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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To Satisfy Your Clients You Must Understand Them

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As I write this post I am finalizing the migration of all my self-promotion and marketing communications from MailChimp to MailerLite. After 4 years of using it, I came to realize that MailChimp doesn't fully understand the segment of their target that I belong to. In the words of Eugen Herrigel, author of Zen in the Art Of Archery, in order to hit the target, the archer must become "simultaneously the aimer and the aim". If you don't understand your target, how can you serve them well?

Don't get me wrong, MailChimp is an outstanding service and it has gotten to be one of the best mailing services in the market today. I have used it for my mailing campaigns, for my weekly newsletter, for my blog subscription service, and until I finish migrating to MailerLite I will keep on using it for my documents download workflow. Nevertheless, over the last few months, I have encountered problems with some of the templates that affect only specific geographies. But, because I am on their free plan I do not have access to their technical support. They don't offer a means of contact for their non-paying users.

I am a freelance photographer, and like most freelancers out there I have a very limited budget for my business expenses. Therefore, I rely on services which offer free plans to be able to operate my business. "So you are a business who's trying to make money from your clients but expects free services from your suppliers?", you may ask. As contradictory as this may sound, businesses like these that offer free plans are not really doing it out of humanitarian reasons.

By offering free limited plans, free trials or even free forever options, these services grow their client base faster and have more chances of becoming mainstream without having to invest too much in their marketing. They also get thousands, if not millions of users to test their services and give them feedback on potential issues. But ultimately, and more importantly, is that they can go to their investors and show them how popular they are and ask them for more money. So, in a way, they put their free plan users to work for them.

Obviously, a business model where the majority of your clients don't pay you is not the type of business that we all dream of running. But I am sure that, like me, a lot of freelancers and small businesses out there end up subscribing to the paid plans of these services when they can finally afford to or when they consider that it is time to use the more advanced features that the paid plans provide. I have done it myself with some of the services that I use, and the only reason why I hadn't done it with MailChimp yet is that frankly, I can't afford them at this point.

But then I ran into MailerLite and from the start, I felt that they were the right fit for me. They are an unpretentious company based in Lithuania that prides itself in having a small team of people who work for other people. No big corporation aspirations, no nonsense. That's the kind of supplier that I want to have because that is the type of business that I want to be. On top of that, their templates are beautiful, their website is easy to use and so far I am in love with their service.

So, even if this sounds like a paid post I can tell you that it is not. This is a client testimonial from someone who fully identifies with their ethos. Because why would I want to be the client of a business that doesn't really understand me and that doesn't even offer a communication channel to hear what I have to say.

Photo by Andrzej Gruszka.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you! À vite! Gros bisous!


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 Think That I Have Finally Converted

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When I decided to become a full-time photographer, I knew that an important part of my marketing strategy should be Social Media. In particular Instagram. So I put all my efforts into building a name for myself as a brand, and a portfolio that would represent who I was as a photographer. But, like most people, I got obsessed with followers, comments and likes, and not having a clear goal for my social media efforts and an understanding of what these terms meant made me constantly worry that I was doing something wrong.

In hindsight, my first mistake was not knowing my brand enough. Which is strange, because I created this brand myself, and as a freelance photographer it is an extension of me. But not knowing what my brand stood for and what type of branding I was trying to create made me follow social media strategies that were not suitable for me. Grey Pistachio is not Nike, is not Tesco nor Walmart, is not even similar to other photographer's brands like Testino or Mert and Marcus. So why was I trying to copy what those other brands were doing on social media if I wasn't like them in the first place?

My second mistake was not knowing what I wanted to get from my marketing strategy. In my obsession with metrics, I confused engagement (likes and comments), with post views (impressions and reach), with conversion and awareness. Not understanding what these terms meant and how they could work for me made me apply trial and error tactics that were not suited for Grey Pistachio. Probably the biggest confusion that I had was not really knowing if I was creating posts for conversion (and exactly what that conversion was) or for brand awareness.

But in starting my blog and writing about me, about my brand, about the industry, about the issues that I care for and about how important the sense of creative community is for me, I have come to realize that what my marketing strategy has been about all along is brand awareness. And that is the conversion that I should have been measuring. This fact has never been clearer to me than during this last Fashion Week.

I moved to London in 2013, but it wasn't until mid-2014 when I decided to go full-time with my photography. In just 3 years I went from not having a portfolio nor even knowing a single person in the industry to where I am at right now. It may sound like a slow process to some, but for me, it has been an exhilarating journey. And this past weekend, while shooting the runways and the backstage in Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week, I had a moment of self-reflection.

Some of the people in the event (designers, models, guests, organizers)  knew me from previous seasons; while others who didn't know me at least had heard of me. And this is what I have been working so hard for over the last few years. To make myself a name in the creative community in London.

So the lesson here is that I shouldn't have been worrying so much about getting more likes or accumulating more followers; or so concerned with the number of impressions versus the size of my reach. None of that matters. What I should have been focusing on, and what I was actually doing without realizing it, was in presenting an authentic image of myself and of my brand so that my audience felt organically attracted to me. Which in turn creates an engagement that translates into a conversion trackable only by the number of meaningful connections with actual people that I make.

Photo by Wayne Noir.

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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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A Guide For Perfecting Your Photography

A free guide for perfecting your photography

On a previous post, I mentioned that I had been invited to talk during an event for bloggers called "Breakthrough in Blogging", organised by the people of the Creative Industry Hub. For the purposes of that talk, I put together a short guide with composition tips and tricks to help anyone interested in photography to take better photos. It has been so well received that I have decided to make it public for anyone to download for free. Just click on this link to get your own copy and start taking better photos!

The "Breakthrough in Blogging" event took place at The CoClub, a fantastic co-working space in West London. Almost a 150 bloggers from different disciplines (fashion, travel, food, beauty) came to listen to a line-up of great speakers of the likes of Paul Goldsmith from Wearisma, Katia Bololia from Daisy London, Ulrich Boulon from Burberry, Victoria Reddington from FP Engage, Caroline Towers from The Content Edit, and Philip Gamble from Found.

Apart from the talks, the attendees had the opportunity to network, and also speak in person to some of the sponsors of the event: Alexandra Ursan from Kites and Bites, Funmi Deri from Funlayo Deri, among others.

Creative freelancing can be a very lonely path. But If you are a creative working in the UK, the good news is that the guys at the Creative Industry Hub organize some of the biggest networking events in the country. Their next event called "Breakthrough In Fashion" will take place on October 26th, 2017. You can't miss it!

All the photos, except for the guide's cover, by Luca Dominique Marchesi and Maria Teresa Fiatamone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. How did you start working with hair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The usual suspects: my website and my Instagram.

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


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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Learn The Rules Then Break Them

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The idea of rules to regulate art goes against the notion of creativity, but in order to explore and express your creativity, you have to understand at least the rules of the medium that you are working in. Once you understand those rules you can and should break them, and only then will you be able to fully unleash your creative self. If artistic growth is about breaking the rules but you haven't learned any rules in the first place, can you even say that you are breaking them?

A couple of posts ago I spoke about the importance of knowing what the subject of your photo is. Only then will you be able to apply the rules of composition to your images to improve how you present your subjects. On September 2, I will be giving a talk on "Perfecting Your Photography" to a group of bloggers during the "Breakthrough in Blogging" event organized by the guys over at the Creative Industry Hub. Join me and learn basic photography composition guidelines and start taking better photos!

If you live outside London and are not able to make it to the event, don't despair. Stay tuned for future blog posts where I will be talking about all these concepts.

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Too Many Thoughts Remain Unwritten

Today I was going to write about photography, but the recent events in Charlottesville have prompted me to write about Human Rights instead. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression", but in the case of hate speech, it always feels like this article contradicts the main purpose of this declaration to offer rights "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." If we are promoting and encouraging equality, why are we protecting discrimination as well?

There has been a historically long debate about whether hate speech should be free speech. And I understand that there will always be parts of society that will have an opinion that is completely opposite to mine. But one thing is raising an opinion, and another thing is inciting violence with what you say. Because words can kill. And words have killed. And no matter how many people try to deny past and present slavery, past and present genocides, past and present horrors against humanity, they have taken place. And if we don't do something about it they will continue taking place.

The solution at this point in history might not lie in prohibiting this sort of speech, as those who take advantage of the vulnerabilities of our human rights declaration would also take advantage of possible hate speech rulings to silence those who think different to them. But there are things that we can do right now to plant the seed of kindness, tolerance and inclusion for the generations to come:

  • Speak out. Use your freedom of opinion and express your thoughts. Condemn hatred, bigotry and discrimination of any kind. Talk to your relatives, to your friends, write about equality on social media and blogs. Even if it feels to your acquaintances that you have an annoying agenda, this is a matter of life and death. This is a time when our words can save lives. I found a very useful guide on how to speak your mind when confronted with hate speech on this link.
  • Elect better representatives. As clichéd as this sounds, we have in our voting hands the power to let our leaders know that we won't condone any form of support for hatred. And because they should work for us, for that is the reason why we elected them, we must demand of them to improve our education systems and invest in programs to promote equality in our schools.
  • Be kind. This might be the most important one. Lead by example, be kind and accepting of others and hold yourself to the highest standards of equality and inclusion. If we try to perform an act of kindness as often as we can we will all be contributing to spreading this message to the world. Every small action counts.

In the meantime, I refuse to remain silent about attacks against humanity. And even though the aim of this blog is to talk about business and marketing in the creative industries, every single word written in my posts is a part of who I am and how I think. And I feel that it is my duty to use my words to try to make this world a better place for every person and it is my human right to not let my thoughts remain unwritten.

Portrait by: Wayne Noir.

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Why Do We Take Photos?

Lately I have found myself coaching people on how to improve their photography skills and take better photos. And one of the things that I emphasize the most is that when we take a photo we need to understand what is the subject of our image to be able to convey a message about it. Sometimes the subject is very clear: a person, a building, a landscape, a dish; but other times we create images about experiences, about feelings, about moods, and then it is difficult for the viewer to understand what the photo is about. And even if it is difficult for ourselves to explain what an image that we took is about, there was a reason why we felt the need to capture it. The answer to the question "what is the subject of my image?" lies in the answer to another question: "why am I taking this photo?"

In this day and age when photography has been so democratized, I would say that the majority of people take photos to show others the experiences that they are living or the places where they go, some sort of visual journal of their lives. Other people, on the other hand, take photos in a less self-involved manner and more like witnesses of the world that surrounds them, like "a tourist in other people's realities" (Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977). But there are also people like me, photographers who get hired to take a photo of a person, a product or an idea for commercial purposes. No matter which type of photography you do, there is always a reason why you are taking an image. There is always a subject in mind.

The challenge relies on how to transmit the message to the viewer, how to make them understand what our photo is about. And for me the first step is understanding ourselves what the subject of our photo is. In my experience, this idea that might sound so obvious is not so obvious at all. Today's technology lets us take an infinite amount of photos for a very low cost which means that we end up clicking away every time that we want to capture something. Amateurs and professionals alike, with the "think less, shoot more" strategy we take a massive amount of images in the hope to be able to rescue at least a few good ones. And even if admittedly there are some instances when there is no time to think for too long because time is precious, most of the times stopping for a second to think about why we are taking an image translates into a better photo.

Do you want to improve your photography? Stop what you are doing and look around. Do you see any photos? Are you able to tell what the subject is? Now do this with your own photos. Is the subject as clear as you thought it would be when you took them?

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Waiting For The Bus To Come

Those who know me know that I enjoy cooking. More than enjoy, I would say that it is a hobby of mine. Spending hours in the kitchen taking individual ingredients, transforming them, and creating something that you can share with others is for me one of the biggest pleasures in life. But, apart from being a pleasure, it has also been a school. It has taught me patience and it has given me the ability to blindly wait for long periods of time to be rewarded with the outcome of my efforts. We all desperately need to learn how to cook.

It is funny that what I do for a living and what I like doing in my spare time are both related to the pass of time. Berenice Abbott wrote in her book 'The World of Atget': "(...) the photographer is the contemporary being par excellence; through his eyes the now becomes past." As photographers, we capture present time moments and turn them into memories from the past. But, as someone who enjoys cooking, the pleasure relies in imagining how a dish would taste in the future and then build with present ingredients towards that.

Carmen Herrera said in the documentary on her life: "If you wait for the bus, the bus will come." She had to wait until she was almost a 100 years old to be recognized for her art. But she never stopped painting. Not even when she was told at some point in her life that she would never make it in the art world because she was a woman. Talk about perseverance. Yet nowadays we are not willing to wait for anything in our lives: we buy pre-cooked food instead of cooking it ourselves, instant messaging has replaced almost all of our communications, we want immediate success without doing the effort.

If you have a goal in life you must have the patience and perseverance to attain it, but also the vision to make it sustainable in time. Immediate success often comes with immediate failure. Our business community is so consumed in going from zero to profit in the least amount of time possible that no one seems to be focusing on how to survive after success. In my opinion, it is better to arrive slowly but to have a solid foundation that will keep us going for long.

Don't rush into things, not even when you feel that everyone else is ahead of you. Everything happens at the right time. You can't have 40 years of experience if you haven't lived for 40 years. The same way that you can't make a delicious homemade meal if you don't spend a few hours in the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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