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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5 Responses
  • Arlene Johnson Reply

    Just read your article about your NYC trip. Loved it. You hit it right on the head. Everyone is inundated with email blast, doing the job of two people or more. No wonder, they don’t have time to see you or answer emails. Yes, it is frustrating!! As an agent, you are rejected a lot. Some days I come home with my tail between my legs. Then… a job will come in. If you do the work; emails, direct mail, keeping in touch, portfolio shows, etc. , etc., you will eventually get work. Yes, the business has changed. Every photographer starting out should read this article. Excellent!

  • marchesi Reply

    I think you are perfectly right, lack of response is not necessarily lack of interest. Just have to keep going at it…

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