VISUAL CONNECTIONS Founder/Partner Deborah Free shares some insights along with partner Edward Leigh into the strategy both past and future of Visual Connections.
How did you come to running Visual Connections?
I started in the industry by running a stock agency called Natural Selection. I left that in 1998, and then I worked as a freelancer helping photographers set up their businesses. I was at a PACA conference – I believe, in Montauk – when Michael Brown approached me; who was, at the time, running picturehouse. Picturehouse was still fairly new and he was looking for someone in the States to take over managing the US events. He knew I was available and aware of my involvement with PACA, and asked me if I would help him with his next NY event. It was the year he was at Tribeca Rooftop. The event was a huge success, a step change from previous years, and so my involvement evolved from there. I started taking over the NY event, which is where I was introduced to Edward, who was also working for Michael.
Edward was working with Michael Brown, then involved in BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies), , when he started picturehouse. Edward built and managed the website for the first picturehouse expo in New York City in 2001 (not long after 9/11). A few years later I came on board to run the US events. I first met Edward when Michael invited everyone to a team meeting in the UK in 2006.
How you divide responsibilities?
In 2008 Edward and I joined forces and started Picturehouse Marketing US; after Michael decided to step aside and concentrate on European events. And in 2009 we changed the name to Visual Connections. Edward and I have a great relationship: despite living 3,500 miles apart and only getting together once a year, we manage to communicate well and make decisions quickly. Edward is the brains behind the company, developing our backend system, looking after the website, and writing marketing copy. I am the front person selling the event, keeping everyone happy, and managing the logistics around staging each event.
Visual Connections is evolving, yes?
We are really excited at the new direction Visual Connections is headed. Having Workbook as our Principal Partner at our events has helped us broaden our reach to include artist reps and production houses, which fits perfectly with our mission to be the meeting place for all visual creatives, whether using stock or commissioning new content.
Visual Connections has many success stories and is an integral part of the marketing plans of many companies. Can you tell us about a few?
We’ve been pleased how many new agencies have launched their businesses at one of our events (Stockpot, Catch & Release, everypixel, Lola Clips, LatitudeStock, SheStock, Mother Images, 500px, Venus, Robana Picture Library…).
“The best part was meeting all the art buyers and creatives! And the second was being with fellow stock agencies. I love the camaraderie that I felt with all the other stock agencies. This is my first VC and I have never felt so welcome. What an amazing venue to have them come to. I met so many people that I am still reeling!”
Ophelia Chong, Stock Pot Images, LLC
This year agencies exhibited from as far away as Europe, Africa, Russia and China. Our goal is to continue to expand; bringing in more companies offering key services/products to image users. So, by combining key informative sessions, great food and drink and awesome prizes, on top of being able to meet such a wide variety of diverse imagery, makes Visual Connection events THE only key industry event for both suppliers and users of imagery, stills and motion.
What other services do you offer?
The main other service to staging events, is that we offer is the online directory, which also serves as a gateway to DMLAsearch. There’s a free-to-access side for image buyers/researchers, and the industry’s most comprehensive directory of visual media suppliers is available to subscribers.
What’s planned for 2016?
After a two-year hiatus we are excited to head back to Chicago to the Ivy Room on May 5th. We are thrilled to have Workbook as Principal Sponsor for this event. Buyers can look forward to a NOT TO BE MISSED event which will include stellar informative sessions, great food and drink, awesome prizes and a great line up of agencies, artist reps and production houses. Workbook will be sponsoring a special Cinco de Mayo happy hour!!
And of course, we’ll be back in NYC at the Metropolitan Pavilion on October 27th, immediately preceding the DMLA conference.
2017 is in the planning stages with first on our list a long awaited establishment of a west coast forum in California. So keep your eyes on all the new happenings with Visual Connections in the months and year to come!