For Angel Wynn, moving from Sun Valley, Idaho to Santa Fe, New Mexico opened up doors of abundance for her art and agency.
Walking into Angel Wynn’s studio home on Canyon Drive in Santa Fe, the air seems to shift and all of a sudden, you are transported into a world of brave beauty. The strong presence of buffalo, wild Mustangs and Native people hang on the walls in an enchanting mix of imagery. Then Wynn appears, big smiles break out and the relaxed conversation never lags. She is absolutely in her element here.
Wynn has been shooting Native American themes for 30 years. She was based in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho until May of 2012 when, motivated by new dreams and goals, she packed up her studio into a horse trailer and headed for Santa Fe. As a veteran stock photographer, Wynn has experienced every phase of our fluctuating business. She’s been through the digital conversion, the switch to online sales, the rights model evolution and the decline in stock income.
“Since 2007, stock has become a tough way to make a living for many photographers,” she admits. “But by having a strong specialty, such as North American Indian cultures, I’ve thankfully been able to sail through the storm these past few years.” Moving to New Mexico was not only a personal choice but also made business sense. With stock prices plummeting, Wynn was no longer able to travel to specific locations throughout Indian Country. Living and working in New Mexico, she now has a huge pool of Native talent just minutes away.
Her agency, Native Stock Pictures, has been relevant all of these years because of her specialty. Wynn also shot lifestyle and skiing stock in Idaho, but keeping models from looking dated became an increasing challenge year after year. “With traditional Native life, dated-looking photos are a good thing,” she laughs. Still, diversifying meant finding new sources of revenue within her specialty and Wynn has energetically branched out.
Last summer she was contracted for one of the biggest photo shoots of her career. She had to find a selection of Native models between the ages of 19-35 years, with art directors narrowing the group down to 24. “It was difficult to locate a number of professional models with the specs the client was requesting. From my own pool of non-professional models that I had recently worked with for my own stock shoots, I was able to convince them to hire from my pool,” she explains. The art directors were thrilled with the models and the shoot results. Soon after, Wynn started an all-Native talent agency in New Mexico. She’s listed with the New Mexico Film Bureau and already has about 40 models signed up.
Video has also been a new focus and is a natural fit for her agency. Instead of stills of native flute players, her videos show how the instrument is played plus viewers get to experience the sound of the wooden instruments. She has started producing short clips to compliment her extensive still image collection and to offer more content variety to her educational publishing clients. Subjects on her list include a woman grinding her corn, traditional dancers, pottery being made and fired, games being played, cooking procedures and traditional languages being spoken.
Wynn is also realizing her dream of being an art photographer with a gallery and studio in the highly desirable Canyon Street location she’s opened up in the Santa Fe art district. Along with teaching workshops and holding openings, she has quickly become professionally recognized and accepted in the community. “I’m also honored to frequently have Native people come by and visit my studio. After viewing my years of gathering stock images, these tribal members are excited to discuss photo possibilities that would include their families and traditions,” she says.
When it comes to compelling pictures of indigenous cultures and their lifestyles, both past and present, Native Stock has the most comprehensive files you’ll find. And Wynn’s vision keeps evolving while she lives her dream. As with all success stories, hard work and dedication are the essentials… and a feather in your hat doesn’t hurt.
Jain Lemos brings dedication, creative vision and enthusiasm for the collaborative process into her role as Executive Director of the ASPP and publisher of The Picture Professional magazine.