A Power Triad is Born: It only takes a moment to act on one great idea

You never know when a momentary idea will turn intoa career shift. Taiga Creative takes on 2018 with renewed energy, focus, and surprise - a production partnership with Jon Held and Jenna Close of P2 Stills + Motion

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Remember that place, that one time, when all you could do was look around and admire how beautiful it was. For some that scene is a family moment, maybe solitude in nature, a quiet space in a busy city, or perhaps simply a day off at home with no distraction. These intimate moments pass as quickly as they arrive. It’s the type of moment you can’t share on social media, because there is no platform that can do it justice. It’s real. It’s true. It’s life.

This fall I had one of these moments sitting at a cafe, staring out the window at a group of trees blowing in the wind. Their branches were graceful, dancing with each swirling gust. I had been running my business out of Bellingham, WA for the last few months to nurture a personal and promising relationship with my bearded beau. Although I was living far away from home, I felt grace and gratitude for the partnership that came together as naturally as the breeze embraced the branches that swayed with favor.

Sometimes in thoughtful moments like this I get ideas. Most of the time I don’t write them down and they roll through my thought with no more than the blink of an eye. However, on occasion an idea is booming with such clarity that I look around to see if anyone else might be thinking what I’m thinking? Nope, not today, it’s just my own thoughts here since every stranger around me looks half asleep with some sort of digital device casting a gentle glow on their somber faces. As fascinating as it was observing these pre-caffeinated faces I forced my focus back to my moment of truth.

It’s genius, I thought, and well overdue. I scribbled in my notebook: Produce + Promote + Engage.

For three years I’d struggled to feel comfortable in the purpose of my business. I had the skill, professionalism, education, and network to be a photo agent, graphic designer, or marketing specialist, but I was always selling someone else as the basis for my business. It never seemed to flow together quite right, until now.

A few weeks of planning, a couple phone calls, and a day redesigning my website ensued. What was once an idea, has now become a reality. I no longer stand alone, but side by side with the talented artists of P2 Stills + Motion as their producer. With the redesign of my website, it was time to share with the world the projects I’d worked on, collaborated with, and continue to be  passionate about.

Only two weeks into the new year, the majority of my day is now producer and agent for P2 Stills + Motion. Due to my love of Alaska and music, I delegate a portion of my time to promoting and hosting the Alaska Room at the Folk Alliance International Conference. My passion to support Alaskan musicians became known when I collaborated with Alaskan musician, Michael Thomas Howard, to formulate the Alaskan Independent Musicians Initiative (AKIMI), a branch of Northern Culture Exchange a 501c3 not for profit. And finally, a small part of my business is engaging with people in and out of the creative community through writing, design, networking, and social media.

As I continue on in 2018 my plate overflows with new and returning clients on all fronts. So to those who follow my blog, thank you for sticking with me through this transition. I hope you will view this collective of creatives and newly inspired focus as a new opportunity for you as well!

Cover photo by Meredith Bless

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

A Photo Agent Memoir

Sometimes it takes a change of scenery to find your words and creative direction, even as a photo agent

October 26, 2017 By Meredith Bless

P2 Stills + Motion | Photo + Video + Drone | San Diego

Waves roll back and forth as the ferry rocks me slowly awake. I peek out the solarium windows of the Alaska Marine Highway MV Kennicott vessel and see layers of mountains charging from Chatham Sound into the wispy overcast cloud layer. The magical part about this trip is there is no cell service, no WIFI, and people find themselves forced to slow down. No one is staring at their phone, unless its to capture a photo. Instead, they watch the awe-inspiring glimpse into what remains of America’s truly wild west and the last frontier. The further north we go, the fewer words I have to describe such beauty.

A friend offered me the opportunity to accompany their car on the ferry up to Juneau, Alaska, and it was just the thing I knew I needed to refocus my thoughts. For me, a quiet ship filled with strangers and the wild of Southeast Alaska surrounding me, helps to hit my reset button. This trip came at a time when I was struggling to find focus at work and with my creative direction as a photo agent, arts rep, and small business owner.

There were a number of topics I wanted to write about this month for my blog and was coming up short. Finding the right words to tell a story or the best way to offer advice seemed distant and scattered. I compiled notes on how to explain the wording of “Rights Granted” to companies, and how the wording in that one short paragraph on every contract would drastically effect the pricing of an entire job. Then I had another document of notes geared toward photographers on marketing as a small business. Another document simply talked about honesty and transparency in ones business practices as an artist.

All the start of articles, but this month I was caught in a cycle of half written thoughts. It’s frustrating when you have a grand idea at your fingertips, but for some reason your creative brain isn’t connecting the dots from concept to completion. I’ve been in this business long enough to know I hadn’t lost my edge, but instead I needed to step back and look at the big picture. What was my marketing plan for this year, and how does the content I blog about align with my goals? How has my plan changed, and what content reflects my current direction? What am I trying to accomplish before the end of the year?

I ask myself these few simple questions as I watch the waves roll by and rainbows dance across the cloudy horizon. The truth is, with the holiday season coming up, commercial jobs typically slow down until the new year. However this year will be different I say. It’s easy to get caught up in quarterly budgets, employees headed on vacation, and the urge to just put things off until the new year. Not this time. There are stories to be told, no matter what time of year it may be, and my artists will tell it.

As I glean focus and inspiration from nature abound, I’m able to calm yesterdays stress and anxiety to see clearly what my next move will be.

Cover photo by P2 Stills + Motion

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

Who is Molly Rees?

Molly, tell me a story...

Storyteller, mother, photographer, and artist Molly Rees joins the roster at Taiga Creative

Sep 29, 2017 By Meredith Bless

Molly Rees | Photographer | Denver, CO

On the shores of Long Lake girls giggle in their cabins as counselors shush them during quiet hour. That's where I first met Molly Rees, as a pre-teen at summer camp in Maine in the '90s. In the last 5 years I've seen her storytelling, photojournalism, and unique perspective blossom into the creative business she now runs in Colorado.

When I look at her work I'm torn between framing it and finding a gallery to showcase her storytelling, or market her as a child, family, and lifestyle photographer. Needless to say, her work reminds me of commercial photographer Kate T. Parker's, Strong is the New Pretty series as well as fine art photographer Sally Mann's, Immediate Family (1992).

At Taiga Creative, I believe that an artist is an artist regardless of what avenue their work fits best, on what day, or with whomever the client or collector may be. View Molly's entire portfolio here.

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

Expert Advice: Finding a Rep

Wonderful Machine explains the Rep-Photographer relationship perfectly

Intro by Meredith Bless Sep 27, 2017

I've worked with a lot of different people in the industry and recently came across this article that is incredibly accurate on what to expect when you work with a rep. Each artists needs are different, so personally I like to allow the first year of working with someone to be the transition year because it takes that long to typically get an artists marketing, social media, and online presence up to speed. Usually commercial photographers need to shoot a new personal project so we have something to market, and most artists shy away from social media. By year two marketing efforts have paid off if the artists has followed through and work starts to flow in. Read below for more detailed information on what a rep does, commission breakdown, and how to find one that works for you.

Original article posted Jun 7, 2016 from Wonderful Machine Expert Advice Rachel Walburn

One of the most common conversations we have with photographers (apart from the iPad vs. print portfolio debate) is about finding and working with reps. Many photographers dream of a day when they can just be responsible for taking pictures and have someone else find them assignments. But what is it really like to have a rep, and how close does that dream match up with reality? With some insider info from Mark Winer of The Gren Group and former rep Melissa Hennessy combined with our own experiences, we wanted to give you the know-how to understand and find your own rep.

What does a rep do?

A rep (or photographer’s representative or photographer’s agent) is someone who serves as a liaison between photographers and clients. In simple terms, they help their photographers get assignments. But a great rep will have a deep understanding of the business opportunities out there. They’ll be able to exploit connections you might not have; they’ll be savvy about negotiating assignment fees; and they’ll be able to give you perspective and guidance to propel your career.

Some reps lean more towards branding and marketing and farm out the production. Others lean more towards production and expect their photographers to take the lead on promotion. Nearly all reps handle cost estimates for their photographers. Some reps specialize in a particular genre of photography (especially fashion, reportage and architecture). Some focus on a particular type of client (advertising, corporate, editorial). Some reps only work with photographers in a particular geographic area. All reps build a roster of complementary photographers to cover the needs of whatever clients they’re going after.

What reps don’t do is manage your entire business. You (or your studio manager) are still going to have to handle bookkeeping, insurance, payroll. And chances are, you’ll have to maintain all of your marketing materials (like a website, blog, print portfolio, print mailers, emailers, stationery) and execute your portion of an overall marketing plan.

Are you a good candidate for a rep? (Do you need them and do they need you?)

Many of our photographers have great relationships with their reps and their careers have flourished as a result. But as with any partnership, it’s better to be alone than wish you were alone. Finding the right match is crucial to a successful relationship. If you enjoy and are good at marketing, estimating and production, then a rep might just amount to one more cook in the kitchen. But if you think you could be more effective creatively by having a partner to handle some of those business details, then an agent might be an appropriate solution for you.

Even if you’re ready for a rep, you’ll need to realistically assess whether you’re an attractive candidate for them. If you’re not ready, you could waste a lot of time chasing reps when you could be chasing clients instead. The more established a rep is, the more demanding they will be of you. A successful rep will expect that you’re generating significant revenue already and that they’ll be able to share in that revenue right away. They’ll want to see that you can bring skills or other attributes to their group that they might be missing. They’ll want to see that you already have solid marketing materials. And it won’t hurt if they like you on a personal level too.

Understand that any rep who takes you on is going to have to spend significant time, energy and money getting to know your interests and skills, incorporating you into their business and introducing you to their clients. That represents a lot of risk for them. So they tend to not jump into relationships as quickly as a photographer might.

How do you find a rep?

Once you understand what you’re looking for in a rep, you’ll need to contact appropriate reps just as you would reach out to potential clients. There are plenty of ways to find lists of reps. Rob Haggart of APhotoEditor has a great list; you can find reps by looking through source books like At-Edge; and of course Wonderful Machine’s marketing consultants can create a targeted list of reps who might be appropriate for you.

Most times a rep’s website won’t say exactly what they’re looking for in a photographer or if they’re adding to their roster at this time. You'll have to evaluate each one individually and reach out directly to find that out. Look at the photographers they already have listed. Are they similar to you? Would you be complementary with them? For example, if they're all fashion photographers and you shoot food, you probably won't be a good match. Or if all the photographers are different and you overlap with one of them, you might not be a good match. But when in doubt, there's no harm in reaching out, even if it's just planting seeds for a possible future relationship. Whenever possible, reach out to a specific person rather than to a general email address. If it's not clear from the agent's website, you can often find it on one of their photographer's websites. And if that doesn’t work, brush up on your LinkedIn skills and find them there.

How should you approach a rep?

It's a good idea to build your list of appropriate reps before you do any outreach. That way, if your list turns out to be large, you can start by approaching your favorites first (perhaps in groups of ten) and then gradually work your way down the list. Otherwise, you could risk missing out on the best opportunity and you could end up wasting a lot of time (for both parties).

Once you have your list of reps that you want to contact, send a brief but thoughtful email to each one individually that speaks to your past experience, your future goals and why you think they might be a good match for you. Include your website, contact information, and a partial client list. If possible, request an in-person meeting with them, or if that's not practical, a Skype or phone call. Taking a personal approach to this process is going to be an essential part of your success.

Once you send that email, wait a day or two and follow up with a phone call. Most reps will get back to you with some helpful advice. Do not be discouraged if it isn’t exactly what you were expecting to hear. Think of it as constructive criticism. Each “no” is a step closer to a “yes” if you are aware of and open to the suggestions they give you.

Be patient. Like any important relationship, it's not going to bloom overnight. Don't act desperate—it's not a good look.

Melissa Hennessy says that a photographer coming to a rep should always have reviewed that agent’s roster and be able to answer why they’d be a good fit for the group. When assessing someone, she likes to see a PDF of 5-10 images—by looking at that, she can see if the work is consistent, has a distinct point of view, and is commercially applicable. During the whole process, personal phone calls and individual emails are best. In addition to the work, she takes a good look at the photographer’s personality, preferring people who are driven and looking towards the future.

What about commissions and contracts?

So let’s say you find a rep who you love, and they love you and want to sign you. Then what? In most cases, that rep will have a contract that they'll want you to sign. There's no such thing as a standard rep agreement. Every agent will have a different philosophy about how they do business and each will have a different contract and some will have none at all. The most important thing is to not sign anything blindly, but to do your best to understand the spirit of what the agreement is trying to achieve and to of course understand the actual contract as it's written. As with any contract, you are free to negotiate any or all of it. If you have experience with these types of contracts, you might be able to review it yourself. Otherwise, it's probably a good idea to have a second set of eyes take a look at it. Lawyers can be valuable for this, but perhaps more valuable is someone with significant industry experience (like a Wonderful Machine producer).

Here are a few major elements of a rep agreement that you should look for and understand:

1. Commissions:

Perhaps the most important element of a rep agreement is the commission that your rep will take on any given project. Your contract should clearly specify what percentage the rep gets and what percentage the photographer gets. It also has to specify which items are subject to that commission. Will your rep get a percentage of just your creative/licensing fees or will they collect a percentage of some of your expense items too (like retouching or post-processing fees)? Will they get a percentage of your residual fees from subsequent licensing fees on those images (to the original client or to a new client)? We find that reps typically get between 20% and 30% of the fees they negotiate for their photographers. Mark says their commission (25%) is taken from “creative, usage, travel, prep, and tech scout fees.” The more leverage an agent has relative to the photographer, the higher that percentage will be.

2. House Accounts and Exclusivity:

House accounts are clients that you currently work for (or have worked for) prior to entering into an agreement with a rep. Each rep will handle these differently. Some reps will take less than their regular commission on your house accounts, while others may not take any commission at all. Sometimes, reps might take less than their regular commission for the first year of your contract on house accounts, then take full commission after that year (or given time period) has ended. We've found that for the most part, reps will want to have an exclusive agreement where they take a commission on any project that you work on, regardless of your previous history with a client or whether they get you the job or not.

Melissa explains that this is because, once with a rep, the social media and constant publicity the photographer is getting makes it unlikely that any large project is brought in solely by the photographer. That may seem hard to get behind, but if you understand that your agent is working with your best interests every day, you’ll have no problems with the commissions.

3. Responsibilities, Marketing, Payments:

It’s important to be clear about what you can expect from your rep, and what they will expect from you. What promotions are you responsible for paying for/doing, and what do you expect your photographers to do/pay for? Also, what is your level of involvement in estimating and/or production?

At Gren Group, their philosophy is to keep it simple. The company pays for all their own travel, website updates, portfolio shipping, trade shows, database subscriptions, and email campaigns. The photographer pays for their own trade advertising, promotional trips, and direct mail pieces. When they hire a producer, which they almost always do, the producer handles all aspects of production for the project.

Sometimes, the client pays the photographer directly and then the photographer pays the rep their share (and sends along copies of receipts for all the expenses). Our experience is that it’s more typical that an agent will bill the client and then pay the photographer when they get paid.

What if you want to leave your rep?

Sometimes a relationship doesn’t work out. It can happen for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to know upfront what happens if you decide to part ways. Who keeps the clients? Do you need to pay your rep if you work for clients they got for you after you’ve split up?

Most agents have a severance clause that has the photographer paying the regular commission for six months after termination, plus one month for every year they were under contract. So if they worked together for 5 years, the severance would last for 11 months.

A lot of what happens to the client after the photographer and agent have split depends on the client. If the photographer has the better relationship with the client, they would probably keep them. If the agent has a close relationship with the client, they will probably continue to cultivate that. Mark says that the contract is meant to lay the foundation for what is to be expected on both sides, but from there, there is often some room for negotiation. Some companies even permit the photographer to go without any severance period or additional commission (especially if the agent was collecting commissions on existing clients from day one).

Finding a rep can be a long and complex process. So be sure you're ready to make that commitment before heading down that road.

Original article written by executive producer Craig Oppenheimer with updates by marketing consultant Rachel Walburn.

Beyond the frame : Fine art's adaptability in our innovative interior decor and commercial world

Beyond the frame

Fine art's adaptability in our innovative interior decor and commercial world

By Meredith Bless

Aug 29, 2017

Wallpaper, cell phone cases, quilting squares, shoes, and clothing all have something in common. More often than not these days companies are contracting fine art artists and designers to license their artwork for commercial use be it on plastic, fabric, ceramic, or other materials used for retail products.

My great grandfather, who emigrated from Switzerland, was a lace designer. He settled in New Jersey where he designed and sold his lace to fashion designers. His lace would end up on high end dresses that would illuminate the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. He was one of many visionary artists who turned their creative talents into a commercial sustainable business.

Today with the immediacy and free marketing opportunities with the internet and social media, artists have the same opportunities as my great grandfather, as long as they build the right network as their career develops. There are a number of companies that have developed online stores and marketplaces that support these artistic endeavors. Here is my shortlist of where to buy fine art in a commercial setting. These websites and brands place emphasis on quality, customer service, education and care for the manufacturing and sales of their contracted artists and products.

• Area Environments | AreaEnvironments.com

Area Environments was founded in 2012 out of a shared adoration of fine art. In the five years since, we remain just as committed to selecting artwork that inspires the creative process, delivering unparalleled service, and surprising and delighting all who work with us.

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• Design By Humans | Designbyhumans.com

Design By Humans was born in 2007 with the simple vision of bringing artists from around the globe together to give them a platform to produce wearable art that tells a story, strengthens humanity and inspires life through creativity and design. Embedded in the culture of Design By Humans is a passion for brilliantly designed tees, detailed illustration and a strong appreciation for all things creative.

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• Riley Blake Designs | www.rileyblakedesigns.com

Inspired by local and international artists, they design fabric lines with vintage sensibilities and modern attitude. Their [Riley Blake Designs] fabric reflects an elegant feel for color, vibrant but with restraint, resulting in versatile prints for quilting, clothing, or home décor.

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• Pont des Arts | Pontdesarts-wine.com

Pont des Arts is an exclusive, limited collection of fine wines and spirits. It is the first international high end brand of French wines, building a bridge between Art and Wine, Bordeaux and Burgundy, the East and West and collectors and newcomers alike. Pont des Arts marries the best from the art world (such as Zao Wou-Ki, Yue Minjun and Miquel Barceló) and the wine world (Paul Pontallier and other highly respected wine and spirit experts from France).

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• House of Vans | houseofvans.tumblr.com | customculture.vans.com

House of Vans is a place where imagination lets loose over concrete bowls, art installations, workshops and concert stages, inspiring every person who runs, rolls, or stomps through its door. Located in Brooklyn, New York and Waterloo, London, as well as pop-ups around the world, the House of Vans is home to the creativity that moves us.

Vans Custom Culture was created to inspire and empower high school students to embrace their creativity through art and design and to bring attention to diminishing arts education budgets. Vans believes everyone should be empowered to express themselves creatively and should be given the tools to do so.

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Cover image from AreaEnvironments.com from their L' Atelier client in Minneapolis, MN

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

 

BTS + Bloopers: GTRAMPs not just for kids with AlleyOOP Sport Trampolines

Behind the scenes (BTS) with P2 Stills+Motion and Jumpsport AlleyOOP® Sport Trampolines

By Meredith Bless

Video featured on the Jumpsport Blog

Aug 25, 2017

"Can I go on the trampoline?" You'd think this would come from one of the 18 youth athletes we cast for the 3-day trampoline shoot, but no, these were the words from our fabulous stylist Stacy, and the rest of the BTS crew.

During the three long, hot, and sunny days of our Jumpsport garden trampoline video and photo shoot, we learned trampolines are not just for kids. We had a BTS crew of professionals handling lighting, audio, video, drone, styling, feeding, and entertaining - most of us were in our mid to late 30's. The thing is, when you're watching these incredibly talented kids do aerials, flips, jumps, and splits with ease, you start to believe that even at your age, you too can accomplish such feats of athleticism.

By day three, when the shoot was about done, a group of us adults got on the trampoline. So the big joke with with all adults who step foot on a trampoline is to be careful not to piddle in their panties when they jump. So naturally at first we were nervous to make a fool of ourselves since we didn't really know each other all that well. Secretly, we all wanted to just try to do a front flip. Giggling like the kids, we encouraged each other to give it a go. Taking turns, our inhibitions melted away and we gave feedback on what we were doing right or wrong. After a few try's we all had completed a full front flip!!

The shoot was a success beyond the expectations of our client, the families involved, and even myself. The creative vision of Jon and Jenna of P2 Stills+Motion was engineered and executed perfectly. Jumpsport did a great little blog post featuring this brief behind the scenes reel of the shoot compiled by P2 Stills+Motion. Read what they had to say about trampolines being excellent icebreakers for new friends, kids, and as we learned even adults!

Noteworthy collaborators| Styling, Stacy Triplow, www.beautybystacey.com | Photo + Video, Jon Held + Jenna Close, P2 Stills + Motion | Jumpsport AlleyOOP® Sport Trampolines | Oceanside Gymnastics | Carlsbad Dance Centre

Cover photo by P2 Stills + Motion

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

Hustlin’ from Commercial Photography in LA to Fine Art in PDX

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On Monday, I’m discussing the value of a $10k wall built for one painting in an art gallery in Los Angeles. By Friday, I’m in Oregon walking through a festival crowd of dreadlocks and smiling faces with my ‘Whiskey, Weed, and Willie’ tank-topped creative cohort.

By Meredith Bless

Jul 25, 2017

From one extreme to the next, there is a percentage of Americans who never had the luxury of a trust fund, don’t live with family, do whatever odd jobs they need in order to make ends meet, are self taught and intelligent. They are artists, they are entrepreneurs, and they are your friends.

Artists and entrepreneurs, especially in commercial photography and fine art, know what it means to hustle in order to move their careers forward. Those who are successful are smart about how they go about it and know when to engage in a conversation and when to back off. We all know someone who fits this description. Just ask all the random people I’ve met throughout my life. If they had that token friend, they would probably point to me or maybe that cousin they don’t talk to all that much because he’s either in Bali, Guatemala, or some rural state in the US living off the land. Okay, so maybe I don’t go to that extreme, but I do understand the hustle of being an artist, no matter what the medium - fine art, commercial photography, music, you name it. I understand, because that was me, last month on my Taiga Tour.

“Hustlers possess the ability to create their own path, which is why so many people labeled as being hustlers are such successful entrepreneurs.” - David Marantz, Founder of Direct Life Settlements, quoted for Entrepreneur Magazine

4:00 AM - June 27, 2017: I arrive at SeaTac after dropping Pearl (my beloved and trustworthy car) off at the furthest away, yet cheapest, third party airport parking lot. I wait in what looks like the longest human line ever, next to the unfortunate airport employee holding a tall sign that says “End of Line.” Confused at this early-morning situation, I observe the large amount of tired, angry travelers who suspiciously eye the empty security lines of the privately run “free for now until we decide to charge you” CLEAR company. I watch as a young girl opts in to the CLEAR propaganda and gets her retina scanned. I then wonder how long it will take for a hacker to claim her last undocumented form of external identification. By 6 AM I’m on my Alaska Airlines flight to Los Angeles and immediately sweet-talk the flight attendants into allowing me to carry on three items. I’m carting around about $25K in fine art and am not about to let it out of my sight.

Two hours and forty-two minutes later I change into my “gallery attire” in the LA airport bathroom as I freshen up with a wet wipe to my face, pits, and god forbid I mention anywhere else. I migrate to the rental car line, awkwardly holding two portfolio cases, a carry-on bag of clothes for the next month, another roller suitcase, a canvas purse and my computer backpack. As I slowly scoot my entourage forward, my shoulders ache. My backpack literally holds my entire mobile office and as many KIND bars and instant coffee packets as will fit, which will likely be my breakfast and lunch for the next 30 days. I try not to sweat through my shirt in the 90 degree heat as I curse my mobile weather app that said 75 and breezy in southern California.

I’m painting you this picture because it’s important to the other 98% of the population who aren’t entrepreneurs or artists to perhaps glean a little insight into our world. So even after all that, I know the feeling of being ignored via email by art directors, art galleries, producers, agency elites, agency assistants, and yes, the person at an ad agency that probably only gets coffee and delivers lunch to their millennial staff who lounge in hammocks while at work on “campus.” I understand the frustration of not being taken seriously, looking too young, looking too old, being female, lost in the mix, responded to rudely, and even flipped off by someone with road rage that I still can’t figure out why.

Commercial photography by NashCo Photo in PDX
Commercial photography by NashCo Photo in PDX

Then, it happens! I get through to one person. The next stop, another person. Then there’s a chance I revert back to the look that says, “Nice try, bitch, but if you don’t have an appointment, then don’t waste my time.” It happens, and when you’re hustlin’ you can’t be afraid to take chances and test people's boundaries every so often.

“[On freelancing] Hustle or die trying.” - Susannah Breslin, Forbes

I will reiterate, artists and entrepreneurs, know what it means to hustle. They know that when opportunities arise, they’re worth pursuing because you never know who or what it could lead to, no matter how crazy it all may seem. Most importantly, they know when you meet people, listen to them, find a way to be memorable in the first few minutes, and develop a personal connection. Your network is your family, and when you’re a hustler, traveling from one work opportunity to the next, you will need and have family everywhere you go if you keep your network strong - and that’s when you will start to see momentum.

Now that I’m back in the Pacific Northwest, the momentum is contagious from my time in California. I’m still taking chances, building on new and existing relationships, listening, learning, and most of all, hustlin’.

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” - Abraham Lincoln

Cover photo by NashCo Photo from their series "Headliners"

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

PDN Awards P2 Stills + Motion in 2017

I'm honored to announce that PDN has awarded P2 Stills + Motion with a2017 PDN Photo Annual Award in the category of video/multimedia for their Buck the Cubicle: Ice Music short film.

Watch the official video NOW at the PDN Photo Annual Website

(click the link above to watch the official video)

 

The Value of Art: At a time when investment-hungry art collectors can strip the value of art, why buy?

At a time when investment-hungry art collectors can strip the value of art, why buy?

Know who to collect art from, where to buy, and why

By Meredith Bless

Wú-Tí-23°0122.4N-113°0655.0E.png

When I purchase a work of art of any price there is a rush of adrenaline and butterflies flutter in my stomach as I transfer payment. I have to ask myself if this is really something I will love for the rest of my life? The truth is, I’ve already asked myself that question a million times, and every time the answer is the same, Yes. I continue to buy art because the value I place on each piece I own is more than just monetary.

From Millennials to Baby Boomers, the practice of purchasing art purely for investment value has flipped the art market upside down since 2010. Exercising the practice, in a commercial market already overly sensitive to trends and fluctuating pricing practices, has put everyone on high alert since the bubble burst in 2015. Before I dive too deep, let me explain what flipping art means, and its effect on the art market, artists, and artwork.

Flipping is the rapid resale of art. At it’s peak in 2014 when art was traded like bull-market tech stock, Bloomberg reported, “Flipping has picked up as wealthy collectors chase paintings by emerging artists with the goal of reselling them quickly for a profit, a strategy some advisers say may be a sign that the contemporary art market is taking on characteristics of a financial bubble.” [Bloomberg]

Auction sales began to drop in late 2015, the emerging names were hit the hardest. Sales by some artists dropped by 90 percent or more. “When those speculators realize that there is no end user at a higher price, they scramble to sell the work before they lose everything,” said Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group, who advises collectors. “The demand is driven by greed, the selloff by fear. It’s Economics 101.” [Bloomberg]

Austrian dealer Thaddaeus Ropac publicly called for a blacklist of flippers. But as Levin says, “In some cases major collectors have enough power in the market so that galleries can’t afford to blacklist them—for instance, if a collector is a significant trustee at an important museum.” Although the market has considerably cooled since [2014], Ropac says the market still needs to guard itself from people who buy art for investment rather than passion. [Artsy]

Knowledge is power. In saying this, I want to remind you to not fear purchasing artwork. History has proven that artists are surprisingly resilient, even when the art world is affected by a fluctuating art market, politics, or questionable practices. Artists will rise up and either relocate, start their own galleries, become social media savvy, or partner with a trusted advisor to help them navigate through the business. So even if a small group of well-branded wealthy art collectors and advisors are treating artwork like stocks, there are hundreds of other trustworthy advisers and thousands of emerging and established artists out there who are available to you.

Who to buy from?

We live in a time where online art galleries have wooed our emerging generation of tech-savvy art collectors. These online art advising models bank on the partial myth that unlike brick and mortar galleries, they offer excellent customer service, monthly payment plans, and art that will guarantee to grow in value. Like so many first time art buyers, opinions can be easily influenced. For the busy entrepreneur, full time student, family man or woman, or business executive, perhaps this online model works well because business hours are always open, even at midnight when insomnia kicks in. I know, as an entrepreneur, I’ve been there, looking at art online at 2am.

I've also visited art galleries from San Francisco to Hong Kong to the tiny town of Bristol, Vermont. I can honestly say that 75% of the galleries I wander into, the staff has been friendly and open to questions and conversation. I've asked about payment plans, which they offer, and I've been given the opportunity to quietly admire the contents of their space, be it a typical gallery show to an experiential installation.

So what purchasing platform do I recommend? As my mother would say, l’m a floater, and I absolutely apply that concept to how I choose to purchase artwork. Like any tight-knit community, I suggest you support the people that take the time to build a relationship with you. Assess your budget, time, and most importantly, as I've said before, if you see a work of art you love, pursue it. Know there is always a way to inquire about acquiring regardless if you saw it on an artist representatives Instagram page, Pinterest, in a magazine, gallery, or cafe. If auction houses are less intimidating, use them as a window to a large variety of works. But remember, the rule of thumb is to try and only purchase art from auction that is over a decade old, otherwise, buy from galleries. [ArtNews, Winter 2017]

Boats in the Harbor | Abigail Gray Swartz
Boats in the Harbor | Abigail Gray Swartz
Hollyhocks | Florence Shattuck
Hollyhocks | Florence Shattuck

[Boats in the Harbor, 2016, by Abigail Gray Swartz | Hollyhocks, by Florence Shattuck]

What do I know about collecting?

I’ve been collecting art since my teens. In high school I collected sketches, paintings, and prints by my grandmother, Florence Shattuck, a well-known artist in northern Vermont. The collection grew to booklets of postcards from museums focusing on impressionist and abstract art from the 20th century. In college I began to travel internationally. I became enlightened to the difference between mass produced tourist art and true craft. I learned valuable lessons, met talented artisans, and for 10 years I allowed my creative eye, technique identification, and artistic preference to develop. In 2007 I commissioned my first and very modest sculpture directly from the Maori artist and jade carver, Paul Anderson, in New Zealand. I viewed it more as a collaboration at the time, but in industry terms, it was a commission. In 2013 I took 3 days to contemplate the purchase of a hand-woven Turkish rug during my travels through Central Turkey. Hours, no, days, were spent laying on different rugs to feel which one was right for me. In 2014 I purchased my first painting from artist Lindsay Carron from an art gallery in Alaska. Finally, last summer I acquired 2 paintings from long time friend and emerging artist, Abigail Swartz, based on what I saw on her website and purchased through Stonewall Gallery's website in 2016. Once I saw both works in person they were more magnificent than I had imagined.

I could list a number of artists and galleries that I personally prefer to buy from, but I suggest that you start in your own city, attending your community’s gallery walks and open studios. If you don't see something you like, try an online website like Uprise Art or Auction After Sale. If you find that platform too overwhelming with options, surf around Instagram for artist accounts. If none of those options sound appealing, give me a call.

Cover image titled Wú Tí 23°01'22.4N 113°06'55.0E by Nissa Kauppila, who recently had three painting catalogued and accepted into auction in Singapore as of May 24th, including the painting featured here.

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!

Nurture Your Creativity and Career

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Artist Representation: Nurture Your Creativity and Career

By Meredith Bless

Join in my conversation on Instagram #TaigaInspired

Lovers in their own land. The river that flows through mountains will stop to play in a whirlpool. It will change course if a dramatic storm ensues. Sometimes calm, sometimes raging. But it gives life and love. Sometimes people get hurt if they venture too long or too deep, for waters such as these can be frigid and ice over. But, if you are patient and can survive the cold, the warm waters will soon return. As the sun rises in the east, and the songs of spring whisper in your ears, dive in and let the river flow through you.

The relationship between you and creativity is a love affair that only you can nurture. The transition from winter to spring is always an interesting one, and one that is incredibly important, especially for those of us who have creativity pulsing through our veins. This transition holds meaning on so many levels. Today I’m going to step away from the literal concept and talk about the idea of rebirth in regards to your creativity and career.

When artists start their own business, they begin with their passion. Perhaps it’s travel photography, landscape painting, the color red, macro or natural light. You name it, we’ve all been there. Some of us are still there at the beginning, and that’s okay. For those of you who want to turn your artistic talents into a long-term career, there are a number of business concepts that need to be considered, designed, implemented, and continuously adjusted along the way.

The concept I’ll talk about today is, nurturing your creativity through the development of a personal project. This is important if you are running your own business as an artist or hold a career in a creative field. Creating a personal project will help keep your creative focus fresh, new, and inspired. We all have those moments when it feels like our creativity has frozen over. There have been times I’ve personally thought my creativity would never thaw. Those moments, of course, happen to coincide with overworking myself, stressing about finances, and spiraling into major life questions and doubts. What am I doing with my life? Have I lost my artistic style? Did I ever even have a style?

I’ve learned, that by making time for an ongoing personal project, my creative momentum is much more balanced. I have clarity in the tasks ahead of me and any doubts I may have are manageable and much less dramatic. In the past my personal projects were all visual creative mediums - photography, painting, block printing. Today, I find my ongoing personal project to be writing, which is something I never dreamed I’d enjoy, but here I am, writing.

I want to emphasize the importance of a personal project for a second reason. It’s the first thing I look for when an artist asks if I would represent them. Have you created a personal project? I’m not talking about that time two years ago you went to southeast asia and photographed your backpacking trip. I’m looking for a specific concept that you have sought out, created, designed or captured, and now have it displayed with specific intent, on your website. Remember, your personal project will most likely be the body of work that will shine brightest in your portfolio.

Your personal projects can also aid in the guidance of your career path. I work with two artists who are perfect examples of how their personal projects shed new light, inspiration, direction, and rebirth to their careers.

P2 Stills + Motion first spoke to me at a time when they felt scattered with their portfolio. Creativity was at a low and it was unclear what their next step needed to be. One of my first suggestions was to come up with a personal project. From that direction, Buck the Cubicle was created which lead to a re-brand and a fresh look to their portfolio. This took their creativity, talent, and global recognition to new heights.

Buck The Cubicle | Hikaru Dorodango | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Hikaru Dorodango | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Ice Music | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Ice Music | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Professional Princess | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Professional Princess | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Falconer | P2 Photo + Video
Buck The Cubicle | Falconer | P2 Photo + Video

[Click images for videos of each Buck the Cubicle]

Karen Wippich was a graphic designer for over 40 years when one day she picked up a paintbrush and began to paint. What started out as a personal side project has now blossomed into a full-time career. Her projects grew to the level where she needed to hire someone to represent her work and consult on matters of expanding her business beyond her local region; and that’s where I came into play.

America's Pastime | Karen Wippich
America's Pastime | Karen Wippich

So, I will leave you with this phrase once again, the relationship between you and creativity is a love affair that only you can nurture. For fine art, perhaps you explore a new medium or create a specific series. Commercial photographers, it really can be anything that inspires you to capture on film. And all the rest of us in creative careers, set aside an hour a day, away from a digital screen, then create, craft, or simply just write in a journal. If you are so inspired, let me know of your progress in an email or #TaigaInspired on Instagram!

Cover image by P2 Stills + Motion

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless, producer in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Juneau

Meredith Bless is a producer, creative director, and promoter at Taiga Creative offering creative talent, pre and post production on commercial photo, video, and drone requests. A team of artists are readily available to tell your companies story, ad campaign, update your media library, and help you develop your creative concepts. See who we’ve worked with in the past and read their testimonials on working with our artists. Want your story to be told? Email your idea and let’s see what we can do!