De-Stress, A Photography Project

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Ansel Adams is often credited with saying “We don’t take photographs, we make them”, and this phrase has never been more accurate than in my latest photography project in collaboration with The Trampery. I took portraits of members of their community and explored how working in a creative environment surrounded by a supportive group contributes to the success rate of entrepreneurs and their well-being. I shot the portraits on film and distressed them using household chemicals. The project title is a play on words, "distress" being the technique used to create the images about the "de-stressing" offered in the supportive environment created by the co-working space.

Before becoming part of The Trampery community, I had been working from home since I launched my business. Working from home offered me all the comfort that working in your pyjamas can give you, but it also came with a high price to pay in the form of isolation. I had been considering working from a shared space for almost a year, but I was never able to make up my mind about it. I was under the impression that working from a co-working space would decrease my productivity. I believed that these type of spaces lacked privacy and were crowded, noisy and full of distractions. However, the experience at The Trampery has been the complete opposite and, like most of the participants in the project expressed, being part of a creative community like this one keeps me inspired and has made me grow both personally and professionally.

When you have a group of highly creative and motivated people in the same space, the synergies between the members of the group produce an environment where they can thrive. When interviewed, the majority of the participants in the project agreed that the combination of a supportive community with a space in which the primary purpose is to make great work contributes to keeping them motivated and energised throughout the day. Being in contact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds working in different ventures and industries, with whom you can bounce ideas around, gives you a different perspective on your challenges, expands your way of thinking and refreshes your work. As one member pointed out, the worst thing about starting a business on your own in your bedroom is that you've started a business alone and in your bedroom. Creative communities like this one provide members with the right environment to realise their entrepreneurial ambitions.

If you want to learn more about my De-Stress project and read extracts of the interviews with The Trampery members, visit this link.

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Life In De-Stress

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Over the last few weeks, I have been working on a personal project in collaboration with The Trampery in which I have photographed members of their community and explored the effect that working in co-working spaces has on their ventures. The Trampery is a London-based social enterprise, specialising in shared workspace and support for entrepreneurs and creative businesses.

The project is called “De-Stress” because I am taking the portraits with my film camera and once the film is developed I dip the negatives in household chemicals to “distress” the images of these people who work in supportive communities that contribute to relieving their stress.

I visited all the sites that The Trampery has in London and photographed members of their different communities who volunteered for the project. After the portraits were taken, the participants were interviewed and asked questions like how do they think a creative environment like The Trampery contributes to the success rate of their business.

As soon as the film came back from the lab, I started the distressing phase. But, before dipping the negatives in the household chemicals, I blocked the eyes with a gel so that they were the only part of the image that was not affected by this technique. By doing this, the portraits were distressed except for the eyes in an attempt to convey that, even though the life of an entrepreneur is surrounded by uncertainty and stress, working in a supportive community helps them keep clarity and stay focused.

You can learn more about the project and see the resulting images, interviews and behind the scenes on The Trampery’s Instagram account @thetrampery.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Tori Dance from The Trampery.

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"The Warrior" Is A Finalist!

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I am happy to announce that my image “The Warrior” has been selected as a finalist for this year’s AOP Open Awards stills category. The AOP Open Awards is run by the Association of Photographers and it has been running for 13 years, each year attracting approximately 1500 entries from around the world. The image will be exhibited in April alongside the rest of the finalists and will be included in The Awards Book 2019.

The 2019 AOP Awards exhibition will take place at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, tor 7 weeks in the main public lobby of the building. The exhibition will be free and open to the public from 15 April – 31 May 2019. The winners will be announced on the 14th of May, 2019.

“The Warrior” was created by experimenting with distressing negatives. I shot the image on film and then dipped the negative in various household cleaning chemicals. After that, I let it drip dry and once dried I scanned the negative, revealing the final image.

I started experimenting with this technique a year ago, after I went to a portfolio review where the reviewer told me that my work didn’t have a soul, that it lacked personality, that it was too cold and that I should consider doing something else instead of photography.

At the time, I did my best to not let their words affect me because I knew that it was only one person’s opinion about my work. But the following day, while I was at home going through the negatives of a recent shoot, I remembered their words and I took all the negatives that I was handling and soaked them bleach in the sink. After I scanned the negatives, I found the resulting images really beautiful. Since then I’ve been working on this technique.

Save the date and if you can come visit the exhibition in April. And wish me luck!

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The Pain Must Be Felt

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A few months ago, I went to a portfolio review and the reviewer told me that my work didn’t have a soul, that it lacked personality and that it was too cold. The following day, while I was reflecting on the reviewer's words, I took my recent work and attempted to destroy it with what I had around me at home, trying to emulate how the reviewer had destroyed it with words. To my surprise, from destruction, something beautiful was born.

The American painter Mark Rothko once said that he was interested only in expressing basic human emotions, like tragedy, ecstasy and doom. As creatives, we are in close contact with these emotions every day. We are familiar with exploring (and sometimes exploiting) the tragedy around us, we know first-hand the feeling of ecstasy when we create something beautiful, and we most definitely have felt doomed when our work has been rejected. And we also know that, by embracing our emotions is that we create our best work. We know that the pain must be felt.

So, instead of shying away from how that person's words made me feel, I decided to feel the pain and look for the meaning behind their words. What is it that my work is missing? Is my work looking like everyone else's? Am I just taking pretty photos? Am I just another photographer? That day, when I looked at the ruined images in front of me, I realized that they were unexpectedly beautiful, that I was finally creating something that came from deep inside of me and not inspired by something that I had seen on someone else's work.

Here are some of the images that I have been working on lately:

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Artists Need The Observer

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During an interview in 1947, Mark Rothko said: “A painting lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world.” It is a symbiotic relationship, that of the artists and the observer. Without the latter, the former wouldn't be able to express themselves for it is through the eyes of the observer that their work comes to life. Similarly, those who appreciate art need artists to stimulate them, to make them reflect about the world that surrounds them, to get to know themselves better by the emotions that a piece produces in them. It is indeed a risky act to show ones work, but you never feel more alive than when you do.

This coming Friday the 10th, I will be showing my recent work at the Show and Tell organised by Almudena Romero in partnership with R.A.W Lab and Bow Arts. Almudena Romero is a visual artist working with a wide range of photographic processes. Almudena's practice uses photographic processes to reflect on 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. Her work focuses on how photography transforms the notions of public, private, individuality, identity, memory, and, in general, the concept of the individual.

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Sometimes It's Worth It To Slow Down

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Susan Sontag wrote in her essays On Photography (Penguin Books, 1977) that as cameras became more sophisticated in the 70's, some photographers preferred to submit themselves to the limits imposed by older cameras. Working with a cruder, less high powered machine was thought to give more interesting or emotive results, to leave more room for creative accident. Forty years later, her words aren't any less true. In times when digital photography has made everything just a bit too perfect, there is something magical about the non-perfection of shooting on film.

A few posts ago, I wrote about my newest acquisition, a medium-format film camera Pentax 645N, which I haven't been able to put down since the day that I got it. The whole learning experience of shooting with a camera like this one is a reward on its own. It's a slower process than on digital, you have to think more and shoot less, and to take photos blindly without a preview screen can be very intimidating at first. That, and the few days that you have to wait to get your photos back from the lab to be able to see what you have shot, can be a real test to your patience.

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On top of that, If you also take into account how expensive film, processing and negative scanning are, you understand why digital photography came to be. But, when you get those photos back from the lab, and you get to see the textures, the lovely colours, the imperfections, and the rawness of it all, it makes everything else completely worth it. Below, you will find some of the images that I've shot with that camera so far.

Photo credits: behind the scenes images by Andrzej Gruszka.

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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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To Older Selves And New Beginnings

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A few weeks ago, I got myself a new camera. Well, it is new because I just bought it, but it is actually pre-loved (meaning that it is pre-owned, but really well taken care of). It is a medium format film camera from the 90's, a beautiful piece of equipment used by professional photographers back in the day. In the process of learning how to use it, it has never been clearer to me that, no matter how good the equipment that you own is, if you don't know how to take good photos, you will never be able to take good photos. Anyone can be a photographer these days, they say...

Back in 1889, George Eastman advertised the Kodak camera with the slogan: "You press the button, we do the rest." It was the first step towards the democratization of photography that, a 130 years later, has resulted in everyone having a camera in their pockets today. But, the same way that having a good pen doesn't turn you into Shakespeare, owning a good camera doesn't automatically make you a photographer. After almost four years working as a professional photographer, I've never felt more like a beginner myself. I am back in square one.

Starting from scratch is not too bad, though. It forces you to reassess everything that you have done so far and to start again with renewed energies. As creatives, we have the luxury of feeling like a beginner every time that we face the empty canvas, the blank page, the unexposed film or the image in our mind that hasn't been fixed on a physical support yet. We have this amazing opportunity to start from scratch over and over again, to try again, to fail again, to fail better...

The best of it is that, the older you get, the better it feels to start from scratch because you still have the hunger to learn that children have, but you have lived long enough to know how to apply your new found knowledge. That's something that I love about ageing, and it's surprising to me that so many people around me fear to get older so much. The older you get, the more things you get to see, the more adventures you get to experience, the more new things you get to try out for the first time.

Getting old is a privilege denied to many. Embrace it. And, along the way, don't fear to start from scratch every now and then. Paraphrasing the words of Robert Browning, a person's reach should exceed their grasp. Only by trying out what you have never tried before is that you grow.

Photo credit: light test during a shoot by Naz Simons.

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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"!


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 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


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!

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

A Makeup Masterclass Worth An Oscar

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A week ago I had the opportunity to take behind the scenes photos during a makeup masterclass given by Oscar and Bafta Nominated Makeup Artist Tina Earnshaw at Delamar Academy in London. During the event, she explained in detail the makeup design that she created for Kate Winslet in Titanic. Tina was nominated for an Oscar for her makeup work on this iconic film.

This masterclass was opened for Delamar graduates only, and among them that night were hair, makeup and special effects artists who had worked in some of the most recognizable films, tv programs and magazines in the world. From Star Wars to Game of Thrones, to Vogue, the room felt like a shortcut to the six degrees of separation from the biggest names in stardom. And the school tutors, who were also present for this unique live tutorial, were a combination of Oscar, Bafta and Emmy winners and nominees. Talk about a tough audience to please!

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While Tina was turning the model into Rose (Kate Winslet's character) she told us about her experiences and challenges working in the film sets of Titanic, The Martian and many of the other film crews that she has been a part of. Every single person in the room was bright-eyed while listening attentively to her and I couldn't help but wonder how all these people who had worked with everyone who's anyone in the industry could still be able to be amazed by one of their peers. But, the truth is that Tina Earnshaw is no ordinary makeup artist.

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After the demo, there was a Q&A session and a screening of some of the scenes from Titanic where Tina's creation could be seen. I was then given a tour of the school by prosthetics makeup artist Ali Reith (Star Wars, Jurassic Park) who's a proud Delamar graduate and tutor. While showing me around the special effects department he explained that all the tutors of the school are people who are currently working in the industry and often have to come straight from the studio and into the classroom.

I couldn't have asked for a better gig. It was a very inspiring night surrounded by such talented and yet humble and beautiful people.

If you want to know more about Tina Earnshaw you can read my post "I Wish I Had Known... About Makeup Artistry!" where I interview her and ask her about her career and her beginnings in the industry.

The Delamar Academy was founded by Penny Delamar in 1986 and employs hair and makeup artists from all parts of the industry as tutors, which include Oscar, Bafta, Emmy and Lifetime Achievement Award winners. To find out more about the masterclasses and the school, visit their website.

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