by Julian Jackson
Arcangel Images is a photo agency which has grown from specialising in book covers to a wide range of artistic images, mobile media, and video. Founded by Michael Mascaro and Gloria Mejuto in 2004 it has grown to have offices in Paris, London and New York, although its HQ is unusually in the sunny Spanish town of Malaga. Michael Mascaro explains the initial idea, “I was working for publishers Random House as a designer, and I saw a niche in the market for more artistic images. I left and formed Arcangel with a group of friends as contributing photographers.”
Progress was slow at first. Having only 3000 pictures on file they weren’t going to make a big dent in the market. They relaunched the website in 2005 with a greater number of images and a more polished presentation. The pictures were aimed at top quality book covers. With a list of contacts from his years in publishing, Mascaro and his team were able to build the business. Mascaro says, “We were aiming at visually original and powerful images, but you have to tread a fine line between being commercial and being too artistic to be saleable.”
Although brought up in the UK, Mascaro has Spanish ancestry and in 2006 he moved the office from London to Malaga in southern Spain, partly because of lower costs, but also to return to his roots and for better weather. Given that it was pouring with rain in London when I talked with him on the phone, I could see his point of view. Without the digital revolution, this sort of techno-migration would not have been possible. Arcangel would have had to remain in one of the publishing world’s capital cities to compete.
By 2015 the collection had grown to 320,000 highly-curated images.
The ongoing marketing push included reaching out to a wider range of clients, including advertising, music and marketing. Another website makeover happened in May this year, which integrated various systems and the back office, which was necessary for further expansion.
The collection consists of several different sectors, aimed at different clients’ needs and budgetary requirements. The Premium Collection is their main offering, showcasing 300K worth of RM and RF artistic images. Their cine collection is new, with HD footage – interestingly it has stills and video from the same shoot. Mascaro explained that this was inspired by his publishing background, as now book covers also often needed motion material for publicity. He expected that in the near future, digital books would have moving images on the covers and he wanted Arcangel to be ready for that development.
Arcangel NX is non-exclusive images, so they can expand their photography and distribution. The fee structure is lower than the premium collection.
Vintage Archive is self-explanatory, an eclectic archive of older images on a wide range of subjects.
Arcangel Smart is a collection of images taken with mobile phones and tablets. This has had a lot of interest from photobuyers, because the style has an immediacy which is very different from the polished nature of conventional photography. Mascaro says, “The format has limitations, most obviously of file size, although that continues to increase, but we have had steady sales of this material. I was quite surprised at how quickly it took off.”
Livesearch is another feature of the new website. Although it has been around for a while, it wasn’t featured so much – essentially any photo buyer can put in a request for an image to all Arcangel’s contributing photographers if they can’t find what they need during the search. Mascaro says, “Sometimes a photographer will receive the request, and shoot a picture on spec, even if it isn’t used by the client, it will go into the collection and may well become a good seller.”
All the collections continue to be highly curated – of submissions from contributors, only around 50% are accepted. This ensures consistent high quality. Although book publishing will remain a core part of Arcangel’s business, they are looking to advertising, music and design, and of course continuing to feature video, as this is a growing market.
Julian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His portfolio is here: https://julianj.journoportfolio.com/ He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course www.picture-research-courses.co.uk. Linked-in profile.