Archive for the ‘Business’ category

The River Surfing Story That Went Viral

Last year while on assignment in Missoula Montana I ran across Strongwater Surfshop.  I walked in curious about river surfing and the guys, somehow, convinced me to drive 2 hours (4 hours round trip) to the Lochsa River to watch them surf for the evening.  Their enthusiasm was so contagious and I was so impressed with their surfing, that I decided to go back the following week to do a story.  Initially I posted it on Facebook and the likes and shares started pouring in.  Shorty after that, Outside Magazine picked up the story to do a photo essay online “A Mountain Town With a Surfing Problem” and one of the images made the Exposure section on the Magazine.  It was history after that.  Calls started pouring in from all over the world for interviews about the story. The River Surfing Revolution was published worldwide.  England, Australia, Germany, Italy, Norway, New Zealand just to mention a few.  The story made the Editor Pick on Maptia (best place to read the story) and was shared all over the world through social media.  Shortly after that it was taken by a News Agency in London and just like the Trout Jumping Picture that went Viral I lost track of it.  The question everyone is always curious about… Did I get rich from it?  Of course not, but I always wanted to be a writer and this could be a beginning.

(Down below the story on New Zealand Magazine “Say Yes to Adventure”).

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SYTA_Volume One_Paolo Marchesi-1

The image that went VIRAL. The pros and cons.

Being fairly new to social media for my business (in the past 2 years) I wondered what it would take for an image to go viral.  It sure had to be special but how special should it be and how do you create an image that goes viral?  And what will happen after your image goes viral?  Well, this year, I had the answer with my first image to go viral.  I was very surprised by the image that actually made the cut.  It’s a fish jumping after being hooked.  I figured fisher people would like the image but for some inexplicable reason to me it was a hit with also non fisher people.  The likes started pouring in after posting it on Instagram.  And is not the likes that made it go viral but the shares.  I still have a fairly small group of followers on instagram being only a year into it.  Is the shares that put the image on pages with thousands of followers and it just spread like a virus in a few days.  Millions of likes and shares hit the image in no time.  At one point I thought my phone was going crazy.  It beeped constantly and realized it was from twitter reposts and mentions of my photo that I never even posted on twitter.

Now, the really important question.  What did I gain from it going viral?  Or was there a loss?  Truth is, I post images on Instagram for business reasons.  I am still figuring out how the business part works but that’s the ultimate reason, to make money somehow.  Have I made money with this image?  So far it was considered for a magazine cover (the bubbles conflicted with the type so ended up not being used), Patagonia has it on file and is considering it for their new catalog and I got a free hat from a German fly fishing clothing company.  So in short, I got a cool free hat from Germany.  I am sure that I received a lot of exposure from the image that could also eventually translate into some monetary gain but for now is just the hat.

Has there been a loss?

What I did notice is that the image was shared and in many instances was shared with credit.  But often the image was just shared stripped of my credit and not only that, it was manipulated and changed from it’s original form.  Some changes kind of cool, others not so cool. IMG_20141202_122531 copyWhen an image goes viral you lose control.  People can do whatever they want with it, manipulate it, crop it and eventually the image will be stripped of your credit.  That’s the nature of the beast, when it goes viral you can only let it go wild.

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The changing photography market. Can you manage a meeting with an ad agency or a magazine in New York?


Riding Citibike from meeting to meeting, best thing ever to get around Manhattan!


A few months ago my friend Peter from New York called me and invited me to go fly fishing for striper  in Montauk.  I have been wanting to fly fish for striper for a while and I hadn’t been to New York to show my portfolio to agencies and magazines for a while.  I could get two birds with one stone.   August was the best time to go fly fishing for striper and I figured that even though summer was not the best time to see people in New York, I could round up enough appointments to make my  trip worth it.  With the recent 8 pages featuring me on Communication Arts, I thought everyone in New York and their mothers would have wanted to see me.  I started sending emails showcasing my feature and announcing my so much “coveted” visit but it didn’t take long to realize things were not going to be easy.  I felt as if I was sending emails and phone calls into a big empty black hole of no replies.  “Anyone there?”  “Hello?”  “Did you look at my feature on Communication Arts?”  “Hey?”

Striper fishing wasn’t enough to justify two weeks in New York, something had to happen.  How many emails and phone calls would I need to make before anyone would get back to me?  It turns out a lot, we are talking over two thousand emails and hundreds of phone calls.  I started getting some replies but the effort needed made me wonder if I would do it ever again.  It made me realize how the industry has changed.  Back in the days, I used to go to New York and see everyone I wanted to see with a few phone calls and emails.  Now I had to send over 2,000 emails and make hundreds of phone calls and still not manage to connect with all the people I was expecting to see.  What happened?  The answer is simple.  The industry has changed.

Riding Citibike from meeting to meeting, best thing ever to get around Manhattan!

Riding Citibike from meeting to meeting, best thing ever to get around Manhattan!

Digital photography has inundated the market with photographers and all of them, me included, are bombarding art directors and editors relentlessly.   Will you check out my new photos?  Will you meet me to see my book?  When I wasn’t receiving replies I started feeling a little bitter but imagine receiving 100s of emails on a weekly basis?  I have talked with Art Directors and Editors friends of mine and they are overwhelmed.  I really can’t blame them for not replying to emails or phone calls even though I secretly wanted to tell them to go to hell for not replying.  So what is the solution?  I think you have to be really darn good, very persistent, but mostly you have to seriously target your efforts.  The shotgun approach of getting jobs doesn’t work anymore.   You need to target your efforts, research the clients and brands you want to pursue and go after them with persistence and patience.   Hopefully you have plenty of both.  If you are planning a trip to NY, plan it well in advance (like a year) and start building relationships with a few key people you want to see.  Keep the contacts you already have like they are gold because those are the people who will more likely see you or help you meet other people.  For example, I used to know a photo editor at Field and Stream and now she is one of the art buyers at Ogilvy & Mather.  I have known her for many years, from the days I used to ONLY shoot fly fishing.  I contacted her and sure enough she had me lined up with a few people to see at Ogilvy.  It really is a very small world and everyone moves around and remember that even the assistant photo editor or the assistant art buyer will eventually move up. Be nice to everyone!

View from Sports Illustrated offices

View from Sports Illustrated offices

In the end I managed to see enough people in New York to make me feel ok about my visit but not nearly what I had expected.  Times have seriously changed and you can’t get discouraged.

The only sad thing about my trip is that I never ended up fishing for striper.  When I arrived in East Hampton the stripers had left the flats (where you can fly fish for them) because of a heat wave, the promised boats and buddies to go chase them were not available and my dream to catch a striper on the fly quickly vanished.

Will be back.

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