Aside from our usual phone calls and portfolio events, we’re always experimenting with new ways to get our member photographers’ work in front of potential clients. This past September, Wonderful Machine had its first ever exhibit at Photoville. Taking place every year, this event sees 50+ shipping containers get moved into Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York and transformed into galleries to create an immersive photography village. Now in its sixth year, Photoville hosts over 75 exhibitions, events, workshops, and panels for two weeks.
Immersion and interactivity are at the heart of what makes Photoville such a successful and popular event, allowing it to become the largest annual photographic event in New York City and among the most-attended photographic events nationwide – Photoville
Our CEO Bill Cramer gave us the word on August 7th that he had secured the last 20ft container at the 2017 event. Inside our container, we wanted to promote Wonderful Machine and our talented roster of photographers, as well as our newest business venture CommonHistory. CommonHistory is a social media site where users and institutions can create, share and discover timelines of photographs to provide a global archive of images (but more on that later!).
With such a small time-frame to plan and execute our exhibition, we skipped the conventional “call for entries” and decided to seek out some fantastic member photographer work ourselves. Senior Marketing Consultant Erika Blatt, Senior Photo Editor Stacy Swiderski, and I selected 24 images from member photographers to showcase in an exhibition called “Summer Come Back.” Covering a range of commercial specialties, the work on display would aim to savor the last moments of summer as we hang onto the heat and humidity and celebrate life’s simple pleasures.
First, we needed to divide the space. We wanted to give equal importance to both Wonderful Machine and NowAnThen, so we decided to split the container down the middle and create two exhibitions. Building a model mockup helped us to visualize the space, and from there we were able to determine how large we’d be able to print and how many images we’d be able to showcase.
Reportage images next to conceptual photos? Travel next to fashion? How would we make it all fit? We started the process by individually gathering some of our favorite member photographer images that fit within the theme and were signifiers of summer, whether through color, content, or vibe.
It would have been straightforward if we could just pick all the summery, California beach lifestyle images, but it wouldn’t have helped to show the diversity of specialties and shooting styles that our member photographers represent. We wanted each image to feel distinct and original but still work within the group. And while we each had our personal favorites, we needed to be cognizant that what worked as an individual image would still need to fit the larger edit.
Once we settled on the images and sequence, we notified the selected photographers and began the second phase of planning: the promotion and printing. Leaving ourselves some wiggle room, we gave our photographers a deadline to approve the images and send us high-resolution files and then assigned an internal deadline by which we needed to get everything to the printer.
Beyond the 24 images for the exhibition and the timeline prints for CommonHistory, we needed to incorporate other design assets into the container. We had six primary design challenges to undertake:
For the printed poster and promo cards, we relied on our designer Lyndsey Matoushek’s expertise. We wanted the primary promo image of our marketing materials to evoke our company tagline “find what you’re looking for” and also be a nod to the exhibition “Summer Come Back.” After some deliberation, we selected Scott Nobles’ image for our main promo image and sent John Davis’ bright and colorful track and field image to Photoville for some of their promotional materials. For NowAnThen’s promo card we wanted the card to explain NowAnThen and the steps to go about creating an account. Additionally, we wanted the image to have a family-album vibe but still feel personalized enough that someone would keep the card for themselves. I drafted up some mock-up versions of the promos and coordinated with Lyndsey on the fine-tuning.
We called up our friends at Fresh Artists, Barbara and Roger Allen, to assist with some of our printing needs. Fresh Artists is a Philadelphia-based non-profit that works to keep art alive in underfunded public schools. A quick stop at their studios allowed us to see the printing process behind-the-scenes. One particularly interesting process was the dye sublimation process in which an image can be transferred to a range of materials through heat and pressure. We coordinated to print our banners, logos, and CommonHistory timeline photos for the event with Fresh Artists, our newly-designed promo cards with Mainline Print Shop, and Adorama to print the photographer’s images.
On top of having a great group of photographers and local printers to work with, our in-house team were enthusiastic and pulled their weight in the weeks before the event to make it a success. Our publicity team did a great job publicizing our appearance through an email blast and by coordinating our social media. We shared blog posts about photographers whose work would be displayed in the container and announced their presence on social media. We made sure the landing page of our site would coincide with images featured in the gallery. For the actual event, we gave each staff member a “social media guide” that they could use to promote the event while they were there.
Before we even decided who would attend the event, we had Steve Koffel booking hotel rooms and Airbnb’s to make sure everyone had a place to stay. Office Managers, Molly Glynn and Katie Keller, were essential in making sure we had everything organized. After ordering all the tools needed for installation, making sure we had a desk to display a monitor, collecting all the promos and WM branded giveaways, and organizing a fan and water to keep us cool in the NY heat, we were all set to pack up for Photoville!
Bill and I traveled to NYC the day before the official open to install, giving us extra time if we had any last minute snafus. Thankfully, the installation was relatively straightforward, and after using industrial strength Velcro to hang the images and giving the container a quick sweep, we were done and back on the road.
The next day, Bill, Katie, and Craig Oppenheimer were our first team to attend the event. Arriving bright and early to welcome photographers, photo enthusiasts, and potential clients, they kicked off the event with a bang. Offering the opportunity to all staff members to attend and meet industry professionals, we managed to get 15 employees (including Tilly!) down to the event over the two weeks covering 5-hour shifts. On top of engaging with visitors about Wonderful Machine, our staff took pictures and posted on Instagram stories to keep viewers that couldn’t attend up-to-date with the goings-on.
With more than 90,000 people attending Photoville, and about 5,000 who visited our container, we were thrilled to meet so many people with various connections to our industry. Whether they were photo enthusiasts, professional photographers, tourists just passing through, or industry professionals, we received tons of positive feedback about our exhibition and lots of interest in Wonderful Machine. Passers-by of all ages oohed and aahed at our bright and summery gallery, snapped photos, and we heard lots of “This is my favorite exhibit!” We even had inquiries about prints for sale.
Being a global company, we don’t often get the opportunity to meet our member photographers in person, and it can be gratifying when we get to put a face to the name, shake their hand, and get to know them a bit better. As a team, we felt fortunate that so many of our members attended Photoville and took the time to say hello (and snap a quick pic!).
Aside from getting to meet our members, one of our highlights was getting to see our members’ work so beautifully displayed. With so many talented photographers on our roster, it’s not surprising that other companies, such as Women Photograph, ESPN, and Refinery29 featured our members’ work in their containers as well.
By the end of the two weeks, we had emptied our pockets of promos and business cards, and the team was exhausted, elated, and exciting to plan future events. Photoville was a huge success for Wonderful Machine and we hope to continue to plan more events where we can feature our members’ work proudly, meet member photographers, and promote them to industry professionals!
Featured Photographers in Wonderful Machines “Summer Come Back” Exhibition: