Tim Black is an Australian photographer now living in New Orleans. His work is commercial and editorial, but with an attitude. He also owns Bonfolk, a sock company, with his wife. Tim’s imagery is a hip, counterculture that spans both lifestyle and fashion. He expertly weaves together a narrative with his images that expresses the identity of a brand. Tim has worked with Nike, Vans, WhatsApp, Hanes, and Grundens to name just a few. He has also done editorial portraits, filled with movement and charisma, like with Chef Mason Hereford for Thrillist. And, as a former skater himself, adds authenticity to his edgier work. He came to Wonderful Machine to find a rep.
Tim approached Wonderful Machine to help him find his first agent. The process began with a phone call. I got to know Tim well – his past, present, his delightful Australian accent, and goals. He was looking for a small, boutique agency where he could build a close relationship with his rep. His goal was to have someone to market him and help edit his portfolio. Tim was also looking to grow more into lifestyle photography of any kind. He loves shooting lifestyle projects, no matter the industry it’s for. Fashion, health care, product photography – you name it and Tim will shoot it.
I pushed him to tighten up his site even more. We wanted him to have a fully-fleshed brand identity when we started reaching out to reps. I also suggested that he post more on Instagram to show that he’s active. Tim took all my suggestions to heart and delivered on every front. We then talked about verbiage. In particular, how I would describe him, if what I was saying was accurate, if it met his own vision of himself and his brand, etc. After that first call, we continued to work on the promos, going back and forth until we were both satisfied.
During my 15 years of experience in the industry, I worked for Gallery Stock, a stock agency owned by Bernstein & Andruli. Bernstein & Andruli is a repping agency that is now owned by Trunk Archive. Because our offices were next to each other, I observed agents interacting with photographers, looking over portfolios, discussing marketing collateral, etc. and this experience helped me to understand both sides of the repping process and the agent/photographer relationship.
My next step in the process was to search our database for reps in the US and then narrow it down to fit Tim’s other requirements. Since Tim is based in a small market, the location of the rep didn’t matter as much. I looked for agencies that either lacked lifestyle work or had lifestyle photographers but of a different style than Tim’s. From there I looked at each rep’s website, paying particular attention to their roster, site design, and bios. Trying to narrow it down to just 30 agencies to approach was tough because of the lack of a defined geographic location. I wanted to make sure I gave Tim the best possible options to fit his work and what he wanted.
After approving the list and reaching out to the 30 reps, we had 26 opens, 19 clicks to view Tim’s updated site, and 16 responses. One thing we didn’t take into account was that we were working on this project around the holidays. It made some communication with the various reps quite slow and difficult. We had a few who loved his work and were interested in talking to Tim, but couldn’t take him on for various reasons. Tim still hasn’t found his rep yet, but I believe that the process was still a success as we both learned a lot from it. Tim says,
The meetings went well and it was a learning process for sure and a reality check. I’ve always known that my location is a little problem when talking with these agencies. No one said anything about it in particular, but I kind of got that impression. It was really good chatting with them, though. Also, everyone seemed to have the same response – “The industry just isn’t the same as it was” and that they’re all struggling to get work for their existing roster. I learned a lot about the process and loved working with you.
This was my first Find a Rep project and it was definitely a different mindset and experience from other consulting projects I have worked on. I enjoyed writing a more substantial email about the photographer and explaining who they were and what they were looking for. I also felt that the reps were very responsive. All-in-all, I think that since this was a first for both Tim and me, we had a great outcome — it is very unlikely that a photographer finds their perfect match in an agent on the first go around. I look forward to working with Tim again in the future!
Expert Advice: The Photographer/Agent Relationship
Expert Advice: Agent Contracts
Guide: Find Agents