Panos Pictures is an internationally renowned photo agency specialising in global social issues. Archive Sales Manager Paula James tells us how Panos takes on new photographers and why you always deserve to get a fee for your work…
What exactly does a picture agency do?
A picture agency holds photographers’ work in a photo library. This frees up their time to continue with their photography, being as creative as they can, allowing them not to have to deal with the in and outs of negotiating fees, administration, all the dull stuff. The agency actively sells their work, whereas they might be too busy to do that. We contact the right people who might buy the work, [ensuring it] gets into the correct markets.
How do you find new photographers to represent?
Last year was the first time we did a call out for submissions. We advertised on various photography websites, such as BJP, that we were looking for new photographers to join Panos. We ended up with about 450 applicants and we whittled it down to six photographers. We haven’t done it this year; I think we might do it every two years but we’re such a small team that we just don’t have the manpower to take on more and more photographers.
What stood out about the photographers that you chose?
Their individuality. You could see in their photography their own style, their own ways of understanding the world. We weren’t looking for images that had already been published – we wanted to see new, different stories. It could be anywhere – in the UK, abroad – but it was important for us to see that they were able to tell a good story and that they care about what they do.
Should photographers ever give their work away for free?
Having been a photography student myself, I remember being approached by a major newspaper about a project I was working on in my third year. They said, “Sorry I can’t pay but it will be great exposure for you.” I just thought, “No – why am I not getting paid for this?” I think it’s unfair – everyone’s entitled to a payment. You don’t go into a supermarket and say, “I’m just going to have that.”
I spoke to a young photographer recently who was approached by a big magazine; they wanted to use an image and they weren’t going to pay her. She should have put her foot down! When you graduate you’re grateful for any publication to approach you and, unless you have a degree in marketing or sales, it’s difficult to talk about fees. You’re trained to be creative, to express yourself –you’re not taught the reality of making a living and getting your bills paid. But you have to negotiate a fee because otherwise you’re not going to make it.
Do you have any other advice for photographers starting out?
Hunt out interesting photographic stories that you have a connection with. Some of our new photographers, such as Chloe Dewe-Mathews and Ivor Prickett, just went out and found stories for themselves. They developed their own style and now are working very prolifically, being assigned really interesting stories, because of that first body of work. If you can graduate with a fantastic story then you’ll go onto great things!
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