via Seth Godin:
It’s natural to seek reassurance. Most of us want to believe that the choices we make will work out, that everything will be okay.
Artists and those that launch the untested, the new and the emotional (and I’d put marketers into all of these categories) wrestle with this need all the time. How can we proceed knowing that there’s a good chance that our actions will fail, that things might get worse, that everything won’t end up okay? In search of solace, we seek reassurance.
So people lie to us. So we lie to ourselves.
No, everything is not going to be okay. It never is. It isn’t okay now. Change, by definition, changes things. It makes some things better and some things worse. But everything is never okay.
Finding the bravery to shun faux reassurance is a critical step in producing important change. Once you free yourself from the need for perfect acceptance, it’s a lot easier to launch work that matters.
Posted by Miki Johnson
Stockland Martel, founded in 1980 by Maureen Martel and Bill Stockland, is one of the best-known and respected photo-representation agencies in the country. In this interview conducted by Kristina Feliciano, who runs the Stockland Martel blog, Bill and Maureen explain how they built their auspicious roster, which includes Nadav Kander, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and Doug Menuez, and what makes them decide to work with a new photographer.
Kristina Feliciano: How do you find photographers? Through referrals?
Maureen Martel: Always. We’ve never solicited photographers. Except for Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who we approached after viewing his work at Mary Boone Gallery. I think it was 1986. And Nadav Kander — I had met his studio manager at the time [in 1984]. And when I saw his studio, met him, saw his work on the walls, I had said very casually, “If you’re ever looking for a rep in the States, we would absolutely be interested in talking with you.” He was very methodical about how he was rolling out his career, and he contacted us nine months later.
BS: We’ve been in this industry so long that even if they didn’t come by referral, there’s some association through art directors or other people. We got John Midgleythrough Liz Von Hoene and Jeff Lipsky through Kwaku Alston.
MM: And Matthias Clamer also knew Jeff.
BS: But I knew of Jeff myself. You could see Jeff in all the editorials.
KF: How do you know a photographer is right for you?
BS: Personality is huge.
MM: A huge, huge part. Application for the marketplace is also key. Key key, key key, key. If you can’t apply it, you can’t satisfy the client. You also have to be dedicated to the medium. Some photographers want to love them and leave them. They want to come in and make a lot of money, and leave.
People like Nadav [Kander, whom Stockland Martel has represented for more than 20 years] and Lauren Greenfield [whom they signed in 2003] — they are artists in their own right. But they embrace the process. And they’re not just in the mix to make money to be the carpetbag to pull into another business.
BS: The people we represent live and breathe the subject matter they shoot.Matthew Rolston is obsessive about style. Luca Zordan is kids. He’s a good photographer on landscapes, he’s a good photographer on adults, but he’s a great photographer of kids. Walter Ioss lives and breathes sports. Our philosophy is that it has to be the person’s very nature to shoot the subject they’re shooting. They’re not doing it just for commercial reasons. You say that and people might think it’s a real sales pitch, but if you look at our talent, it’s no surprise that they shoot the subjects they do.
MM: I want them to be passionate, really passionate about photography. That means that they have their own projects going. One of my big problems today in marketing people is that they are not producing enough photography because they come from an old school of “I will get paid to make the images I need for my book.”
The next thing is how organized they are or the people around them are. Think of all the assets that are moving: the estimating, the presentations that have to be done. You have to be very nimble. Or if you’re not nimble, you have to have people around you who are. So we’re not only looking for a great photographer — we’re looking for everything around that great photographer.
KF: What if a photographer’s business is a mess but their talent is fantastic. Would you take them?
MM: It depends on the mess. If they are really a mess, we can get them to the level where they are functioning business-wise, but that won’t be enough. To be a superstar, it’s not just talent. It’s business sense.
Also, we are very clear: We’re not the muse. We don’t want to be. They have to come with a muse or their own inspiration. They have to do personal work. Personal projects, editorial outside of the advertising arena so that we can take that work and package it and bring it to our communities.
MM: He had come to us before when he was in Giblin & James. He knows us, and he knows us through Mark George, his rep in London, who we are close with. He wanted to be associated with us. He’s now independent, so he came back once again.
KF: What kinds of questions did you ask Mark about Jason?
BS: I asked him how difficult it was selling one member of a partnership. I asked him how original Jason’s work was. Because you really have to show a brand new body of work and sell him as an unknown. You can sell a little bit of the past reputation, but I’m beginning to feel you just have to frankly sell him as a new talent.Because it’s too convoluted what that partnership was or wasn’t.
KF: How will you market Jason? What potential have you identified that makes him attractive to you?
BS: Technically extraordinary.
BS: Whimsical. Conceptual.
KF: What about people coming to you? You must have…
BS: All week long.
KF: What don’t you like to see from people who are approaching you for representation? What turns you off?
BS: When they don’t know who we are in the first place. When they reach out and they haven’t done their homework. They don’t know who we represent. Some people don’t follow up. It’s surprising the people who send elaborate mailings and don’t follow up. And I really don’t like the letters that say, “I want you to turn me into a star. I’m ready now.”
MM: X-rated presentations are really a turn-off. We have had several keepers.
BS: Like nude yoga. Of themselves. “Here’s me.” [Laughs]