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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Art Puts Food On The Table

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A few weeks ago, I had a really interesting conversation with artist Sally Wakelin about traditional Japanese woodblock printing and how it was a very complex process which involved many skilled people for each of the steps of the printmaking. You could say that classical Japanese prints are a collaborative effort and, obviously, their making had a direct impact on the local economy. But, we don't have to go too far back in time to see how creatives contribute to our economies. I wrote about artists and the economy in a recent post of mine titled Our Economies Need More Artists. While having this conversation with Sally, I couldn't help but think about how many other businesses benefit from my practice. Surprisingly, as a freelance photographer, I put food on a lot of tables.

We seem to live in times when people don't seem to care about art. For art detractors, art just doesn't make sense. David Lynch allegedly said on this matter: "I don't know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn't make sense." Maybe the problem is that we haven't taken the time to properly explain art. Or maybe, the real issue is that those who do art don't know how to talk about art. Painter Carmen Herrera said: "If I could describe what my art was about with words, I wouldn't have to paint it (...) You can't talk about art, you have to art to art."

I think that when people think of artists and creatives in general, they only think about classical art in museums or about pieces sold in auctions for millions of pounds which prompt the question "who'd pay that much money for something like that?!" But, perhaps, a more digestible way of understanding art is looking at creatives as important pieces in our economies because, even if they don't like being called themselves businesses or entrepreneurs, they do their part in keeping other businesses alive.

When I thought about writing this post, I took my time to go through the list of suppliers from whom I regularly buy products or services in order to keep my practice running. Apart from buying from some global brands every now and then (Apple, Nikon, Profoto, Ilford, Synology, etc.), and from others with regularity (Adobe, Google, MailerLite, Squarespace, PurplePort, Amazon, FrootVPN, CDMon, Hiscox, among others), I also spend a lot of money on products and services from local businesses in all shapes and sizes (TFL, Hyperoptics, AOP, Three, 123Reg, The Printspace, Uber, Moo, photography studios, production crew, and so on) and I pay my taxes in due time.

And yes, you could say that about any type of business in any industry, but that's not the point. The point is that the work of creatives from any discipline should be respected because, as shown before, we are also job generators and we also keep the economy running. So, please, even if our industry doesn't make much sense to you, show us a little respect and don't question our rates or expect us to work for free. We also have families to feed.

Photo credit: messy me, June 1977.

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Never Stop Creating

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This past weekend I went to see the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery. I honestly knew very little about this painter but I don't regret the visit to the museum at all. It was beautiful and very inspiring and left me with a craving to create more.

Amedeo Modigliani started his painting career when he moved to Paris at age 21, and after 14 prolific years, he died age 35 in 1920. In this very little amount of time he managed to create an outstanding body of work, he experimented with different techniques including sculpting, and he created a strong creative network with his fellow artists living in Paris. To me, this is the artist par excellence, but what I feel it's most impressive is the fact that he never stopped creating. Commissioned or not commissioned, paid or unpaid, Modigliani always felt the need to capture the people around him in his paintings.

When I started my photography career, a very wise woman called Nina Malone once told me "you have to test like crazy" (testing being the term used in the creative industries when you collaborate with fellow creatives to try out new techniques or just to create something out of the love of art). And I took her advice very seriously. Since then, I always create. On my own, with another creative or with a massive crew, in between jobs I try to always take new photos. Why? Because practice makes perfect. No one creates a masterpiece on the first attempt. Like Marc Jacobs said when he paraphrased Eddie Cantor: “It took me 20 years to become an overnight success”.

I was recently reading a post on Saatchi Art's blog. It was an interview with Guillermo García Cruz, an artist from Uruguay, where he was asked what was the best advice that he had ever been given. He said that the best advice that he had ever been given was by painter Ignacio Urrutia, who told him: "...if you really want to be an artist never forget this: Never stop working. The more you work, the more things you will get as an artist. Everything else does not matter, you only have to work.”

I don't aspire to have Modigliani's posthumous fame nor to be a well-known artist in my lifetime. My goals are simpler and more humble: I just want to be the best artist that I can be. And to achieve that, I have to practice like crazy. And never stop creating.

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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 Am An Immigrant

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When I left my country and moved to Europe, among the things that I took with me were my photo albums and my film camera. For some reason, I felt like I needed those items for the adventure that was about to unfold. Almost twenty years later, I reflect on that moment when I was packing my bag and I finally understand the reasoning behind this peculiar packing list. I must have known back then that I was never coming back, and I must have wanted to take with me the treasured memories from my life in my country and the tool that would help me create new memories in my new home.

Migrating is not easy. You need to have courage, a strong determination, a humble heart and an open mind. Venturing into the unknown leaving behind everything that you know and love is not for the faint of heart, and arriving at your new destination willing to unlearn what you know about the world and assimilate and adapt to a new way of living takes a unique set of skills. This is if you are privileged enough to emigrate of your own will. Those who are forced out of their countries by conflicts, starvation or just because they want to provide a better future for their families should be our real heroes.

Immigrants are brave people. If you are an immigrant yourself or come from a family of immigrants, you should be proud of your heritage. It is not easy to move to a different country. If society knew the things that we go through and the things that we put up with, immigrants would have a completely different reputation these days. The word immigrant itself has gotten such a bad name that we had to come up with alternative terms to describe immigrants who we consider our equal or who we admire. But, the truth is that your Founding Mothers and Fathers were immigrants; your favourite sports team members from abroad are immigrants; even those who we call Expats are immigrants too. It doesn't matter what fancy name you use to describe your status, if you moved to a different country than the one you were born in, you are an immigrant.

I am an immigrant, and I am the son and the grandson of immigrants too. I say it with pride and with my head held high because there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant and I am tired of seeing this term used in a derogatory way. This is the reason why, a few days ago, I took part on Almudena Romero's photography project on immigrants in the UK called Growing Concerns. This project is a beautiful endeavour that deserves the utmost praise, not only because of the technique used to create each portrait but also because of the beautiful message behind it.

Almudena Romero is a London based visual artist from Madrid working with a wide range of photographic processes from early printing techniques such as cyanotype, salt printing or wet plate collodion, to new technologies including 3Dscanning and printing. Her 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 photographic processes and technology transform the notions of public, private, individuality, identity, memory, and, in general, the concept of the individual.

Growing Concerns consists of a series of passport tintypes of London immigrants to reflect on the increasing restrictions of movement for persons and the reduction of regulatory barriers for goods and capitals. Almudena uses the wet collodion technique, which was the most popular photographic process between 1850 and 1880. It was the cheapest and most light-sensitive technique, but its most distinctive characteristic was that it allowed the first glass negatives, and therefore, the reproduction of images in prints from one same negative.

If you want to learn more about Almudena Romero, her project Growing Concerns and the wet collodion technique, visit her website at www.almudenaromero.co.uk.

Photo: wet collodion tintype portrait by Almudena Romero, as part of her project Growing Concerns

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How To Manage Your Time Effectively

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We are halfway through the first month of the new year and we can already see that our workload is consuming us. We don't seem to have time for anything. When we became freelance creatives nobody told us that we would spend 90% of our time taking care of the business side of the craft and only 10% actually creating. But, this is the life of the freelance creative and if you want to make a living out of it, you have to learn how to manage your time.

The problem is that, when you are a freelance creative, there are some days that you have absolutely nothing to do and you spend the day just staring at the empty wall in front of you. But then, other days you wish that the day had actually 48 hours so that you could finish on time everything that you have to do. This is our life and we must accept it. However, for those days when we wished that the seconds lasted for hours so that we can go through our endless list of to-do's, there are certain time management techniques that can come in very handy.

Personally, I use the first two of the following three techniques and they work for me, while my husband uses the third one and he cannot live without it.

- The Rewards system: this one is pretty simple and I think it's the one that the majority of people use. For every item on your to-do list that you complete, you give yourself a reward. The rewards vary depending on what you consider a treat; a few minutes on social media, going to the vending machine for coffee or doing yoga, are just a few examples. I use this system on the days that I have to do the chores and only look at my social media when I have accomplished something.

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- The Post-it notes system: this time management system consists in writing each task in your to-do list on a single Post-it and pasting them on a notebook. Everytime that you complete a task, you remove and discard the Post-it note associated with it. When all your tasks are done, your page will be empty. This system gives you a sense of fulfilment whenever you are able to go through all the tasks on your To-do list. I have different pages full of Post-it's in my Moleskine notebook depending on the priority of the tasks. My imminent priority To-do list is on the first page and as I turn the pages the tasks have less priority or a more long-term deadline.

Pomodoro-Do App

Pomodoro-Do App

- The Pomodoro technique: this technique consists on working on a task for 25 minutes without interruptions, then resting for 5 minutes, then working on the task for 25 more minutes, then resting again, and so forth until you work on the task for a full hour. Once you have worked on the task for four 25-minute intervals, you rest for 30 minutes and start a new task. This system is especially good for those tasks that require a lot of time and concentration to finish, and that could take up all of our available time forcing us to ignore other tasks with a similar priority. With this method, you work without interruptions on several different tasks on the same day.

There are plenty more time management systems but these are the ones that I use or that I know of and that I can definitely recommend. Do you have a technique of your own?

Photo credit: behind the scenes photo taken by Andrzej Gruszka

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Our Economies Need More Artists

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If I had told my parents when I was growing up that I wanted to be a photographer, they probably would have told me to study a real career and do whatever I wanted with my spare time. Is not that they weren't supporting parents, it's just that, where I come from, working in the creative industries is not considered having a real job. Sadly, this is a reality in many parts of the world. But, when you come to countries like the UK and you realize how strong their creative communities are, you can't help but wonder what makes this society so open to the arts. Could it possibly be what they put in the water here?

I doubt it. But, one thing is for sure: countries like this one must be doing something different at family, school or government level to keep culture and arts alive. That is the reason why when you think of creativity in the UK, you automatically think of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, David Bowie, the Beatles, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and the list goes on. Is it a coincidence that all this amazing talent concentrates in one country? Or is it that in the UK there is more support for artists than in other parts of the world?

I know for a fact that where I come from there is an incredible number of really talented creatives. Unfortunately, most of them have to leave the country to pursue Arts as a career. There just isn't that much support for artists back home. And you might think that maybe it is because governments in other countries have other priorities and invest in what really drives the economy. But, looking at the figures, that does not make much sense.

In the UK, the creative industries (which include advertising, film and TV, architecture, publishing, music, design, games, museums and galleries, fashion, crafts, and the creative use of technology) are a £92bn sector which grows at twice the rate of the economy, and which accounts for 14.2 percent of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA). Over 5.2 million people work in this sector, 16.1 percent of all the jobs in the UK. This represents an 11.3 percent increase since 2011 (4.7 million) and, taking into account that over the same period of time employment in the UK increased by 7.6 percent, these figures are really impressive.

This is in part due to the government's support to the creative industries sector. For example, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, dedicated tax relief to support high-end television productions, such as Game of Thrones and The Crown have seen a production boom worth £1.5 billion since the scheme was introduced in 2013.

But, it also comes from the fact that people brought up in the UK seem to be more exposed to culture and arts at family and school levels, and they grow up to understand its importance in their lives. In early 2017, 77.4% of adults in the UK had engaged with the arts at least once in the last 12 months. Which means that roughly 4 out of every 5 adults had attended or participated in arts events and activities, which included visiting an exhibition, going to the theatre or attending live music performances.

So, as it turns out, choosing to support or be part of the creative communities has a direct impact on the economy of our countries. The next time that someone tells you that pursuing a career in the creative industries is a waste of time, tell them that our economies need more artists. Save the creative, save the economy!

Photo: behind the scenes wearing my #lovemyjob t-shirt from the beautiful people at MailerLite.

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You Can’t Dig Half A Hole

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2018 is my fourth year writing this blog. If I read all my posts since 2014 I can see that, what started just as a way of recording my progression in my venture as a photographer, has become my most powerful self-promotion tool. Of course, I know that it is not perfect, and sometimes all the different topics that I cover make it seem like it is all over the place. But, one thing I know for sure: it is authentic. Every single word that I write comes from my heart. And when you speak from the heart, you can't go wrong.

Along the way, I have written some very bad posts, but I have also written some pieces that I am really proud of; I have gained subscribers, but I have also had many unsubscribe; I have generated likes and engagement, but I have also lost followers in mass; some of my posts have gotten almost zero reads, while others have exceeded any of my expectations. But, what is really important is that I have grown. Writing this blog has been a cathartic journey of self-discovery, of learning and sharing, and of giving back to the creative community that welcomed me with open arms when I decided to become a photographer.

In that creative community, I have met some pretty amazing people, some of whom are featured in my monthly series I Wish I Had Known, where I speak to people in the creative industries about the things that I wish I had known when I started out as a creative myself.  This series is my way of paying forward all the things that I have been taught by the beautiful people that I have had the fortune to work with all these years.

This blog wouldn't exist if it weren't for the people who read it. I have a loyal readership that not only reads most of my posts and reacts to them, but also comments on them and sends me feedback. I am really grateful and I appreciate their support, and while I am writing my posts I do it as if I were talking directly to them.

Some people say that it is hard to tell if I am the proudest of my portfolio or of my blog. Sometimes, I ask myself that question too. But, in a way, they are basically the same thing. They are both a channel through which I express myself and my way of looking at life. And I give my 100% to both of them because that is the only way that I know how to do things. I either do something, or I do not. But, I cannot go halfway. Like they say, nobody can dig half a hole.

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Happy 2018!

We live in times when our value as human beings is measured by what we have. Whoever has the most followers, the fastest car, the priciest clothes or the biggest bank account seems to be better than the rest. And even though we all know that it doesn't work that way, there always seems to be a space reserved for those who have more of something than the rest. Isn't it time we changed the "I have, therefore I am" philosophy and make it about having more of what really counts?

Over the last year I have had amazing experiences and met really inspiring people; I have travelled to new places and discovered other cultures and other ways of thinking; I have worked with both old and new clients and have had some pretty interesting gigs; and most of all, I have had deep and meaningful interactions with the people that I have been lucky to cross paths with, be it relatives, friends, peers or acquaintances. Of course, it has not all been fun and games; along the way, I have also lost jobs, clients and even people whom I called friends.

But, in my re-interpretation of the "I have, therefore I am" rule, I can say that I am happy. Because I have more love, more fulfiling experiences and more learning opportunities than I could ever wish for. And for that, I am really grateful.

Before the year ends, look back on 2017 and choose to focus on the things that you have that are meaningful. I wish that, like me, you realize that what you have is more than enough to be happy.

Happy 2018.

Music: http://www.purple-planet.com

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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!

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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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When Everyone Takes A Selfie...

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My friend was telling me last night that their children don't get excited about anything anymore. They travel, they take them places, they try to surprise them with interesting experiences, but their kids seem as if they have lost the ability to be amused. I don't blame them, though. At such young age, these children have seen it all. They are constantly being bombarded with visual information on their smartphones, on advertisement and on the streets. We live in a world overly saturated with imagery.

As creatives, this is the real challenge today. We try to call the attention of our clients, prospects, industry and peers by creating art that is appealing to them. But, sadly, our target is also being constantly bombarded with visual information and, in some way, they have already seen it all as well. And, not only have they seen it all, but also we seem to just want to play it safe. We work in an industry where everyone is so concerned with just making what sells that we are creating a whole lot of sameness.

Understandably, being different has a risk. When you niche out your target turns smaller and growing your business becomes a slower process. I used to have a boss who would always tell us that being the best or the worst at something was easy: you always have someone with whom you can measure. But, being different is hard and scary because you venture into the unknown.

Be it as it may, wasn't that the reason why we started doing what we do? To create, to innovate, to become ourselves? I believe that standing out today is not only a challenge, it is crucial for our survival as creative businesses. If we keep on doing what everyone else is doing, there will always be someone who will do it better or cheaper than us. But if we aim at innovating, there will always be room for standing out.

Susan Sontag once wrote: "When everyone has a photo taken, the true distinction is not having a photo taken at all." But, I don't think it has to come to this. I think that, in a world where everyone takes a selfie from the front, you should go and try to take a selfie from the back.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Freelancing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. What can be considered working for free?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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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Does Your Mailing List Comply With The Law? - Part II

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Back in October, I wrote a post about the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect on May 25, 2018, and how there is not enough information for small businesses on how the GDPR affects us. Now, a new dedicated telephone service has been set up in the UK aimed at helping small and micro businesses prepare for the new data protection laws.

On November 1, 2017, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) implemented a phone service for people running small businesses or charities to help with the particular problems that we are facing while getting ready for this new law. The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

According to the ICO's website: "people from small organisations should dial the ICO helpline on 0303 123 1113 and select option 4 to be diverted to staff who can offer support. As well as advice on preparing for the GDPR, callers can also ask questions about current data protection rules and other legislation regulated by the ICO including electronic marketing and Freedom of Information."

The ICO has also announced that they will adapt and simplify their infographics and toolkits for small and micro businesses that need access to targeted information about how to prepare for the GDPR.

In the meantime, you can find more information on:

Photo credit: Behind the scenes photography by Andrzej Gruszka.

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The Value Of Life

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While I was standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the light to change, a woman with a baby in arms crossed the street with the pedestrian light still in red. She must be in a real hurry - I thought - to be willing to endanger both her life and the life of her child. Sadly, this was not the first time that I had witnessed something like this. We have all seen those people whose time is so precious that they feel like it is a waste of time waiting a few seconds for the light to turn green. In a world where the rush justifies the danger, what is the real value of a human life?

It’s been almost 20 years since I left Panama. Moving out of my country helped me understand that there was a world out there which was bigger than me. With time, living in different countries opened my horizons and my mind and gave me an appreciation for humanity. Nowadays, ageing has given me a sense of inclusiveness, and the realisation that we are just one species and that we are all equal. The knowledge that in spite of our superficial differences, we all have the same needs and fears and that my life is not worth any more or any less than any other person on the planet has been one of the most important lessons learnt in my life.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the value of a human life. From the complicity on gun violence of gun owners and gun associations; to police brutality in the US, France and Spain; to countries closing their borders on people fleeing from war and death, there is just too little appreciation for human lives these days. If you are regularly on social media like I am, you sometimes feel like the life of a cat or a dog is more precious than the life of another person.

I used to think that only people in power had the capacity to sit down in their offices just caring about their own interests while making decisions that affect millions of lives. But now, I've come to realize that we, the everyday people, do it as well. 

We flick through our social media channels or news outlets judging and deciding the fate of other human beings by ignoring their requests for help; by supporting invasions and wars with other countries; by encouraging our government to close the borders on people fleeing conflicts that our own countries have created; or by cold-heartedly deciding whether someone should be fired, extradited, jailed or killed. 

It is as if those faces that we see on the news or the internet are difficult to relate to because they are from far away. They are on the other side of our devices; they are not like us... But, they are! And sooner or later the ones in their position could be us. History has an unpredictable way of shifting the balance of power and when we least expect it, it could be us running for our lives.

This is the only life that we have. There is no after-life, no reincarnation, no heaven nor hell. This is it. Wouldn't it be better lived if we spent it appreciating a bit more our lives and the lives of others? Wouldn't it be worth it if we just waited a few seconds for the crossing light to turn green?

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It's Been Three Years Since I Started Blogging!

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This month of November will be three years since I started writing my blog. What started out as an exercise to log my experiences as a starting creative has evolved into an important part of my marketing strategy.

But not only that, it has also given my brand a voice and a way to connect with my readers by sharing what i do, what I learn and what I think.

In consequence, by writing about my career and about the industry I have been able to examine my journey and grow as a professional.

I am really grateful to all of you who read me every Wednesday for your continuous support. Without you, this blog wouldn't exist.

Thank you!

And to mark the occasion, here are the most popular posts of the past 12 months, which include two from my new series I Wish I Had Known:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Tenni and Adut Akech.

Joseph Tenni and Adut Akech.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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Does Your Mailing List Comply With The Law? - Part I

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If you are a freelance photographer or creative (or any sole trader for that matter) who uses mailing lists to market your services or send out newsletters with updates of your work or blog, and you are based in the United Kingdom or the European Union, or email people who are based in any of the two, this post is for you.

On May 25, 2018, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come in effect. The GDPR is a privacy law which will apply in the EU and the UK and will affect anyone who processes personal information of EU citizens. The UK Government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR, and it's introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill (DP Bill).

The UK DP Bill is an evolution of the current Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). It will apply the GDPR and it has been amended to adjust to the national context and the UK citizens.

How does this affect freelance creatives?

Freelance creatives make use of mailing lists to send out promotional material, blog updates and newsletters to current and prospect clients. All the information in those mailing lists (emails, names, addresses) is considered personal information and are part of the scope of these privacy laws. Keep in mind that personal emails of employees of companies fall into this category and both laws have become more strict in terms of what they consider personal information (IP addresses are now part of the scope).

What does this mean?

It basically means that for you to be able to send your self-promotion material you need to have the consent of the recipient that you can use their email for this purpose.

What is consent?

Consent means permission, and for you to send marketing emails to your clients or prospects you must have their permission to do so. If you send blog updates or newsletters to people who have subscribed and agreed to receive them, and you use services like MailerLite or MailChimp, you mustn't worry. On the one hand, by subscribing to receiving these emails they have given you their consent. On the other hand, both services have taken measures to help you comply with these laws (MailChimp wrote about it on their blog and MailerLite has assured me that they are working on these as I am writing this post).

But if you are sending emails to people who have not subscribed to them, you must ask for their consent. You can send, for instance, emails to your existing client list if the email promotes similar products and services to the ones they bought from you. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has prepared a very thorough guide for direct marketing. The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

What if you bought an email list or compiled your own?

This is where it starts to get confusing for me. There is a lot of misinformation on this matter, especially because all the official communications target large organisations, but there is very little written for freelancers and sole traders.

As freelance creatives, we all have a mailing list of some sort for our marketing and self-promotion. Some of us have compiled these lists using contact information of people that we have met along the road, people that we have worked with, people that we wish we could work with, information of people that we find in the mastheads of publications or on websites, and the list goes on. Other creatives buy mailing lists from companies like Bikini Lists or Agency Access.

Freelancers and sole traders are considered individuals under the privacy laws. When we send out our promotional emails to prospect clients, we address these emails to companies but also to other freelancers. If freelancers and sole traders are individuals, and we email other freelancers and sole traders, then these communications are between individuals, but because they are business related I understand that they are considered Business-to-Consumer (B2C) communications.

On the other hand, if freelancers and sole traders email companies, and these communications are business related, they should be considered Business-to-Business (B2B) communications and not really fall under the scope of these laws (the CEO of Bikini Lists, Ross MacRae, wrote a post about this). To make things more confusing, and like I mentioned earlier on this post, personal emails of employees of companies are considered personal information too.

So, it seems to me that in any of these two cases, whether freelancers and sole traders are writing B2C or B2B communications, we must comply with the privacy laws. I have written the ICO asking for more help on this matter because it is really confusing. Watch this space. Yesterday they published a post on their blog announcing that they will launch a dedicated telephone service aimed at helping small and micro businesses prepare for new data protection laws.

So, what can you do in the meantime?

While all this information is clarified, you must definitely make sure that you are taking into consideration best practices in what personal information refers to:

  • Only use personal information that you have consent to use and use it in a fair and lawful manner;
  • Use this personal information only for the purposes for which you have obtained the consent;
  • Send direct marketing emails that are adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • Keep personal information in your mailing lists accurate and up to date and not for longer than is necessary;
  • Keep personal information in your mailing lists secure and password protected; and
  • Do not transfer to third parties or to other countries without consent and adequate protection.

Where can I find more information?

Photo credit: Behind the scenes photography by Stef Mic

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Buy A Postcard For A Good Cause

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This month of October, over 1000 photographers are taking part in the Photography On A Postcard fundraiser organised by The Hepatitis C Trust. The fundraiser consists on a lottery that guarantees the ticket-holder a 10x15cms (postcard size) photograph from photographers like Jim Goldberg, Martin Parr, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nina Berman, and Cristina De Middel, or less-familiar talents. All ticket-holders will be winners, with photographs assigned to each ticket at random. Two of my photos from my Brexiters series will take part in the lottery. What are you waiting for to buy your ticket? 

The Hepatitis C Trust is the national UK charity for hepatitis C with offices in London and Falkirk. It has been operating since 2001. It is a patient-led and patient-run organisation: most of their board, staff, and volunteers either have hepatitis C or have had it and have cleared it after treatment. Their over-arching goal is to shut down because they are no longer needed; in other words, because hepatitis C has been eliminated in the UK. Historically, hepatitis C has been neglected, partly because there has been no concerted patient voice and because it is often wrongly stigmatised as a drug user’s disease.

With Photography On A Postcard, the trust will try to replicate the success of Art On A Postcard, a program which raises money through an annual secret postcard auction and ‘postcard lotteries’ throughout the year. To date Art on a Postcard has raised over £350K for The Hepatitis C Trust.

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to donate my work to such a good cause. Please show your support and buy your ticket on this link.

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