Dispatches From Chicago

By Michael Masterson

Chicago’s mercurial weather graced Visual Connections with a beautiful, sunny day on May 5th. Returning there for the first time since 2014, Visual Connections came back in great form with an expanded and sold-out roster of exhibitors. It attracted a record number of attendees drawn by the diverse group of exhibitors and excellent educational sessions all held at a stunning venue, The Ivy Room.


Because many of the attendees at Visual Connections use a mix of assignment, stock stills and footage, the show has broadened its exhibitors to include commercial artists reps, CGI companies, production companies and other services. In addition to stock agencies such as Stocksy, Alamy, Bridgeman Images and Danita Delimont, the Chicago event showcased many of the top Chicago artist reps such as The Rep Roadshow, Schumann & Company, Jodie Zeitler, Marge Casey’s Wave and Rad Represents plus out of town agents like Illustration Ltd. and Janice Moses. Other providers such as 360 Cities (interactive 360 still images), Catch&Release (proprietary search tools) and the Artists Rights Society (copyright and licensing services) rounded out the wide offerings for attendees.

The morning keynote session focused on sourcing and using social media, an increasingly omnipresent component in advertising and publishing and one that key art buyers we surveyed requested. Helmed by Melissa Hennessy, longtime artist agent in Chicago, the panel featured Bill McGrath, a noted attorney specializing in copyright and intellectual property rights law; Liz Baugher who heads Emissary which represents top commercial photographers and directors; art producer Lindsay Tyler and Nuno Silva, a founding member and VP of Product for Stocksy. Bill kicked off the session by updating the nearly standing room only crowd on some of the latest issues in copyright law especially regarding social media and fair use. He cited an example of a drugstore chain that Tweeted an image of an actress coming out of one of their stores carrying their branded bags with the message that even celebrities shop there. She sued for infringement and won, setting a precedent in how “street” imagery can be used for promotional reasons. One of the main takeaways was that this area is constantly changing and new uses and permissions are still being shaped by settled cases or defined by the courts and legislation.

The afternoon sessions focused on capturing motion and stills simultaneously and search and licensing. The first session was moderated by Melissa Thornley, a creative consultant, and featured Jonathan Chapman, the noted photographer and director, Cliff Grant from STORY and Laurie Rubin, an award-winning photographer. More clients are asking for motion and stills to be done together to save time and money, but that sometimes proves challenging according to the panelists. As an example one client questioned why the final video had such a bright light in it, not realizing that the still photographer needed it to do his part of the job.


The final session of the day was moderated by Doug Dawirs, creator of DMLAsearch among many other things, and included Brian Novy from Dissolve and Lisa Vazquez Roper from Alamy. Brian advised that licensors thoroughly review rights associated with any licensing models and opined that as providers offer new bundles and licensing options to make purchases ostensibly easier, they often make things more complicated.

Doug demonstrated the DMLAsearch tool which indexes over 167 million licensable images (including motion and footage) from dozens of agencies and outlined the many services DMLA does on behalf of its members and the image industry including lobbying Congress, promoting best business practices and spearheading technical initiatives.

In a nod to Cinco de Mayo, the lunch buffet featured Mexican food as did the margarita happy hour afterward hosted by the Workbook, the top creative resource and also the principal sponsor of the event. 500px, another sponsor, made sure everyone got a keepsake from their photo booth on the show floor. So, notch another success for Visual Connections and mark your calendars for the next event in New York on Thursday, October 27th. As Deborah Free, VC co-president says, “We’re very pleased with the turn out for this event in both the diversity of exhibitors and buyers attending and look forward to continuing to expand both bases to better meet the needs of all involved. 70% of attendees this year were newcomers, with a strong showing of art buyers and producers, thanks in large part to having Workbook as our Principal Sponsor. Our events are well on course to being the meeting place for everyone involved in sourcing or commissioning photography, illustration and footage.”

Photo Credit: © 2016 Bonnie Robinson/Workbook

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