3. With the growing interest in “everyday people” from brands and markets, the scope of an agent has broadened from just working with models and actors to also include working with bloggers and influencers. How has this transition been for the agencies?

Good question. The job has been changing in recent times. Many clients are interested in the social following of a model. Agencies are also signing people who are not necessarily traditional models but they still obviously have marketable appeal. In order for an agency to remain relevant, it must evolve and be in touch with its clients’ needs and demands.

4. How is a model discovered? What can someone who wishes to become a model start doing right now to call the attention of an agency?

The old-fashioned way. Sending simple pictures into an agency with measurements. Preferably not professional pictures.

Joseph Tenni and Adut Akech.

Joseph Tenni and Adut Akech.

5. What makes a good model? How much of a model’s success depends on personality, talent and skills versus having notoriety as a celebrity or having the right social media following?

Aside from having a great look, desirable measurements and being photogenic, a successful model needs to have the ambition to succeed, have patience, be willing to be in unusual working environments and be charming. The ones who reach the top generally have a decent understanding of fashion, cool personal style and an individual personality. There is a current fixation with model or celebrity offspring. Those girls and boys would be successful without social media in my opinion, but they wouldn’t have experienced the fast track or the insight without social media, I guess.

6. We have come very far in terms of democratising the access to the industry of models with what until now were considered atypical ages, body types and ethnic backgrounds. Where do you see the industry going?

I see that the rules are changing and I think inclusivity is here to stay. That can only be a good thing.

7. We have talked in the past about how the Australian market is so different from the markets here in the UK and in other countries in Europe. With the shift in demands from the audiences in different parts of the world towards a more diverse spectrum of faces, why do you think that there are still markets that remain very specific in terms of the types of talent that they want to cast?

I guess tradition has prevented a diverse spectrum of talent in some markets, but that’s changing. Adut Akech was on the cover of the September issue of L’Officiel Singapore. African models have seldom been in demand with Asian clients, so times are certainly changing for the better.

8. The fashion industry has been in the spotlight over the last couple of years for the allegations of mistreatment and discrimination of models by some agents and clients (James Scully has been very vocal about this) and for concerns about the health and well-being of models (France’s BMI law, or Kering’s and LVMH’s joint Models Wellbeing Charter). What mechanisms do you think agencies must put in effect to protect the integrity of their talent and put an end to all these issues?

A good agent is one who cares about the model he/she represents — fighting for rates and for fairness. The models and agents need to speak up when there is a problem. I feel that the platforms to do that and to be taken seriously have been improving thanks to models like Sara Ziff and Cameron Russell.

Amazing! Thank you so much, Joseph, for taking the time to answer my questions and for explaining what a career as a Model Agent is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


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I Wish I Had Known About... TV Adaptations!

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This is the fifth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I chat with Kenza Yarhfouri, a BBC Development Executive based in Paris, about what a career in TV Adaptations is all about:

1. When we think of people working in TV, we think of actors, presenters, and producers, but we forget about the thousands of possible career paths in the industry. In a few words, can you explain what you do?

I'm laughing at this question. First, when I told my family and relatives that I was working in TV, they were expecting to see me on screen or to at least read my name on the initial credits! But no one waits until the very last credits... You won't see me on screen, but I'm definitely part of the TV world. I work for BBC Worldwide as a Development Executive where I deal with content creation. My job consists on adapting English TV programs to the French market. We have access to a huge catalogue of titles from different genres (game shows, factual, shiny floor, talk...), and we spot the more relevant ones to our local market. For the lucky titles, we think of a French version and introduce them to the local broadcasters. Once we convince them, we start producing our own version which won't be far from the original one but will have a French touch. Since I started working in BBC, 4 years ago, I have worked on various big hits like Dancing with the stars, Great British Bake off, Top Gear, The Weakest Link...

2. When we met in New York six years ago you were working for Nickelodeon in the US and also writing for a magazine in France. Now you are living in Paris and working for the BBC. Was this the path that you had set out for yourself or did you just let the chips fall where they may?

Already 6 years, time flies... If I have to look back at my life, it was a series of opportunities that came to me. New York was a dream come true. I went there to finish my Master degree for a semester, but I did want to have a professional experience. I was fortunate enough to get an internship at Nickelodeon. I was working in Times Square (at that time I was convinced that I was part of a TV series since it felt too big to conceive...). I loved the experience there. I worked with amazing people and had great missions. I started my career in the Kids area where I was in charge of buying youth programs for channels. Then, I came back to Paris and did a more specialized Master degree at La Sorbonne. At the end of the year, I had to do an internship and wanted to discover a new field in the TV area. I left the children content for a more adult one and got hired after my apprenticeship.

3. How much of your work is sales-related and how much is actually production?

Actually, 99% of my work is sales, the 1% left is when I go on set to attend the recordings. My main occupation is to make the content that we have in our catalogue attractive. We work hard to find the perfect fit between our titles and the channels' needs. For every format, we must highlight convincing arguments to sell it. We'll usually be looking at the local trends, the success of the original format, the hosts and talents... Once this is done, then the production part begins.

4. Do you only work with BBC content or do you buy from other networks?

Besides the development side, I'm also in charge of finding new shows from other catalogues to adapt to our market. I get in contact with several independent companies all over the world and start shopping. Our catalogue is very rich with hundreds of titles, so you may think that we don't need to look elsewhere. However, we are always paying attention to the international market because we don't want to miss any hit. Therefore, I source content for our own market and look carefully for TV programs that can be relevant to invest in.

5. Does your audience include only channels in France or any French-speaking channel worldwide?

Our clients are mainly France-based companies targeting French audiences, but most of these channels are also available in French-speaking territories (Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, etc.).

6. How do you know if a show is adaptable to a French audience?

All the shows are adaptable, the main question is; is it relevant to the local market. Will the viewers be interested in this program? For instance, the audience in the U.K. has a different taste than here in France. For example, you have a lot of success for Antiques shows in England which wouldn't be appropriate for other markets.

However, most markets, including France, are very sensitive to bigger markets like the US, U.K., or Australia. If something is doing great in those territories, you can be sure that you won't have to contact the channels, they will be the first ones to get in touch with you. This is how we can see all over the world big hits like The Voice, Survivor, or Got Talent. Those key formats have an international radiance that makes them easy to adapt.

7. Growing up in Panama, I remember as a child watching Japanese or German game shows on TV and not really understanding what was going on because their sense of humour and their culture was so different to mine. How do you deal with this when sourcing content for the French audience?

It seems like the people who bought those programs in Panama didn't do a good job! From the broadcaster's point of view, the idea behind an acquisition is to buy content that matches the local needs and mentality. It's more difficult when you are investing in ready-made titles, but when you acquire the program's rights, it's easier to perfectly fit the needs of the audience since you are producing locally.  For example, when we sold Great Bake-off, we knew that because of our heritage our challenges would be more complex and our amateurs' creations would be more stunning. I'll let you compare the two versions and you'll see the differences. That's the aim of the adaptation; producing a local show that matches the viewers' needs.

8. How would you say the audience in France is different to the audience in the UK? How about the audience in the US or in your birthplace, Morocco?

We are all different and similar at the same time. Thanks to the internet, international contents can easily be watched wherever you are. So the audience is relatively the same, everyone watches content for the same reasons; to be entertained, to challenge their knowledge, to be informed, to get help... the difference is more about our societies, and traditions. Everybody knows the success of The Apprentice, it's a huge hit in the US and in the UK, but it failed in France. The local adaptation didn't convince the French viewers who weren't familiar with this kind of management. France is a country where social rights are very inlaid, so the idea of having a big boss firing you was unacceptable.

Therefore, you can notice that some topics are easily discussed in some countries while they would be inconceivable in others. In Morocco, for instance, the blood in TV series will be blurred and some scenes censored. In the US, their puritan society can easily be shocked so not all the themes would be covered.

9. Do you think that adapted programs have actually influenced cultural changes in different countries?

Indeed, I believe that TV can have an impact on the society and the viewers habits. When we launched a sewing competition, we noticed that more and more people were interested in the topic, and some even invested in sewing machines and started making their own creations. There was also the very controversial show aired on Channel 4; Benefits Street. I won't express my personal opinion of the show; however, it did make people react and deal with this topic that is usually eclipsed.

To go further on this question, as a photographer, you are aware of the images' impact on people. TV is part of numerous households, and the content is a reflection of our current society. We currently see the success of the news channels which are airing live and covering all sorts of events. It reflects the immediacy of information; thanks to the Internet we are instantly informed, so TV has to adapt and offer the same service.

10. In a world saturated with reality shows, do you think networks react to what the audience wants or are all these programs pushed to the audience to see how they respond?

Both answers are correct. Reality shows are a real trend in our current world. It's cheap, easy to produce, and moreover, it's attracting the young audience.

When a channel schedules a show it's in order to attract the maximum possible number of people; at least that's the aim of the commercial channels. Therefore, the broadcasters will match their viewers' wishes. From this statement, you can easily understand ITV2's schedule which is mainly targeting a young audience.  However, you won't imagine The Only Way is Essex aired on BBC One; it wouldn't fit their audience's needs. Besides, as a public service, the BBC group will be more inclined to produce very original shows so that everyone is able to find on the TV Grid something suitable for them. Thanks to this strategy, the audience can still be surprised and be pushed outside its familiar consumption.

Merci beaucoup, Kenza! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions about what working on TV Adaptations is like. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thank you! À vite! Gros bisous!


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I Wish I Had Known... About Hair Styling!

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This is the fourth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Hamilton Stansfield, Australia-born London-based Hair Artist, about what a career in hair styling is all about:

1. On any given day one can find you working with a celebrity, tending to your private clients, or running 106 km in the Isle of Wight. In a nutshell, who is Hamilton Stansfield?

All of the above inclusive and more, but I'm not defined by what I do. I’m a driven, ambitious, motivated, energetic, relentless creative. I’m always looking to push the creativity and I try to work or collaborate with people who are also driven to keep trying something different, something fresh.

2. Hairdresser, Hair Stylist, Session Hair Artist... what is the difference?

A Hairdresser is someone who encompasses all the skills that are generally needed for the public, which involves cutting and colouring, blow-drying, and styling.

A hairstylist is generally somebody skilled essentially in styling. Not all of the support work that gets it to there. Generally speaking. So just the dressing out of hair as in most shoots, which sometimes involves wigs and hair pieces, sometimes it does not. Sometimes it involves having knowledge and skills about cut, colour and all the other elements of texture. Often times, not. It is not about the needs of bringing out the best of a person necessarily.  It's often working with a model or celebrity, so many times hairstylists don't necessarily have a strong ability to bring out the person within the creativity. Sometimes the creativity of the hairstylist just pops on that person. It's less to do with the person or finding out what the person is about because it's not always the context. If it's a model, especially if it's a model, but sometimes even the same with an actress or a celebrity. Sometimes they look like they're wearing a hairstyle rather than being just them.

Then a session hair stylist is the next level, where you can pretty much do it all. But It's infinitely creative. Every time you don't copycat, you bring something new. Because you do have all of the skills: you can do wigs, you can do hair pieces, you can completely change who that person is because it's less colour-by-numbers. A session hair stylist truly reinvents somebody. Like Sam McKnight or Malcolm Edwards, for instance. You see their work and you can tell that's something!

You can be all of the above, but generally, you break them into these categories.

3. How did you start working with hair?

My step-father's nephew from his first marriage was a renowned hairdresser in Australia. I was coming out of a very complicated time and he connected me up with the craft. And I just devoured it. And then I couldn't stop. Courses, working, extra training, wigs, makeup, learning, learning, learning.

Then acting came after five years of doing hair. I went to NIDA, which is a known drama school, and I auditioned with a friend and went into the Actors Centre. In the meantime, I did hair to support acting. But, as with many actors, I didn’t make a career of it. Thankfully, I had something else that I could do. I started working with celebrities because I understood them. I had been on both sides. So I continued on to make a good living out of hair. 

4. What is the path for a creative who decides to follow a hair styling career?

In Australia, you have to do four years. It's a degree. Here in the UK, you can do six months, the same in the US. Six months or a year, and then you're left to do it, but you really don't know what you're doing. You haven't studied the physiology or the chemistry of all the elements to do it properly. You just had a faff around with hair, but you don't know what you're doing. You don't know what the chemicals are made of or how the elements come together. You don't know the substance behind it, you just know how to contort hair. But you don't know why and how, you don't have the substance behind it.    

5. Are there any sort of specializations in the field or do you need to know it all about styling, colouring, treatments, etc?

Specialization depends on which way do you want to go. If you want to do commercial work, TV and catalogue, or you want to do bridal or do fashion, or you want to do extreme fashion, or you want to do campaigns, or do film. Do you want to do stuff that is 9 to 5 or do stuff that is infinitely creative? It depends on where you want to go. It's like saying: “what do I need in order to go on that trip?” Well, where is your trip to? You have got to know where you're going to go. How can you know how to get somewhere if you don't have an idea of where you want to go?

6. You often hear that makeup artists are expected to know how to do hair... are hair stylists expected to know how to apply makeup?

It's definitely different categories. This really intrigues me and I have thought about it quite a few times because people have asked me many times before: “what do you enjoy more hair or makeup?" Not to be confused with the male or the female gender, but hair is much more about masculine energy, about taking control, being strong with a manipulative force. Makeup is much more about the feminine energy, much more painterly, reflective, touching, perceiving, understanding, feeling what's going on. So they are different energies. Of course that’s a generalization because you can have aggressive makeup, but generally makeup requires a softer touch and generally hair requires to take charge of it. Some people are wired in a way that they can handle the amount of energy and attention to detail. And some people are not. Some people benefit either way. That's a little bit out there but that's my view of it.  It has nothing to do with the gender. It has to do with the energy of the person.

7. I know that you are represented by an agent, but I believe that you also work directly with your own clients. Would you say that your career gives you the flexibility to work in a salon, as a freelancer and with agencies without having to stick to one business model at once?

Absolutely. I've deliberately done it. I've had salons before, managing staff and people, and it requires a lot of energy and time. I'd rather just do the work. I have an agent. She essentially does the paperwork and does it pretty well, but my clients come directly to me. I have just shy of 400 clients that come to me and to my place which means I'm available from 7 a.m. to midnight almost every day. And then when I have a shoot they know that that takes priority and they get moved. And they understand that.

Those clients involve people from all over the world. I'm very lucky that they fly me there or they fly to me. Lots of people come to my atelier, which is a two chair salon and it is very much one on one. Very personal. Anytime, day or night. As a client, you're not dealing with any public or anybody else. Total attention to you, and for that you pay a premium. But they enjoy it. Once they get away from the mindset of a salon they prefer that they can come here any night or any day or any morning they can. They are also quite happy to fly me to other countries to do that as well.

All this involves complete autonomy from anybody telling me what to do. Financial independence on a creative level. So I don't do things like catalogues anymore. That doesn't interest me at all. Neither anything that's kind of generic or not creative because I don't have to. It's not interesting. The more you simplify life, the better. If I had a salon, and staff, and those insurances, and those expenses, and those things to take care of, that would be less energy that I have for the people I'm working with. My clients. Whether it is in the atelier or whether it is on a shoot.  It's more money in, less money out. It’s more energy into what I'm doing, less energy wasted on stuff that doesn't return. So you want to maximise what's coming in and minimise what's going out. That's the business model.

8. Apart from working with private clients and celebrities, you also collaborate with photographers in photoshoots. How does that come about and why do you think that it is important to collaborate with other creatives?

If you don't put yourself into new situations you won't challenge yourself in new ways. Creative collaborations come to me. I generally don't hustle anymore. Not unless it's somebody that I really like.

9. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about embarking on a hair styling career?

Work on your skills and your craft. Work on you. Know what you do and why you do it and don't do it for the notions of some kind of fame or notoriety, because they won't last. You do this because you love doing it.

10. Where can we see your work and how can people get a hold of you?

The usual suspects: my website and my Instagram.

I really appreciate it, Hamilton! Thank you so much for answering my questions and letting me take a peek into what a Hair Artist career is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


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I Wish I Had Known... About Fashion Journalism!

This is the third post of my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Olivia Pinnock, Fashion Journalist, Copywriter and founder of The Fashion Debates, about what fashion journalism is all about:

1. I met you through the Fashion Debates but you are also a copywriter, a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and a fashion journalist. Who is Olivia Pinnock?

Oh I ask myself that all the time! I trained as a journalist and I do still really believe I’m a writer at heart but I’m very fortunate that I’m able to channel all of my skills and passions into many different areas.

2. What exactly is Fashion Journalism? Is it related to Fashion Critique?

Yes, all fashion critics are journalists, though not all journalists are critics! Fashion journalism is the reporting of news and trends related to what we wear. This can be interviewing designers, writing catwalk show reports, announcing changes to key staff in fashion companies, forecasting trends for the coming season, reporting sales figures for brands, and many more things! Fashion criticism is deeper analysis of these things. It could be putting a fashion collection into context and offering thought on whether it is a successful or unsuccessful. It could also explore why certain trends are popular right now, or what changes in the industry mean for business.   

3. How do you become a Fashion Journalist? Is it a separate career from journalism?

There’s not one path to go down. I studied Journalism at university and built up a portfolio of fashion writing to specialise and I believe that my training in traditional journalism skills has been very helpful. However, some people study fashion journalism and other people don’t study at all, they just train themselves through experience. I didn’t know I wanted to work in fashion when I studied so it was the right route for me.   

4. What is the role of the fashion journalist today in this day and age where a photo posted on social media is worth a thousand words?

Well we all know that what is posted on social media is not necessarily factual never mind good quality. While it can be even harder to stand out amongst all the noise on social media and the internet, I think we need top quality, trustworthy journalism in all fields more than ever.   

5. With great writing comes great responsibility. Do you think that a fashion journalist should actually know about fabrics, pattern cutting, design, and the basics of the fashion industry to be able to do their job?

Absolutely! You would expect a political reporter to understand how government works, you would expect a war reporter to understand the history of the conflict, you would expect a football reporter to know the rules of the game, so you must educate yourself as a fashion journalist to understand every aspect of the industry and its history.

The module I teach at London Met is called Fashion Branding & Journalism but as part of our classes I give them quizzes on current fashion news, names of fabrics, shoe styles, important figures in the industry, etc. We also take a trip to a factory to see how clothes are made. I feel very strongly that this is something that is very important and yet often missing from fashion journalism education.  

6. I know that you are also a copywriter. For the rest of us: what is copy?

It is any writing that is done for a brand, and therefore has a commercial purpose. It’s a very broad term that covers anything from product descriptions, to press releases, to advertising slogans, to e-newsletters and social media posts, to company information on a website or catalogue.  

7. Is it right to think that sometimes the copy on the cover of magazines or in advertisement is trying to exploit our insecurities?

Of course it is. It’s not necessarily so obviously at the forefront of editors and advertising executives’ minds when they write them but it is a very long-standing technique in order to get people to buy things and it’s very effective. However, we are now much wiser to this and there is quite a backlash to the negative impact the constant bombardment of messages that tell us we are not good enough unless we buy things to solve all our problems has. This is very slowly heralding a new age of advertising and media.  

8. How about fashion brands? How honest is their message? What can we do as consumers?

Well, that really depends on the brand! I think we should always be aware that any brand’s ultimate purpose is to sell and make a profit, but that doesn’t necessarily make them evil. Of course, sometimes they cross a line and we have an awful lot of power as consumers to boycott brands we disagree with and to hold the brand’s we do like to a higher standard when they miss the mark by using our voice. It’s important to think critically and always be aware of the motives behind the things you see, read, and watch, and while brands can have an amazing impact on raising awareness or money for certain issues, don’t expect them to be saints. Expect them to be companies who need to make money in order to survive.

9. What are the Fashion Debates and when and where do they take place?

The Fashion Debates is a series of panel discussion events in London which explore ethical issues facing the fashion industry. Our past topics have included sweatshop labour, environmental pollution, racism, the health of models, and unpaid internships and work. And there’s many more to come! You can find out when the next one is coming up on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, or on our Facebook page and there’s also a newsletter sign up form on our website.  
    
10. How can people from outside London take part on the debates?

We stream all our debates live on Facebook, make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page! And by sharing your ethical fashion style every Wednesday with our hashtag #OnWednesdaysWeWearEthical.

Amazing! Thank you so much Olivia for taking the time to answer my questions and for explaining with such care what Fashion Journalism is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the other posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Marketing!

This is the second post of my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Ilise Benun, a Marketing mentor and author based in New York, about what marketing is and how can creatives successfully self-promote:

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and the work that you do?

I am an author, business coach, national speaker, the founder of Marketing-Mentor.com and adjunct faculty at Pratt Institute and Maryland Institute College of Art, host of the Get Better Clients Bootcamp and a Program Partner for HOW Design Live, the largest design conference in the U.S.

Half my time is spent coaching creatives, especially the ones who are willing to do what it takes to get better clients with bigger budgets. That includes photographers, designers, illustrators, copywriters, videographers and other miscellaneous creative professionals. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years.

I have also written 7 books, including The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing, and Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive. I edit 2 blogs, The Creative Freelancer Blog and The MarketingMixBlog, and I host 2 podcasts, The Marketing Mentor Podcast and the HOWLive Podcast. My online courses can be found through CreativeLive, HOW Design University and American Writers & Artists Institute.

I also have an online store where I sell tools to grow a creative business, including The Pick a Niche Kit, The 30 Minutes-a-Day Marketing Plan for Creative Professionals, The Designer’s Proposal Bundles and The Package Pricing Bundle.

All of that keeps me busy delivering the basic business training in all the different ways a creative professional would want to learn how to grow their business.

2. When did you decide that you wanted to help creatives with their marketing strategies?

In 1988, I was fired from a job so I started out helping my friends who were actors and singers and painters in New York be more organized; over the years it has evolved into helping creatives learn what it means to be your own boss and take control of your business and your life. So I wouldn’t say I “decided” – it was more a question of me responding to the needs I perceived around me with a skill I didn’t even know I had at first, and then practising what I was preaching to take control of my own business!

3. Niche, target, audience, market... for the uninitiated these words are very confusing at the beginning. How would you explain in everyday words what self-promotion is all about?

Let me start with what self promotion is not. It’s not:

  • Bragging

  • Tooting your own horn

  • Boring people with me, me, me

  • Shoving your business card in someone’s face

  • Convincing anyone that they should work with you

Unfortunately, most people think it’s one or more (or sometimes all) of those things. Instead it is very simple:

Self promotion involves identifying those who need what you offer (that’s your target market or niche) and letting them know that you are willing and available to help. Self promotion is everything you do to communicate that message to the right people, the ones who will be open to it – again, your niche.

4. Why is it important for creatives to get their products and services out there?

James Sommerville, VP of Global Design at The Coca Cola Company, said it best on my blog: “Show us you’re interested by reaching out to us. Otherwise, we probably won’t know you exist."

5. Are creatives betraying the artist in them by trying to attract clients?

There does seem to be a popular myth that art and business don’t mix, that one corrupts the other or that you can’t be both “an artist” and “a business person.” I, of course, think that is bull. In fact, I recommend not labelling yourself at all. Instead, think about the business tasks that need doing and do them, whether you are “an artist,” “a business person” or a dog.

6. In this day and age when we are over saturated by promotional material, how much self promotion is too much... or too little?

It depends! And we each have to figure that out for ourselves. Here’s how: if you have a goal to earn X dollars (or pounds) per month, you have to figure out how much self promotion it takes to make your monthly goal based on how much you charge for your services.

Also, self promotion is not a question of quantity, as much as quality and effectiveness. If you choose the right tools to reach your target market in their moment of need, you may not have to do much at all. But you have to know which tools those are! Sometimes, attending one targeted event will give you all the marketing ammunition you need to last a year, as long as you follow up.

7. Is it enough just spreading the word about our work? What else can we do?

The most important thing to do is develop and nurture relationships with the people who are in a position to either hire you and/or pass your name along to the right people.

That can be done in many different ways – too many, really. It can be done in person through networking. It can be done online through social media. It can be done via email and through the old fashioned snail mail -- even sometimes on the phone. The problem most people encounter is getting overwhelmed by all the different marketing tools available. Or using the right ones in the wrong way. The right way, of course, is strategically, allowing you to connect the dots so the right people get the right message at the right time. That is the basis of my latest marketing plan: 2017 Marketing Blueprint - How to Connect the Dots of Your Marketing.

8. Most creatives are very good at their craft but very bad at selling themselves.... myth or reality?

Reality…but for a good reason. You are good at your craft because you care about it and you devote a lot of time to improving it and making sure you’re the best you can be. If you don’t do that for the business side of your craft, you are almost guaranteed to be really bad at it. No one is good at anything they haven’t learned and practised until they are competent and confident about it.

9. Any other word of advice?

Stop making excuses and get on with the work of letting people know about your work. It is your obligation to yourself.

10. How can creatives reach you and what can you do for them?

What I can do is teach you the simple and basic marketing tools that will bring your ideal clients to you. If that sounds good, sign up for my Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor to get a taste of my advice. Listen to the podcast and then, if you like what you see, sign up for my free 30 minute mentoring session and we’ll talk.

Beautiful! Thank you so much Ilise for your time and for all this fantastic information. So many things that "I Wish I Had Known"! I am sure that a lot of people will find it all very useful. I know that your blog, podcasts, calendar and books have been very useful for me!


If you haven't read the other posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

Do you like what you just read? Subscribe to the weekly blog posts here!