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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On Being Pretentious

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A few weeks ago I went to an event from a well-known organisation in the fashion industry. As I was walking into the auditorium where the event was taking place, the people before me in the queue started saying really loudly that they wouldn't seat anywhere else than on the first row because they must have had reserved seats for sure. I immediately thought to myself "how pretentious" and went to sit in the last row of the venue, as far away from them as possible. While observing their behaviour from the un-cool people's row, I couldn't help but wonder if they knew what being pretentious meant? Certainly, if they did, they wouldn't be behaving like that in the first place.

Being pretentious means to attempt to impress others by trying to show that one is more important or has more merit than one actually has. Basically, pretending to be something that you are not. So, if we all knew the meaning of the word, and we all knew that others know that when we are behaving like that it is because we are just trying really hard to look like something that we are not, then nobody would be pretentious.

Still, it is one of those behaviours that one witnesses regularly, not only in this industry but in society in general. Frankly, it looks exhausting. Living a life trying to always impress others so that you can feel good about yourself must take a lot of energy. An energy that could be used for being productive or to do some good, something that is really needed these days.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Fabiola Bastianelli.

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How To Survive A Portfolio Review

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Over the last four years, I have been shooting non-stop in order to learn the technicalities of my craft, to train my eye and my creativity, to create work for clients or for my personal projects, and to update my portfolio. All along, without even realizing it, everything that I was doing was bringing me to this past weekend when, for the first time in my photography career, I showed my portfolio to some of the major publications in the UK during PhotoMeet. It was intimidating, it felt like an emotional rollercoaster, but it was one of the most rewarding things that I have done since becoming a photographer.

Having your work reviewed is no easy feat. It doesn't matter if you are showing it to family, friends, peers or potential clients. You feel vulnerable, exposed, judged, and your self-confidence and the confidence in your own work is put to the test.

Imagine what it felt like when I attended PhotoMeet and walked into a room full of reviewers knowing that, for the following two days, eight of them would get to give me their feedback. It was like speed-dating for photographers. I felt like I was having eight job interviews one after the other with almost no time to breath and decompress. But I survived, and I owe it to how well I prepared for that weekend, not only mentally, but also by seeking advice and doing a lot of research.

Here is a list of the things that I did to prepare for my portfolio reviews:

Before the reviews

  • I made sure my portfolios were ready to be shown. You should always show the very best of your work, even if that means that you are only able to show 10 images. Everyone I asked and everywhere I researched suggested in between 25 to 30 images but, if you don't have that many, only show the very best of what you have. Also, most of the times we are our worst critics, and we tend to select images that we are attached to rather than the very best ones. If you can afford it, hire a photography consultant to do the selection for you. If you can't, ask peers, friends or even relatives to help you select them.

  • I prepared different portfolios tailored for different types of publications. If you are a food and travel photographer but you also shoot fitness, you don't want to show your fitness work to a travel industry publication. You should have two separate portfolios for this. In my case, I prepared three: one for fashion, one for portraiture and one for my personal projects, which fall more on the documentary side.

  • I updated my website, my social media and my print portfolio. Once you have the selection of the very best of your images, update all your communication channels. You want to show a coherent image of your brand.

  • I updated my promo material. After updating my portfolio and my communication channels, I printed new promos using the new images that I was going to show the reviewers. After each review, you want to leave something behind so they can remember you and hopefully visit your website and/or social media when they are back in the office.

  • I researched each and every one of the reviewers that I was going to see. Find out what their role is, what they look like so that you don't confuse them with someone else, what sort of photography they like (usually looking at the latest issues of their publication is enough) and what was published in their latest issue (good conversation starter and shows that you did your research).

  • I prepared a set of questions to ask them. Reviews are short, and in events like this one, they tend to last 20 minutes maximum. So you have to use this time wisely. Let them do the talk and ask you questions, but also have a clear goal of what you want to get out of the review so that they can give you good advice. In my case, I wanted to know if my portfolio was ready to be commissioned for editorial work (both in fashion and in portraiture) and what type of photography were their respective publications looking for.

During the reviews

  • I arrived on time. This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised.

  • I was courteous and friendly. Always be polite, hopefully not only with them but with everyone you meet.

  • I respected the time allocated for my review. Time flies and twenty minutes can feel like ten seconds. When your time is up, leave. It's disrespectful to them to take more time than they have given you, but also to the person coming after you because you are stealing minutes from their allocated time.

  • I established what I wanted from the review from the beginning. The reviewer needs to know what is it that you want to get out of the review so that they can give you productive feedback. Have a clear goal and a clear vision of where you want to be as a photographer.

  • I let them do the talking. Let the photos speak for themselves and wait for the reviewer to ask you questions before you speak. Reviewers love photography, you should let them enjoy that.

  • I was openminded when I heard the feedback. You may or may not like the feedback that you are getting, but you should keep an open mind and accept the feedback gratefully. They are the experts on their publications and the type of photography that they are looking for, and you are there to grow as a photographer and to learn what you have to do to be hired by them. Some of the feedback might be contradictory, but that is only because everyone looks for something different and what works for one publication doesn't work for another. Don't react negatively if you don't like what you hear. If you want to make it as a photographer, you have to grow a thicker skin and be ready to take negative feedback and rejection. It's part of being a creative.

  • I took notes. Write down everything that they tell you. Even if it sounds silly or redundant. When you get home, leave the notebook aside for a day or two and then go back to it and read it calmly. Take the advice that you consider objective and that you think it's helpful. In the end, you decide what to do with the information that you are given.

  • I was thankful when the review finished. When your time is up, thank them for their time and for all the feedback. And don't forget to leave a promo or a business card behind.

After the reviews

  • I sent every reviewer a thank you note. Use the communication channel that they have told you works best for them.

  • I put into practice everything that they advised me to do. This is the least you can do to make the experience worthwhile.

Will I do it again? Absolutely! The feedback that I got was priceless, even though next time I will make sure to choose less and more targeted reviewers. Overall, it was an intense experience and one of the hardest things that I've done. But, like they say, comfort is the enemy of progress, and if I want to achieve the goals that I have set for myself I must strive to live outside of my comfort zone.

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The Discounted Life

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I don't like to haggle. I never have. If I see a product or service for a price that I can't afford, I just don't buy it. To give you an idea of my way of thinking: I once went to the Grand Bazaar in Istambul and I didn't buy anything because all of the vendors expected me to haggle! I guess that I find it disrespectful to ask for a discount. That's why I can't believe how often I am asked to give one myself.

I don't entirely blame the consumer. It's just this discount culture that we live in. What started with an occasional discount, or the desirable 2x1, or the unmissable end of season sale, has evolved into a constant price cut that almost makes Black Friday last from January 1st to New Year's Eve.

We are so used to having prices lowered and to having special sales that we hardly buy at regular prices anymore. So, in order for retailers to be able to sell during the non-sale seasons, they have created a constant sales calendar that has gone out of control.

Don't get me wrong, if I find a bargain I take advantage of it. But I don't expect everything that I pay for to be discounted. Something is not right when you see discounted prices at a store all year long. And as a business, if your prices are discounted all the time, then the discounted price is the new regular price. If we continue like this, there will come a day when stores will have to give customers their products for free because otherwise, nobody will buy them.

As photographers, I don't think that's the type of business that we want to be, nor the type of clients that we are after. And as a client, I like to think that you hire us because you like our photography, or because you like our passion and enjoy working with us, or because our style matches your brief and we are the best for the job that you are quoting. But, not because we are cheap. I don't think that would do any good for your project, for the industry or for our respective brands. I don't know any photographer yet who prides themselves on being the cheapest.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Ferran Vergés.

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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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Thank You For Coming To Photo Scratch

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Thanks to everyone who came down to Photo Scratch last Monday! I had an amazing time, it was a brilliant opportunity to see familiar faces but also to get to know some really interesting people and, more importantly, to have the chance to appreciate great photography work. On top of that, the feedback that I received from the lovely people who stopped by my corner was invaluable. I am very grateful to Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal for letting me be part of this event and, above all, thankful to everyone who shared their opinion in regards to my project with me. Enjoy the photos of the night!

Photo Scratch is an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

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Founders Hanna-Katrina and Phil host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

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To find out more about Photo Scratch visit photoscratch.org

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I'm Taking Part In Photo Scratch

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On the 14th of May, 2018, I will be taking part in Photo Scratch, an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The event will take place at Hotel Elephant (Spare Street, London SE17 3EP) in Elephant and Castle. It's free, but you must book your tickets in advance to guarantee entry.

Founders Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

I will be presenting all the portraits that I have taken thus far of my personal project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress". I hope to see you there!

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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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Exhibition at One Canada Square

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From the 16th of April to the 1st of June, the AOP (Association of Photographers) will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibition called "AOP50: Images That Defined The Age" at the lobby of One Canada Square (Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB). Alongside these memorable 50 images, a digital exhibition of work by current AOP Accredited Photographers will be shown on a screen, including the image "The Anglomaniac" from my Brexiters project.

AOP50 is a retrospective which includes images by some of the world’s most well-known and respected photographers from the past 50 years. Curated by Zelda Cheatle, the collection of images celebrates 50 years of the AOP with photographs that illustrate the impact, diversity and quality of work by AOP members since 1968. As the AOP's Executive Director, Seamus McGibbon, explains, "many of the images have defined a generation, and helped to shape public opinion and to create change."

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Last night during the opening reception, while I looked around at the fantastic work on display I couldn't help but feel proud of belonging to a group of professionals that sets the bar really high and makes me want to improve myself every day.

Come celebrate this important milestone of the AOP with this free public exhibition, open daily from 7 am to 8 pm.

Photo of me by Andrezj Gruszka.

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Online Portfolio Updated

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These past few weeks I have been working hard updating my website with the help of a Photo Editor and Photography Consultant called Raffaela Lepanto. Raffaela and I gathered all the images that I have shot over the course of my career and put together an online portfolio that presents a more accurate version of who I am as a photographer. Along the way, it also made me realise that the quality of my work was better than I gave it credit for. What do you reckon?

It wasn't an easy task. We had to come up with a portfolio that was strong and coherent but that would also balance all the different types of photography that I shoot. Our main goal was to make the website appealing to those who are looking for my fashion work but also to those who want to see what I can offer as a portraiture photographer.

Raffaela helped me unify the Beauty & Fashion portfolios with the Portraits one, finding a consistent style all through. Also, she managed to build a Homepage Portfolio which could be appealing to Editorial and Commercial clients at once but also suitable and interesting for the general public. In the process, some of my favourite images were left out. But we had to sacrifice the most obvious commercial shots in order to give a contemporary edge to the website.

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I am really happy with the result and I think that we nailed it! It was a really difficult process because as photographers we are emotionally connected to our work. Having someone else take control over our work and tell us what we should and what we shouldn't present in our portfolios is probably one of the hardest things an artist can go through. But, in the end, it has been a relief. Just having the weight lifted off my shoulders of having to decide what to display in my portfolio has made the whole experience completely worth it.

Please browse through my website and leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!

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Exhibition at Four Corners

Catalonia: A Work In Progress

From the 18th to the 28th of April, my portraiture project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress" will be part of the collective exhibition Salon 18, organized by the London Creative Network (LCN) at Four Corners Gallery (121 Roman Road, London E2 0QN). “Catalonia: A Work In Progress” is a personal project where I explore the spectrum of opinions that people living in Catalonia have in regards to the Independence from Spain.

At first sight, it might seem like there are only two possible positions: in favour of the independence of Catalonia or in favour of the permanency in Spain. But the reality is more complex than that; there is a diverse set of opinions from the people caught in the middle.

Some people definitely want out, while others feel very much part of Spain. But, not everyone who wants to leave wants an Independence per se and would opt for just more autonomy for the region. Meanwhile, not everyone who wants to remain in Spain feels Spanish or agrees with the policies of the Spanish government.

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Whatever the outcome of the Catalan conflict is, the government of Catalonia or the government of Spain will have to guarantee that all the people living in Catalonia can live in harmony disregarding their political views.

This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries, but the rest of the world found out about it after the events of October 1st, 2017, when the pro-Independence parties staged a referendum that the Spanish government considered illegal.

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Let The Creative Juices Flow

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Over the last month and a half, I have been attending a set of creative writing workshops organized by the guys at the Centre for Solo Performance in order to improve my writing and develop my storytelling skills. As a photographer and a visual artist, storytelling is at the forefront of my craft and these workshops are not only helping me with my image-led narratives, but they are also helping me to write a better blog. Joan Miró said in I Work Like a Gardener: "An artwork must be fertile. It must give birth to a world." Hopefully, from now on, I will be creating more interesting worlds.

This is the first time in my life that I take part in creative writing workshops, but it will definitely not be the last. I guess that I just didn't see any use for them in my previous industry, or I didn't fully understand how they could have an effect in my life. Learning how to structure stories or how to move past the blank page syndrome comes very handy whether you are a writer, an artist or someone just putting together a speech.

Besides, being surrounded by creative people from various disciplines and every walk of life is inspiring on its own. We all approach the exercises so differently that is very helpful to see the same topics from other people's perspectives. In my group, there are actors, visual artists, improv performers, physical performers, dancers, writers, teachers, preachers, playwriters, scriptwriters, poets and TEDtalk speakers. You can really feel when the creative juices flow!

I would definitely recommend these sort of workshops to anyone who's interested in improving their storytelling. It doesn't matter if you don't work in the creative industries, these skills are transferable to other types of jobs too. If you write proposals, letters, copy, if you talk in public or give speeches at work, or if you manage contents on social media for a brand, you are a storyteller in your own way.

Like they say, a good artisan never blames their tools, but they know that a good set of tools will make them better at their craft.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Fabiola Bastianelli by Andrzej Gruszka.

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Let Your Light Shine For Long

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This past weekend, as I was preparing all the paperwork for a submission, I had to make an inventory of every single photo, client, publication, competition and exhibition of my photography career. Thankfully, I have only been shooting professionally for a little under 4 years, otherwise, this would have been an impossible endeavour. Even so, for such a short career, it took me 3 whole days of non-stop sorting and documenting to be able to put all the work that I've done into one single folder. But I'm really happy that I had to do it because it was a cathartic experience and it made me realize how far I've come since I started this new phase in my life. And you want to know something? I haven't done too bad!

It's funny how sometimes we are unable to realize how much we have accomplished because we are caught up in our daily routine of running our businesses. But it takes opportunities like these when you sit down and look back at where you were when you started and where you are right now, to really make you see your path from a different perspective.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Create a visual inventory of every single image/set/project that you have shot. I used Powerpoint, but you can use any software that you are comfortable with. For every single image/set/project, create a separate page and write below the single image/set/project it's client, the date, the brief in one line, any publication that took it, any competition where it was highly commended, shortlisted or chosen as a finalist or winner, or every place where they were exhibited. I promise you that by the end you will start looking at your career with new eyes.

I shared the whole experience with a colleague and we both agreed that no successful career happens overnight. It's a slow process of learning, erring and growing and we should enjoy every step of the way and try not to rush things. Because, in the end, the light that shines twice as bright, lasts half as long.

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On Fake Models And Real People

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When Rihanna created Fenty Beauty, she proved that there was a demand for more products for darker complexion people in the beauty industry. Fenty Beauty is an inclusive makeup brand aimed at every skin tone from the lightest to the darkest, with the darker shades being especially popular. Her brand might not have been the first one focusing on the lack of diversity in the industry, but she offered a range of shades and undertones that was practically unheard of at the time. And then, a few weeks ago, this same brand that is making their target embrace their uniqueness and feel proud of their genetics, advertises one of their lipsticks on their social media using a flawless computer-generated model called Shudu Gram. Is this a publicity stunt or just proof that we can't trust anyone anymore?

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Don't get me wrong, Shudu Gram is stunning. She is a work of art and I personally think that her creator, photographer Cameron-James Wilson, is an amazing 3D artist. My concern doesn't come from the art itself or the possibilities of the medium; nor with the fear that some other people in the industry have that machines will take over our jobs (models, photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, stylists, etc.). What worries me is the message that the brand is sending to everyone who consumes their products, that no matter how much money you spend on them, you will never look as perfect as a CGI model.

In all honesty, it's insulting. In times when companies like CVS are forcing makeup brands to stop selling their products with deceiving advertisement campaigns that have been photoshopped to the extreme, or when social media platforms are making the so-called influencers admit that they are just outsourced sales reps selling products for the brands that they represent, a brand cannot make the mistake of calling themselves diverse and inclusive while promoting an unattainable beauty standard.

It is really disappointing and it makes me wonder if this is a publicity stunt aimed at creating controversy. Be it as it may, brands should be really careful about how they communicate with their customers. For, in the end, real people buy their products. CGI models don't.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Anna Sawyer by Rachel Williamson.

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What Is A Model Or A Property Release?

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When you have been practising photography for a while, there are certain things that you do automatically without giving them a second thought. Which shutter speed, aperture or ISO to use, what lens works best for a certain situation, or to make sure that the sitter always signs a release. Especially the latter, as that will establish how you can use the images.  But you would be surprised to know that not every photographer signs them, and when they do, not every sitter reads them when they sign. Why is it so important to have a release?

A release is a contract that gives the photographer permission to use the image of a person or property (works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings) in the ways specified in the document. It is signed between the model (sitter, subject) or their representative (agent, parent, legal guardian) and the photographer in the case of people, or between the owner or legal representative (agent, estate) and the photographer in the case of properties. It should clearly state the intention of use that the photographer will give the images (e.g. where, how and for how long will the images be used).

It is a document that is both important for the photographer and for the model/property as it protects both parties' rights. On the one hand, it protects the photographer against future claims by the model/property or their heirs and assigns; on the other hand, it protects the model/property against misuse of their image. Before signing, both parties should understand what they are agreeing to.

Copyright

In the UK, copyright gives the creator of the image the ownership over the photograph (in most cases), but not necessarily the right to use the image of the people or properties depicted on it. According to the UK Intellectual Property Office, "The person who creates an image (“the creator”) will generally be the first owner of the copyright", except if the "image was created as part of the creator’s employment, rather than by a freelance creator, the employer will generally own the copyright."

But this ownership of the copyright does not allow the photographer the right to photograph just anyone or anything and use the image as they please. People have a right to their privacy, and the use of their image is part of it. Also, properties like works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings are protected by copyright themselves. This is where the model/property release comes in.

When do you need a model/property release?

Different countries have different laws, but in general, you can take photos in public spaces that include people or properties and not need a release. Although, if you are planning on using the images commercially or for publication, it will be safer if you had some sort of release. Better safe than sorry.

If you are taking portraits of people (everyday people, models, friends, family) for your projects, for your website and self-promotion, or for publication, you will need a model release. If you are dealing with model agencies, they would have signed the release with the model but you will have to sign an agreement with the agency regarding the use of the photos. For client work, when dealing with talent, everyone in the photos needs to have a release signed. When dealing with minors, their parents/legal guardians must sign the release for them.

If you are taking photos in public spaces, be careful if you include works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings that may have a copyright. Be vigilant, especially in the UK, that some areas that look like public spaces are actually privately owned or managed.

Best practices

Because of the nature of my work, I have made a habit of always signing a model/property release, even when I don't necessarily have to. But I find that it is a good way to establish trust with the subject and let them know exactly how I will be using the images. Also, if in the future I decide to have the photos published or enter some sort of competition, there are organisations that won't take your photos if they are not properly released.

Sample Model/Property Release forms

There are many samples of release forms available online, each adapted to the specific region where the photographer works. Here are just a couple of samples:

  • The Association of Photographers of the UK: https://www.the-aop.org/information/downloads/legal-business-forms
  • The New York Institute of Photography: https://www.nyip.edu/photo-articles/business/heres-a-sample-model-release-form

Disclaimer

I am not a lawyer, I am a photographer, and the information on this post is just to try to explain a confusing topic in a simple manner. If you need more information on privacy and copyright laws you should seek professional legal counsel.

Photo credit: Behind the scenes photography by Andrzej Gruszka.

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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"!


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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The Show Must Go On

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I was recently told that I don't look like a fashion photographer. At first, the statement didn't sit well with me. Were they saying this because I just put on what feels comfortable and not anything "trendy"? Was it because I care and show interest about many topics rather than just talking about designers and catwalks all day? Or was it because of any of the other stereotypes that people from outside the industry have of those who work in fashion? I couldn't tell. But then, after a while, it hit me. This person wasn't trying to insult me. Their words were actually meant as a compliment.

Honestly, I don't blame this person for having that opinion of me. More often than not this industry feels disconnected from reality. If you care just a bit about what is going on in the world you automatically don't fit with the image that the industry has made for itself.

Take for instance the New York Fashion Week. Millions of people were being displaced or left without homes due to the several hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and the south of the United States in early September. At the same time, the industry was prancing the catwalks in New York. If you were reading the news those days, you would see photos of models on runways alongside photos of people fleeing their towns in search of refuge. Very few brands and designers took actions to raise awareness for the victims of the natural phenomena that were causing mayhem a few states down south.

Was this what Jim Carrey was trying to tell us? We will never know. What we know is that the show always goes on. It must go on. This industry employs millions of people around the globe and it contributes immensely to many economies. For that, it deserves credit. But its reach also comes with the responsibility to respect and value their audience and their target. Showing a little sensibility for the issues that matter to the rest of the world won't hurt anyone. In the end, if we want the engagement of our customers, we must show that we care for them too.

In the effort of trying to sell a fairy tale fantasy and an unattainable lifestyle reserved to a very few, the message that we are sending is that we just care about the money and attention of the consumers, not about their well-being. Luckily, this image of superficiality is just a very superficial layer. Below, there are many who work in the industry who don't fit the stereotypes. A lot of them are very active on the issues that affect humanity and the environment.  Not all of them are vocal about it or have the appropriate channels to voice their efforts. But these people exist, they are very real, and in my experience, they outnumber those who contribute to the shallow image of Fashion.

So, if the image of someone who works in this industry is the image of someone who is superficial, I am glad that I don't look like that. Because the last thing that I want is to look like someone how doesn't care about humanity and who feels that they are above the rest of the world.

Photo by Luca Dominique Marchesi.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Submissions!

This is the first 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 Wayne Noir, fellow photographer and the Editor-In-Chief of London based Rion Magazine, about what is a submission based magazine and how can creatives get their work published:

1. First of all, tell us about RION Magazine

RION magazine is a creative platform that showcases the very best in creative talent from around the globe. These include photographers, MUA’s, stylists, designers and music artist. We are both online and in print, and in the future an app too!

2. What is your job at RION and what responsibilities does it entitle?

At RION, I am the Editor-In-Chief of both the online magazine and the print issues. My duties include the running of the magazine. I have to set themes, ensure that all the creatives get mentioned, scheduling post for online, social media and email marketing. The due diligence behind the business in making sure we comply with everything. 80% of my time is making sure these things are checked, doubled checked, ticked, filed, and backed up. It can be easy to make a mistake and once it's in print, it can't be taken back. I have to make sure that every article, editorial, image, social media post is non judgemental, not slanderous in any way or offensive. If anything is sent to us in terms of advertising, I need to ensure that we let our viewers know this. Which can change people's opinion of an article. I tend not to publish anything that relates to advertising, though it may be contradictory, as if it's the artist I'm publishing, and therefore, if the feature is about a designer, that can be seen as advertising.

3. Why are you submission based? Will this ever change? As in, will you ever consider hiring a crew to shoot for the magazine?

Purely for content really, when I started RION 2 years ago, it was a WordPress blog that I used on my phone. We've grown now to a worldwide readership. We are still very new and I think that we will stay submission based for the time being but I'm not ruling it out just yet. Although we don't have the budget to pay creatives at the moment, I’d love to, believe me. We continually support the growth of the creatives and the community. We don't just accept their work, publish it and that's it. No, we constantly support by following their social pages, engaging in their work, giving shout-outs, any job posts that we see we put out to our creative community; we offer professional advice in some cases, too. Any profits that we do make we give to charity. Our current issue, the NOIR issue, is for a charity called MIND, to help boost awareness for mental health.

4. Why would a creative be interested in having their work published?

To get recognised for their work and their creative skills, to try and boost on your own profiles alone can be very hard when you are starting out. When I started as a photographer, I knocked on all the modelling agency's doors until one agency agreed to test with me, from there on I got booked for more test shoots, then proper shoots and then OK! Magazine. Once I was published, and I had a publication on my CV, other magazines, modelling agencies, and models seemed to take me more seriously. You just need that break.

5. What sort of photography is RION interested in?

RION is a creative platform, anything creative and high fashion is what we love. I love black and white so that's always a winner for me.

6. How is your submission process?

All submissions can be sent to submissions@rionmagazine.com, whether you are a writer, a designer, photographer, MUA, musician or in the creative arts. We request that you name your feature, and send us low-res images. Once our creative team accepts your submission, you'd then be asked to send over 300DPI images via Dropbox or WeTransfer and we ask that you include ALL the credits with this and fill out our disclaimer form that we will send you. This is just to make sure that the original copyright owner agrees and accepts your submission (If it’s not the photographer who is submitting it). We then file your submission, the supporting document, and credit list, and then our graphic designer pulls this from our server and does his thing. This is why we ask: please, please do make sure that you credit everything and everyone. Once your submission has been accepted and moved onto the next stage, it cannot be changed.

7. How do you decide which photos to publish?

I look for something that is different. Something that shows emotion, passion and creativity. Anything black and white that is raw with attitude is always a winner with me. But it's not just about the style, the images need to capture the designs, the model and personality. Every member of the team has worked on that shoot so the images should reflect every creative who was involved. 

8. Who is allowed to submit? Only the photographer?

No, anyone can submit to RION, we only ask that the original copyright owner signs the relevant release form and accepts that they are happy for us to publish their work.

9. What are the common mistakes that creatives make when submitting their work?

There are quite a few actually:

  • Not naming the editorials. It's your work. We don't want to name it, It's your thought process, so name your editorials.

  • Bulk sending submissions, it's really hard once the graphic designer has your work and starts the design process only to be emailed to say that another magazine has published it already.

  • Not crediting the whole team. There is no "I" in team. Everyone needs to be credited. There is no limelight with RION. The light gets shined on every creative that has worked on the shoot.

  • Not sending the high-res images, they might look fine on the screen but in print they can be very pixelated and don't reflect the hard work that everyone has put in. We only want to show your very best work and you deserve that.

  • Lastly, changing their mind at the last minute and adding or taking away images or changing the credits.

10. Should creatives pay a magazine to have their work published?

Oh gosh no. This is a big “no, no” for us and a topic that we are very strongly against. No one should pay for their work to be published. Never!

11. Any other word of advice?

Enjoy what you do, it can be stressful, there will be times when things go wrong and not according to plan but that's where your creativity can really blossom. Enjoy the ride, keep your portfolio updated and engage with other creatives, established or not, we all started from the bottom. Everyone is equal.

12. When is the next issue?

The next issue will be in September 2017, any submissions can be sent to submissions@rionmagazine.com. The deadline for this is the end of June 2017.

Brilliant! Thank you so much Wayne for taking the time to share all this valuable information with me. So many things that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thank you, JC!


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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