Catching up with the ASPP

The American Society of Picture Professionals is the definitive trade association for picture editors, art buyers, researchers and all engaged in the business of creating, archiving, marketing, researching and licensing imagery in North America. With Chapters through out the United States offering regular programming to one of the most comprehensive benefits packages for members to the hallmark quarterly magazine, The Picture Professional, the ASPP continues to work to serve our industry. Executive Director Sam Merrell and current President Cecilia de Querol took time to answer a few questions and share plans for the organization.

How long have the 2 of you worked together and in what capacity?

SM: Cecilia and I have been working together with ASPP since December 2006, as NY Chapter Co-Presidents.  In 2010, we joined the National Board as Technology Co-Chairs. Early in 2012  I was appointed National Vice President while Cecilia remained as Tech Co-Chair with Daryl Geraci.  Early in 2014, I was elected National President, served for 16 days and then moved to the Executive Director’s post. In March 2014, Cecilia became National President.

CQ:  Our first project together for ASPP was a 2006 event on Digital Image Workflow held at ICP.  Its success led us to the chapter co-chair positions and our interest in technology helped us fit into the tech-co chair positions on the national board.  It has been a rewarding experience from the start.  It’s great to get together with a group of interested volunteers and make things happen that are of benefit to all.  I’ve made great friendships (including Sam!) and many interesting and valuable business contacts along the way.

What is your vision for your tenure, Cecilia?

I want everyone in the business to know about ASPP and to feel compelled to join. I want them to know that being an ASPP member is an essential, non-optional part of their professional toolkit. I want to raise the visibility of our association let the world know about the value of the professional skills and expertise of our members.

ASPP is special and unique because we represent the entire eco-system of the business.  I want to build on this and make ASPP the hub of the industry-wide conversation.

Sam, where do you see the organization going?

Interesting that you ask. Where do we want ASPP to be in five years? The same? Different? How? What we need to do to get there?  At our upcoming October board meeting during photo week, we’re devoting a significant portion of our annual in-person board meeting to just these questions.

Commercial photography markets have changed dramatically in the past five years and in the same way that many of our members are having to adjust to the changing workplace in the midst of a difficult economy, ASPP itself is having to meet new challenges of rediscovery and finding new ways to unlock value for our community.

That said, I don’t see our local educational events going away. There’s a perception that online channels are replacing our traditional membership association value-proposition (providing educational and networking opportunities).  But while there is some truth to that perception, it’s also true that face-to-face contact at events with  groups of people is powerful stuff too. Useful in a way that’s different from Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. So while Cecilia works at dialing up our advocacy of the value of hiring picture professionals, I’ll be doing everything I can to support our local Chapter boards as they make networking and educational opportunities happen around the country.

Both of you – can you talk about what the ASPP has historically been and how it is staying relevant?

CQ:  ASPP was founded to be the umbrella association for all the picture professions in 1969.  Almost everything has been transformed since then.  Change has been constant. It didn’t just start now.  Picture professionals have been hard at work through these decades. Their titles and job descriptions may have changed, but they are still picture professionals. Though it all, many have turned to ASPP for guidance and many of them have been drivers of the changes and have shared their knowledge and experience. The ASPP community has been evolving and will continue to evolve in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.

I believe the key to staying relevant is to keep in mind that ASPP is an association. Our power as a community comes from our members and the power of our community flows back to them.

SM: Recently we’ve turned some of our member events inside-out: Instead of a panel of experts dispensing the latest information from a podium, our Peer2Peer and Town Hall events do exactly the oppisite. They put the audience front and center; we ask questions about attendee’s jobs, careers, their workplace and the market for what they do… and then we listen very carefully to what we hear back. We take notes, and are beginning to distill the results with an eye towards posting these results to our Members-Only website later this fall. We will probably publish some of this information as well, it’s very useful. And the events themselves are quite exciting! There’s nothing like a roomful of people coming alive in a discussion of possible solutions to issues that we are all facing.

What drew you both to your current roles?

SM: I’ve morphed throughout my career — photographer, digital photographer, writer, project runner, digital photo evangelist and consultant, stock agent, producer, even a college teacher — all of it centered around visual media.  So ASPP is the perfect organization for me because our members come from so many different job and career categories.  And being ASPP’s executive director is an great job for me–I get to do the things I’m good at, and it’s about photography so I’m passionate about it.  I wasn’t expecting to enjoy publishing our Picture Professional magazine as much as I do. We have a great magazine team and I feel privileged to be involved with everyone (including our great advertisers)!

CQ: I started in this business as a liaison for the Japanese photo agency, Pacific Press Service (PPS) working as both as a photo researcher for their clients’ projects in Japan and as an agent for PPS’s photographs when clients based in the U.S, wanted to use them, so I was aware of how both sides of the business work.  I never stop being impressed by the power of photography.  I love the way that it brings the past and distant places alive to the viewer.  And when I start to think that nothing new can be done, along comes an image that blows me away.

I’ve always worked either in small offices or in my home office, so ASPP is very important for me as a way to get out, meet, and be with other people in the business.

I’m happy to be back in a social and creative position as president of ASPP.

Thanks to both for this insight – for more information about the Association, Membership and how to be involved, please see

Revisiting Vivian Maier

Shortly after the insightful review of the acclaimed documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier”, written for us by Michael Masterson and found here, news surfaced with an interesting development around her work. Michael filed this update for us:

Subsequent to the original post, there has been a new legal twist regarding Maier’s work and estate. The New York Times reports that David C. Deal, a lawyer and former photographer, filed suit in Cook County, Chicago claiming the assets of Maier’s estate properly belong to a first cousin once removed of hers in France. John Maloof had hired genealogists himself to determine if there were legitimate heirs and found a different first cousin once removed, Sylvain Jaussaud, to whom he paid an undisclosed amount for the rights to her work. Now Mr. Deal has uncovered another first cousin once removed named Frances Baille who never knew of Maier or her work. Maloof also found Baille in his research but determined that Jaussaud was a closer relation. Deal’s suit resulted in Cook County creating an estate for Maier and warning those selling her work, including Maloof and others, of the potential for lawsuits regarding ownership. As a result, some galleries have suspended sales and exhibitions pending legal clarification.

Because owning a negative or print is different from owning a copyright, Maloof has been pursuing copyright registration for the works he owns based on his agreement with Jaussaud.  He’s concerned that this legal wrinkle could force removal of Maier’s works from the public, depriving the world of her unique vision. However, Deal says it is “profoundly unfair” for others without copyright registrations to profit from Maier’s work rather than her legal heirs. When questioned about his own motives in pursuing this, Deal stated that he was interested in the legal challenge and would only like to come “out on the other end of this issue breaking even.” He says that Baille only wants to be compensated for what is legally his. Unfortunately, the copyright kerfuffle could result in the curtain being drawn back around Vivian Maier’s work for years to come.

Many thanks to Michael for keeping us informed.

Celebrating the FIRST 60 Years with Rex Features

by Julian Jackson

Rex Features is a fixture of the British media industry. It celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Founded in a front room in 1954 by husband-and-wife team Frank and Elizabeth Selby, it has provided news, celebrity and royal imagery globally for six decades, in the process turning into a global media operation, while remaining headquartered in a former ragged school near Fleet Street in London.

Photo by TIM ROOKE/REX (275505a) Princess Diana at the American Red Cross Charity Ball in Aid of Landmine Victims Princess Diana visit to support the American Red Cross, Washington DC, America - Jun 1997

Photo by TIM ROOKE/REX (275505a)
Princess Diana at the American Red Cross Charity Ball in Aid of Landmine Victims
Princess Diana visit to support the American Red Cross, Washington DC, America – Jun 1997

The transition to being a 24 hour operation in the last five years has really made Rex a force to be reckoned with. They have two shifts, with London handing over to LA, so they can distribute content throughout the 24 hour news cycle.

The Selbys finally retired in 2011, after a major innings by any measure. Getty Images was going to snap Rex up but when the proposed deal was referred to the Competition Commission both parties pulled out of the sale. Uncertainty about the future of the agency ceased after a management buyout led by Larry Lawson, Rex’s existing Director of Sales, with the backing of business advisor Miguel Ferro and other personal investors. Parts of the industry breathed a sigh of relief.

What really helped Rex take off during the film era was that it was ideally placed to make use of advances in newspaper use of colour images. Rex opened their own on-site colour lab to speed up film processing. Teams of motorcycle couriers hurtled around between news desks. In 1981, the agency raised its profile dramatically with its coverage of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Its fast and comprehensive service beat many other agencies into the pages of newspapers and magazines around the world. With the introduction of colour reproduction in UK national newspapers and the increasing demand for celebrity and entertainment images Rex grew considerably during the next twenty years and made a successful transition to digitisation with its highly regarded website whilst retaining the company’s traditional character and highly personalised service.

Rick Colls, Rex’s Director of Operations has been with the company for 30 years and seen the whole photo industry transition from the front row. “The industry has changed so much in the last five to ten years. Digital capture and distribution has allowed so many more photographers a platform and the overheads are lower. This has resulted in a ubiquity of content in the news, editorial and celebrity markets.  We find the marketplace a lot more competitive. And there is the enormous threat of Getty – every day, we go head to head with them.”

He adds, “The fees are still tumbling. Newspapers are constantly trying to drop the prices of their bought-in images.”

“We’ve got quite a lot of good things going for us.  We’ve been moving into new areas. Sport is  a key one.  We covered the [Soccer] World Cup for the first time this year and Commonweath Games.  We have just completed a project to scan 300,000 of the Daily Mail’s archive prints, keyword, index and host them on our website.”

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, FA Premier League football match, White Heart Lane, London, Britain - 19 May 2013 Photo by Back Page Images/REX (2589378g)

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, FA Premier League football match, White Heart Lane, London, Britain – 19 May 2013
Photo by Back Page Images/REX (2589378g)

“We are changing as our industry demands change.  We are finding new content, new areas, for example, we host the ITV archive – they have 60 years of programmes. Our photographers are on-set for all of their daytime shows, so we have exclusivity – you can only get those images from us.”

In 2008, Rex acquired the Los Angeles-based Berliner Group of photographic companies, with the aim of strengthening Rex’s presence in the USA and guaranteeing a reliable supply of high-quality celebrity portraiture and coverage of  “red carpet” events from the US. Celebrity images are a big part of their offering, with photographers in London, NY and LA. They cover the Oscars and the Emmys and have both staff and freelances for red carpet and pap work.  They have a daily feed of the latest film stills from the Everett Collection in New York, who they represent in the UK. They are also now shooting assignments, primarily for PR companies and using their leverage and reputation to place these with major media companies.

In 2013 they helped to rescue SIPA, Rex’s longstanding French partners who had been supplying images to them since 1968 but had recently got into difficulties . Other partners include Xinhua in China and they have agencies on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, which results in what Rick calls, “Some pretty heartbreaking images.”

Perhaps Rex is most famous for its coverage of celebrities.  Some of the most iconic images that are seared into the popular consciousness are from Rex.  Elizabeth Hurley in the Versace Safety Pin Dress that started her career.  Michael Jackson dancing on the Billie Jean video set. Kate Moss, David Bowie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, the Beckhams, Lady Gaga, more Royals than you can shake a stick at.  Their images of the music, lifestyles and fashions of the sixties and seventies is magnificent and they hold a remarkable archive of popular culture from the fifties to today.

Photo by Tim Rooke/REX (229189a) Elizabeth Hurley 'FOUR WEDDINGS AND A

Photo by Tim Rooke/REX (229189a)
Elizabeth Hurley

While it is dangerous to make predictions, after 60 years, Rex looks like being a fixture on the international media scene for a good few decades yet.

See a selection of images from Rex’s 60th Anniversary compilation here:


juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment.  His website is  He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course profile.



The Circle Will Not be Broken

Delighted to find out about the Photographic Archives at the Grand Ole Opry. Simon Herbert chatted with Curator Brenda Colladay recently.

In the current Grand Ole Opry theater, there is a six-foot square of wood cut from the home’s main original home, the Ryman Auditorium, which was home to an iconic range of musical stars from 1943 to 1974. As part of the Opry’s uninterrupted 88 years live on air, this piece of timber has a simple, but profound, purpose: to allow contemporary musicians and singers to perform on, literally, the same stage that the likes of Uncle Dave Macon and Patsy Cline did, years earlier.

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on Opry, 1974.Les Leverett photograph © Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on Opry, 1974.Les Leverett photograph © Grand Ole Opry, LLC

No wonder, then, that an institution so steeped in tradition, has also turned its gaze to recording and collating the visual record of the too many to name stars, and more obscure artists, that have become a part of the longest-running radio show in America, that started in 1925, just five years after commercial radio was born in the United States.

Brenda Colladay, the Museum and Photo Curator for the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium, oversees a vast collection of photos, both researched and donated. As she explains: ” Like any picturesque entertainment icon, there is great imagery associated with the Grand Ole Opry, and we have a photographic archive that spans from 1925 to today. It is comprised of candid backstage photos, transparencies, stills, and so on, of various events for the radio station, and the parent  company; which was the National Life and Accident Insurance Company.”

Opry Cast 1934 ©Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Opry Cast 1934
©Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Comprised of 150,000 plus images, it contains a wide swathe of country music history, and, even more specifically, Nashville history. The Grand Ole Opry is still in the process of digitizing this huge collection: in Colladay’s words the resource is “more than anybody would ever possibly measure,” and that’s before they even get to the digital native material that photographers have been shooting since 2001 (comprising many more hundreds of thousand of images since then).

The original show was born at a time when archiving wasn’t exactly a priority, so the historical cultural value of this record seems – like most enterprises, be it punk rock, or old TV shows – to have only been realized much later. As Colladay explains:” The audio was very rarely recorded; only if an sponsor needed “air checks” to see if they were getting their money’s worth. In the mid 60s they created a program where they would sell the Grand ‘Ol Opry to other radio stations in the week, and that was all recorded, and pressed onto vinyl LPs, and sent out to 400 stations out over the country.”

Now, of course, The Grand Ole Opry records everything, both acoustically and visually, but it’s in hindsight that this remarkable collection has begun to try and fill in the gaps.

“They would come to realize the value of this as publicity, and that was always the impetus. We’re much lighter on the earlier days – from 1925 until 1950 – we have fewer images, before the 1950s onwards. We are always looking to find photographs that have [been] scattered over the years. This was a live radio show on a live radio station, that was broadcast seven days a week, and it was just live radio, so… it wasn’t recorded or documented, doing what you had to do every day and get the content out.”

The collection is mainly supplemented by those who might come across something in an attic, or want to trace their own relative’s contribution to the pantheon of music. Colladay indicates that the Grand Ole Opry doesn’t have a purchase budget, or necessarily, a way to advertise for materials, but that people “Often call the main office and say ‘Hey we have this,’ or there are family legends when people are told that their great great aunt performed in 1937, and do we have a recording and a video?”

It’s a common misconception – that we think that we used to record events in the 20th century in  the same forensic detail that we do of our own lives today, on cell phones and the like – and Colladay gently acknowledges as such: “ The Grand ‘Ol Opry is like what they say about Woodstock:  if everybody who said that they’d been here had been here… we couldn’t have fit the people in the building.”

However, the archive continues to accrue, and even though it’s fine to get new material on famous performers, often the most interesting contributions or finds are those relating to the more obscure performers, that might fill out the gaps in this unparalleled train of musicians and singers, both long-time icons and one-off performers. As Colladay indicates, she will happily accept any new pictures of Hank Williams, or Johnny Cash, “but it’s great when we can actually help someone document a family member, or illustrate a book.”

The archive is pretty much being built as a record, foremost, rather than specifically for commercial usage, but that is also clearly a target too. As Colladay indicates, “It’s mainly archival, for own use. Creating books, and advertising, and marketing, and the web site. We do license, over the last 15 years, and actively try to. We also have a range of video collections. Various TV shows, and so on. We have wonderful photographs and people want that, so…”

Brad Paisley Chris Hollo photograph ©2013, Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Brad Paisley
Chris Hollo photograph ©2013, Grand Ole Opry, LLC

They say that music can transport you instantly to a prior time in your life, but then they also say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe the material at the grand Ole Opry is worth a 150,000 plus tunes too…

As Patsy said: ‘Carnegie Hall was real fabulous, but you know, it ain’t as big as the Grand Ole Opry.’

The Grand Ole Opry Archives can be sourced here: . They will also be at Visual Connections.  Many thanks to Museum and Photograph Curator Brenda Colladay for the interview and photos.




Disability in Commercial Imagery

By Pat Hunt

(c)Disability Images

(c)Disability Images

What is a disability? Can anyone really offer a comprehensive list of every issue that is likely to manifest as a disability? There are attempts to do this in government, but that list hardly reflects the entire human condition.

In commercial imagery, there seems to be a need to put someone into a wheelchair in order to visually display that they have a disability. It is said by statisticians that 74% of Americans who live with a serious disability do not even use a wheelchair or a walker. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, “a person with a disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. “ Having a disability is not always about mobility.

There is even a very serious organization that promotes the knowledge of and caring for what they call an Invisible Disability. An invisible disability can refer to such issues as pain,fatigue,depression, learning differences, hearing and vision impairments and any ailment not immediately obvious to the on-looker. These issues can severely limit daily activities, so people making judgments about them need to be keenly aware of more than obvious physical impairments.

(c)Disability Images

(c)Disability Images

In spite of all these disabilities, it’s important to avoid the label – disabled. Human beings are very resourceful and continue to lead very active lifestyles, in spite of their issues. They have careers, and they play sports. They enjoy relationships and work toward an education. They improve with rehabilitation and get around with transportation. They have a very active home life.

Disability Images has been working to be sure we cover the many aspects of disability lifestyle. From visual and hearing impairment, to people with Bi-Polar and Asperger’s; from ACL surgeries and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy to Cerebral Palsy and Learning Disabilities; we show how lifestyle can be positive and engaged. These are the kinds of issues that marketing and advertising should be representing in their pictures; because a disability of any kind can happen to anyone we love. It is what it means to be human.

(c)Disability Images

(c)Disability Images

1302151051CPat and Mark Hunt are the owners of  The site specializes in high quality and high resolution imagery of  real people with real disabilities.
We emphasize positive and empowered lifestyle.  Pat is also on the Advisory Board of Work Without Limits,  a statewide network of engaged employers and innovative,
collaborative partners that aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities.

Understanding Vivian Maier

By Michael Masterson

How often do you wish a film wouldn’t end, that it would continue to unspool and reveal more and more about itself? “Finding Vivian Maier”, part documentary, part detective story, part exposé, is that kind of film. Its subject is slowly revealed as one of the world’s great “street” photographers, rivaling Garry Winogrand, Helen Levitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Weegee in her vision and unique perspective. At the same time we see a portrait of an obsessive hoarder with a cruel streak towards children and an almost clinical disregard of her subjects, even taking pictures of a child hit by a car while in her care.

The very private Maier actually never saw most of her own work, printing very little of it and leaving 150,000 images in the form of negatives and even hundreds of undeveloped rolls of film. By chance, an amateur historian named John Maloof purchased a trove of 30,000 of her negatives being auctioned off by a storage facility after Maier had stopped paying rental fees in 2007. A Google search turned up nothing about her until her death notice in 2009. Maloof began acquiring other remnants from her estate (she saved every receipt and scrap of paper as well as thousands of newspapers) and slowly assembled the missing pieces of a life unknown to the world at large. As he delved into it he realized that he had stumbled upon an extraordinary archive and began the search to find out who Vivian Maier was although it soon becomes apparent she didn’t want anyone to know.


The documentary traces the clues he uses to track down the families, including Phil Donahue’s, she’d worked for as a nanny in the affluent North Shore area of Chicago. In interviews with the children she’d cared for and some of their parents, Maloof works at unraveling the mysteries of Maier’s life and sometimes raises more questions than answers about her darker side. She often took her employers’ children into gritty urban areas on the weekends, snapping voyeuristic photos of people on the sly or sometimes quite brazenly without their apparent consent. Usually using a low-angle Rolleiflex, her results are startling, moving and sometimes disturbing, so much that Mary Ellen Mark compares her to Diane Arbus.

Nearly six feet tall and prone to wearing boxy coats and hats, in self-portraits Maier resembles an eccentric Isabella Rossellini. Intensely solitary, she apparently didn’t share her images with others. She also shared little about her life with people she knew and few of them even bothered to ask about her past. Most thought she was French because of the unusual accent she often cultivated. While her mother was from France and Maier had visited there in her younger years, she was born and raised mostly in New York. Maloof eventually tracks down her mother’s family in an Alpine village and aged relations there recalled a gangly American girl who always had a camera around her neck even then. At first Maloof had difficulty in attracting interest in Maier’s work. But after posting a selection of her photos that generated rapturous accolades on Flickr, he acquired more of her imagery and organized exhibits at galleries and museums worldwide. And made a documentary about it.

While exposing Maier’s abundant talent and singular life, Charlie Siskel (Gene’s son) and Maloof’s film also raises challenging questions about ownership and personal privacy. One of her former charges states emphatically that Maier would never have approved of what Maloof and others have done to promote her work. She went to great lengths to protect her privacy by sometimes using fake names and deliberately misleading people about her past, even suggesting she’d been a spy. Knowing she kept her prodigious body of work hidden from others, it’s slightly uncomfortable seeing it unveiled against her wishes. At the same time, it’s such brilliant imagery that the world would be a poorer place if it had vanished into a dumpster. The filmmakers mostly skirt the issue although Maloof wonders at one point if he’s pushed too much into Maier’s life. Regardless, he still leaves us wanting to know more about Maier and her remarkable photographs. Maloof pulls back the curtains she’d drawn so tightly around her life and you’re grateful that you get to peek in.

for more information:

1555546_10202430273490900_1403800212_nMichael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at

Retrograph – An Art Blast From The Past

by Julian Jackson

(c)Retrograph - c1925 Swiss Chocolate Box top, printers sample.

(c)Retrograph – c1925 Swiss Chocolate Box top, printers sample.

Retrograph is a photo agency which curates design work from the past. It is a treasury of over a hundred years of publicity images. Director David Bull, says, “The Retrograph collection is a visual feast of classic graphic design images spanning 100 years of retrospective publicity work, from the mid eighteen hundreds to the mid twentieth century.”

Retrograph was first established some 25 years ago by Jilliana and Martin Breese and is a picture library that extensively specializes in publicity designs that have been created by commercial artists throughout the past one hundred and fifty years. It is a unique collection of designs that promote products, services, events and occasions and these images have been recorded photographically from the original prints, still retaining the qualities of the variety of printed methods that were used in their reproduction. The collection features some of the greatest and finest and most colorful examples of these artists’ work and the images also reflect all of the art movements that became popular throughout the 20th century.



The collection was unavailable for a time, but now has been recently digitized.  The visual feast of images includes brands such as Fry’s Cocoa, the Cunard Line, and Dubonnet.  And Bovril, of course. American readers might like to know that Bovril is a classic beef drink – or possibly not!

These extraordinary images evoke different, perhaps more innocent times. Certainly the illustrations will provide a ripple of excitement and amusement as well as admiration for the talents of the creators. The collection evokes an age when the skills and craftsmanship of image making was at its best, when artists of exceptional talent and imagination applied their craft to the promotion of business via the explosion of the color printing medium and advertising. The skills can be seen in the drawing and the exquisite use of color and are a reflection of outstanding dedication to this supreme design/art of the twentieth century and the evolution of the graphic designers and their importance in today’s marketing globally.

Retrograph have been working on the library images, digitizing the collection over the past two years or more and so far there are around 3000 available that are shown in 72 categories on their new website ( This is just a start to this important collection as there are still many thousands of images in the pipeline ready for digitization that they are working on for upload soon, and many more that will be available in due course.

The new website is well organized, with a drop-down menu of browse-able image categories, for example, Art Nouveau, Cityscapes, or Electrical Appliances.  There is also a search facility, which brings up various images.  When you look at an individual image a simple 4 part price structure comes up, so it is easy to obtain the image needed. Retrograph is based in the UK but their work is available worldwide.

David Bull says, “We continue to digitize our back catalog of over 4,000 more images and still source new material at every opportunity. Obviously there are many images that are not yet displayed on our web site so any particular requirements should be emailed to us on Our researchers will locate any relevant material in our library and supply a PDF selection sheet for consideration.”



This is a unique collection which shows off the best commercial art of past decades, and shows how much today’s illustrators should take note of the style of the past.

Retrograph also produce poster prints for home use from their sister site .

juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment.  His website is  He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course profile.



So pleased to have this inside view of Photo Research by Susan Ferguson of Ferguson Resources

(c)Park with flowers, Michal Bednarek/

(c)Park with flowers, Michal Bednarek/

Like many photo researchers, I have a background that may seem unrelated to photography or publishing. My degree is in Ornamental Horticulture with additional studies in art and architectural history, and cultural geography. My experience of the business of photography has been through my brother, who was a studio, advertising and nature photographer, and now the owner of a high-resolution stock footage library.

I’ve been looking for garden images since my first job with California State Historic Parks, where I was working with a team of landscape architects and historians to document landscape use and plant introductions for park interpretative planning. I was very interested in garden history and historic preservation and this was a dream job. But it was temporary and I moved on in my horticultural career, first to agricultural research and later to field trials for trees and bedding plants.

The flower trials were in a large display garden, the beginning of many rewarding seasons in several public gardens. Along with growing plants, my responsibilities grew to include more historical research, education and exhibit planning, and garden publications. I was searching for and collecting images again in order to tell garden stories, from 18th century flower gardens to colonial beekeeping to Monet’s garden, basic botany, rose history, and the evolution of plants through fossils.

When there were changes at the garden where I worked, a city reorganization that transferred the facility to a different department, serendipity found me a new job. Meredith Publishing, the parent of Better Homes & Gardens, was located in the same city. I’d gotten to know some of the writers and editors for the magazine through the adult education programs at the garden, as teachers and students. When a photo researcher was needed for the garden book group, I was asked if I might be interested. It was a perfect match. And to my delight, I’m still searching for garden photos for books, magazines, newsletters and online resources.

Sources for garden publishing projects are many. Publishers sometimes have their own garden library. For books and magazines I then go to individual garden photographers. Some I have known and followed for years and I am constantly watching for talent new to me. The best ones are photographer/gardeners who know the botanical names, the details of garden design and horticultural technique. We speak the same language so the specific requests I make for a plant variety, an aspect of design or garden procedure are clear to all of us. For plant pests and diseases, I rely on the land grant university plant science departments and an online resource, at least to start.

From there I may be combing the internet, at the big and small stock houses, Flickr and similar sites, garden blogs, museums, research gardens, and horticultural vendors worldwide. Some of my favorite libraries are, Garden Picture Library (now at Getty), (Garden and Plant Picture Library), Oxford Scientific (also now at Getty),, and Science Faction (Getty). Of course there are millions of garden and plant photos in hundreds of stock libraries. For fast searches and low budget projects those libraries are great resources, but the images are sometimes poor quality, difficult to find due to incomplete keywording, and, even in major libraries, often misidentified or not identified at all. In these searches, my long experience in horticulture is really valuable.

I have worked as both as staff and freelance. Being on staff in the garden book group at Meredith was busy and filled with garden images. But when I became a freelance researcher, new areas opened to me. Beyond the garden, I have found travel and tourism photos, wonderful places that I’d like to go see. I’ve searched for photos of disasters, and roller coasters, and snowstorms. Recently I worked for a major online content provider in their business and industry area finding photos of international trade, metallurgy, medical offices, public education, biotechnology, pet stores and more. The pleasure is the same, the aha! when I find the right image for the story.

I really love the search. One of my favorites was to find a specific very tiny insect on a specific kind of plant, that insect on that plant and no other. It seemed futile, until, after days on the internet, I discovered the photo on Flickr. When I finally found the photographer, he was 11 years old. He was fascinated with insects and macro photography. He’d just been given a new lens for his beloved camera. The shot I needed was one of his experiments in the backyard. We sent the contracts, his dad reviewed the terms with him, and we got the shot. We were happy and he was thrilled. He was a paid photographer before junior high!

Little girl, MNStudios/

Little girl, MNStudios/

Susan can be reached via



Cashing in on Phone Photos: Enter Stockimo from Alamy

Alan Capel explains how their new app is driving sales and delivering the look advertisers demand.

(c)Roy Riley/Stockimo/Alamy

(c)Roy Riley/Stockimo/Alamy

Guest post by Jain Lemos

Nearly gone are the days of taking snaps with cell phones just to share them with our followers. Today, dozens of tech companies are promising to fulfill dreams of becoming a professional creative by making money from the photos we are already taking and uploading. Alamy, arguably the world’s largest website for picture buyers, is another enterprise banking on the promise that spare moments can be turned into spare cash with their new app, Stockimo.

In a way, Alamy was one of the first stock photo agencies to embrace user-generated content, simply because they always accepted imagery from non-professionals, as long as Alamy’s specifications were met.  Naturally, their next step would be to widen that net by entering the explosion of image marketplace apps. “We’ve always believed that Alamy should be open to anyone with the eye and creativity to take a great shot. Our business is selling photos so we’d be mad to ignore or disregard the opportunity presented by mobile photography,” says Alan Capel, head of content at Alamy.



Their idea was for Stockimo to be the first mobile app that really spoke to established photographers. Alamy wanted the collection to be distinguishable as a subset within Alamy’s regular stock offerings, trading on the look-and-feel trendiness of mobile photography. “There’s vibrancy—and perhaps less posing and a greater deal of serendipity—about the work captured on phones,” Capel claims.

Evidently, slice-of-life images are the ones in demand. AdAge recently reported that social media agency Laundry Service discovered that Instagram photos have a higher click-through rate than more professionally shot photos. But Capel warns against going overboard by “believing the whole world has gone Instagram crazy.” He says their customers love Stockimo but not all Stockimo shots have the Instagram guise. “Unfiltered, well-composed mobile shots can still offer something new,” he adds.

(c)Mathieu B.Morin/Stockimo/Alamy

(c)Mathieu B.Morin/Stockimo/Alamy

Stockimo currently has about 62,000 images with thousands more being added each week. The app is bringing Alamy a new stream of salable photos, both from a small group of their existing contributors as well as from newcomers to the stock scene, including those who never considered their work saleable. To eliminate rubbish, the collection is curated by raters to maintain Alamy’s standards of quality and diversity. As the app builds momentum, more pros and amateurs are climbing onboard.

Images in the collection are available under all of Alamy’s licensing models and can sell under any license type Alamy feels is most suitable. Capel indicates that this could extend in the future to more dynamic licensing options, but at the moment, licenses are RF if the photographer provides releases or no releases are needed and RM for the rest. Capel says it’s too early to make accurate predictions about sales projections for the Stockimo collection but the revenue is growing and the percentage of sales compared with the number of images is already very strong compared with Alamy as a whole.

Right now, the only way to search for Stockimo images is to type “Stockimo” into the site’s main search bar. Alamy is planning changes to their site and exactly how Stockimo is represented will come into those discussions. Capel explains that isolating the collection might be advantageous but they also want to present Stockimo images alongside the rest of Alamy. Decisions will be driven by customer need and usability.

Alamy also launched a live news service about three years ago, and this feature is soon to be integrated with Stockimo.  Capel explains: “As a user, you will be able to opt in to the news mode of Stockimo. Once opted in, any shots taken in the last 24 hours will have the option of being uploaded directly to our news feed. Our news team will also contact Stockimo users in real time and point them at newsworthy events and situations.”

There are no plans for a paid or pro version of the app. Alamy feels that could be restrictive and possibly eliminate casual users who take great shots. In coming versions, Stockimo will add new capabilities for passing rejection reasons back to users and providing live feedback as to which shots are proving popular with customers. “Even the most experienced shooters want to know what’s selling, what customers want and what they should shoot. We have a wealth of information and the mobile nature of Stockimo makes it a great platform for this insight,” Capel offers.

Alamy has long been applauded for their technical excellence and for mobile, they turned to notable app developer Mubaloo and Amazon cloud services.

Engagement is the aim of marketing departments and Stockimo images can provide wider access to real life situations. Brands and retailers are looking through stock sources to find shots that convey a community feeling with a personal perspective. With something close to a billion images being shared online every day, apps like Stockimo are crafting the image marketplaces for a fresh generation of creators and buyers.

(c)davidvaaknin / Stockimo / Alamy

(c)davidvaaknin / Stockimo / Alamy

JainHeadShotJain Lemos has been deeply involved in photography publishing and licensing for more than twenty years. She shares her informed perspective about our visual industry on her blog


re-post from Kaptur with permission from  Paul Melcher

The next big frontier for anyone involved with photography online is content curation.  The value of a company dealing with photography is not in its ability to attract a large amount of content – that is the easy part-  but rather in its ability to create value to the content by carefully and appropriately curating it.

The first phase of photography content valuation was to amass as many assets as possible. Companies success rate was measured in how quickly and reliably they could accumulate  a vast amount of photos from their users, regardless of their quality.  As Flickr quickly realized, that strategy was doomed to fail as not all content is equal. For visitors to keep on logging in, they had to add efficient filters that would hide the less desirable items and make the most popular one bubble up. Their algorithm, called interestingness, relied on user comments, likes, clicks to create an automated ranking of the best images. And it worked, for a while at least.

The issue, after a while, is the necessity to go beyond popularity as the primary trigger for leadership. Popularity triggers more popularity which in turns shuts down discovery. In other words, the more an image is popular, the more it becomes more popular. And as we have seen many times with viral photos, meme or videos, the reason for popularity might  be far from any esthetics reasons. In turn, curation had to evolve.

While it is not that hard for a human to quickly select good images from an incoming feed, it is just not scalable. It works for stock photo agencies like Shutterstock or Getty Images but when your feed gets  million of images a day, like most social media site, it is just not a desirable option.

Automated curation based on aesthetics is still far from being helpful. Back in 2005, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania  created Acquine, a project that learned from people’s votes to replicate human curation. The result was somewhat promising but tended heavily towards the beach at sunset with a boat at the forefront photos.

One of the biggest issue to solve in automated curation is in anticipating the viewing audience. A 20-year-old  american male will not have the same interest as a 60 year Indonesian woman. They will obviously not like the same photos. In short, photo curation needs to deliver on expectations by predicting the audience. If you know your audience, it becomes much easier.

Take G+ for example. They know that the majority of the images they receive are family/friend photos to be shared with family/friends so here is their algorithm :

Removing the blurred images or otherwise poor technical quality.
Selecting images with faces/people. Recognises the people in your circles as people who’re important to you
Picking images that have smiles
Removing duplicates (or near duplicates), & getting the best one based on the above.
Simple enough ? The same goes for specialized companies like Chute or Curalate that search for specific content for specific brands. They can quickly skim through millions of Instagram uploads and retrieve those that are particular to their needs based on a logo and hashtag for example.  Manual editing can then take over to filter out the false positive or useless ones.

Pinterest, Instagram, and down the line Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo understand that it is no longer sufficient to show images. The images seen have to be relevant in some manner to the viewers. Facebook and Twitter have their work cut out for them as the relevancy of the images depends on who is sharing it, which is defined by the users themselves. Pinterest, however, needs to constantly tweak its discovery algorithm since everything is public and relies entirely on relevancy of content. Imagine what would happen to Pinterest if we started to see mostly blurry images or porn. Same for Instagram.

While big improvements have been made a lot still has to be done. The value of any social media site is only as good as its curation algorithm. As the accumulation of data around image usage, and more importantly, image conversion rate – increase, we can expect to see more potent filtering to a point where every site we visit will only show images we love or want to click on. Which, after all, might dramatically alter what we love.

114a59bNamed one of the “100 most important people in photography” by American Photo Magazine, Paul is the founder and Editor in Chief of Kaptur. He has more than 20 years of photo and technology experience at prestigious photo agencies, such as Corbis and Gamma Press, as well as top leadership role in market changing photo tech companies like Stipple or DigitalRailroad. In his free time, he writes his own photo industry blog, “Thoughts of a Bohemian” and tries to keep up with his two sons.