Mother Image

It’s refreshing to see boutique agencies popping up. I had an opportunity to chat with  Susan Carolonza Chanin who partnered with Rana Faure with new offering Mother Image.

Tell us about your backgrounds in Stock, and how you came to identify this area as one that is sustainable and relevant?

Mother Image is a boutique agency specializing in womens’ lifestyle. We recognized the huge demand for this content. As Michael Silverstein expressed in “Trading Up: The New American Luxury ” – “Today’s woman is the chief purchasing agent of the family and marketers have recognized that.” We saw that clients were changing their advertising campaigns to reach out to women in new and refreshing ways. We believed that clients would be willing to go to a boutique source that could offer expertise covering this demographic. Rana Faure and I have over 40 years of combined industry experience, which at this point we probably don’t really want to admit! We have both worked as directors of photography, creating top brands and collections for Getty, and, previously, for Tony Stone, FPG, Image Bank and Liaison. We have both worked as editors and researched on the agency and client side of the business, thus learning to listen, collaborate, and create relevant imagery.

© Rana Faure/mother image

Rana and I both took time away from the commercial market to raise our families and pursue our own work. As Rana realized, her life was so relevant to what clients wanted to see – real moments, from the inside out – not set up symbols and illustrations, and she captured them photographically. She realized she was the demographic so many clients wanted to see – her daily life shot from her point of view. I was painting a lot back then, and I remember thinking that I very much wanted to create a business where I could help other people express themselves while connecting to the market place. In starting the business, we were drawn to the fact that there was a void in lifestyle celebrating women – women of all ages and how they see things: family life, work life, health, holidays – the shoot lists were endless. We created imagery, and leveraged more pictures into the market place. The market place responded very positively. That was all we needed.  We both are dedicated to creating a business that helps the contributing artist and clients. Building a collection is not an overnight process. Rana and I are invested into creating a unique and special collection built by love, patience, care and dedication.

How does the collection go about addressing the many facets of motherhood; not only in America, but internationally and demographically?

© Redshorts /mother image

Great question. At Mother Image we use creative research, personal experience, client needs and feedback to create our collection. We get a lot of information from agencies that we are shooting for, and work with art directors on new productions. We love personal work from photographers. We edit submissions so that the photographers’ personal insights and visions add to production work, to address the many facets of motherhood in meaningful, fun and authentic ways. We also create what we refer to as “community work” that reflects the lifestyles and issues of our communities with real women from our communities. Presently, our production is by North American photographers. We will be expanding our photographers in 2013 and are looking forward to having more international contributors as we grow. We are also launching a “Day in the Life” collection, which will feature daily life stories and series. We see that as something that can really grow internationally.

On your site, not only do you recruit for photographers, but for models also – who is the ideal Mother Image model?

Rana and I feel that the ideal Mother Image model is a woman who is interested in, and comfortable with, photography: who they are, who we are, and how they want to collaborate to make iconic images; someone who is full of life and wants to explore it with us. We are interested in woman of all ages and ethnicities, of all cultures and lifestyles. Models who can be themselves and act in both still and video. It is not about fashion beauty – it is about comfort with the camera and the process. I think that level of authenticity translates into great pictures and great experiences.

© Redshorts/mother image/Getty

There is an old chestnut about the difficulties of performing with – and photographing – children and animals. Do you have any anecdotes?

The art and the science of photographing babies and animals! I remember Rana and I once saying we photograph families in their “natural habitat”. That makes me laugh – in other words we don’t want people doing something they would not normally do.  Our goal is to be a fly on the wall, observing, and documenting – finding the moments that people relate to.

© Carolonza Chanin/mother image

Art direction is about creating the right environment and flow. Creating the space for action to flow, and making sure you have everything you need during your preproduction stage (ideally), so you don’t have unwanted variables coming up on set or on location. If we want a picture of a family having breakfast – we ask them to get the stuff out themselves, eat it the way they would, and clean it up. Personally, I like to storyboard shoots because on set I can go from picture to picture, but if something looks forced, or isn’t working, you move on. Knowing when it isn’t working is really key; we let go, and move on.

© Julia Smith/mother image

Having experience as a preschool teacher, and also art directing babies for greeting cards, I know babies and small children love to transition through music and song. I have no problem breaking into song on set or location if it is helpful! I have an extensive repertoire – which always surprises parents and babies! “Hop Little Bunnies” is an all time favorite; babies are often quite amused when they see an adult hop. I can hop really well… I have also found that sometimes quietly singing “Happy Birthday” makes babies and young children very alert. Being prepared is key; like packing a diaper bag, you want to have everything organized so everyone is comfortable!

Where do you see Mother Image a few years down the road?

Mother Image is growing. We will be signing more photographers and directors to build our collection, so clients can find what they need. We want to be the premiere source for clients to find womens’ lifestyle. We will be working directly with key clients for image needs and assignment, as well as working closely with our distributors world wide, to insure clients can find what they are looking for.

Mother Image is positioned to create content for larger distributers while growing regional direct sales. We focus our direct sales on NY, NJ, and Chicago who specialize in womens’s lifestyle. Clients who need the depth of larger agencies can find Mother Image content there when they need it. We are expanding to offer more variation and provide a more intimate perspective. Our video is offered exclusively through either Getty Images or Corbis.

Rana and I have been really fortunate to have so much support from clients and photographers. So many people have helped us grow – which is huge. One of the reasons it is so hard to start a company in the wake of big photo agencies is that the resources and man power (or woman power) of a start-up just cannot compete with them. Everyone has been patient with our growth. We have found that clients and photographers really do want to see new work and new options. Our clients refer photographers to us, and vice versa.  I think photographers like having a very human scale agency to work in addition to larger agency representation. There is uncertainty all over the industry; that is why is connecting to Mother Image as a creative – whether a photographer, client or model – feels positive. That is what we strive for.

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