After years of working as a producer on photo shoots, I felt it was time for a new challenge, something that would reconnect me with why I fell in love with photography in the first place. I knew so many talented photographers that the idea of creating a space for them to show their personal work came naturally.
I toyed with the idea of opening a physical gallery but quickly abandoned the idea – too much overhead, especially in New York where rents are sky-high. Plus, I know myself: after years of working on my own in my apartment and enjoying the freedom of being a freelancer, having to go every day to an office (in this case, a gallery) was unfathomable. I’d been spoiled and couldn’t go back to a 9 to 5 grind.
Years ago I created with a friend of mine Resource Magazine, a publication dedicated to photography. We worked from her place or mine, with an army of interns squatting our sofas. Eventually, it became too much and we got an office… which I promptly hated.
With modern technology, we can work anywhere, any time. Why would I tie myself to a desk and chair? I love working in cafés (or, you know, on my bed with my dog curled up next to me). I knew the idea of having a physical gallery was not going to work. The next best thing was to bring my gallery online, so here we are! This year is the year when I make my dream a reality!
[Spoiler Alert: 2020 was definitely NOT the year when my gallery idea came to life!]
I started meeting with photographers I know and whose work I love. The response has been very positive and supportive – the idea is sound, but the way we implement it is what’s going to make or break it. We really need to make sure the website is both beautiful, with a great gallery experience, and easy to navigate (I can’t afford to lose people because where to buy is not easy to find!).
There are a lot of factors to consider – I really hope I’m able to make this idea come to life! Talking to the artists gave me so many new ideas, like doing pop-ups in different cities, or showing them on set during one of their shoots, etc. It’s all very exciting and inspiring!
Although I’m set when it comes to the printer for the fine-art works, I’m completely lost as far as fulfillment houses go for our Gift Shop products. Finding a company that does quality items at a reasonable price is no easy task!
That part makes me nervous as I know nothing about manufacturing – it’s a brave new world I’m discovering here, and a slightly intimidating one if I’m being honest (that being said, it is also super interesting to learn all these new things and get into the nitty-gritty of how things are made).
I can’t afford to buy large quantities of products when I don’t know what will sell (or not), so I have little room to maneuver: I’d better not mess it up!
As you can see, there’s a huge gap between today’s date and the first time I wrote – covid happened and wreaked havoc to my plans and timeline.
I have to say it took me a long time to get out of my state of sideration. The pandemic brought such an unprecedented break in our lives (at least in the western world which had been untouched by war and major upheavals in decades), that it paralyzed me (and I suspect countless others).
As we were trying to adapt to this new reality, George Floyd’s death brought an intense moment of reckoning, one that was long overdue in my opinion. The soul-searching that ensued was hard but necessary for us to become better people.
I started to question the very idea of starting a gallery. The world was turned upside down and it felt like everything was now up for grabs and for reinvention – all had been disrupted to such a degree that it was hard to not be shaken by all the ensuing turmoil…
Little by little, the idea of the gallery gained force again. With the pandemic, the universe told us in no uncertain terms that we have little control over events, but at least I can still control what I do with my time, and I decided to put my energy into this project. This gallery not only celebrates my lifelong love for photography, it also celebrates life and creativity – what better project to focus on during a time of upheaval and uncertainty?
I’m going from a service-based business (working as a freelance producer) to a product-based company, and an online one at that! I’m basically starting from scratch – there is so much I need to learn! From sale tax to shipping, from manufacturing to marketing… It’s overwhelming and fun in equal measures, depending on my mood of the day!
One of the most interesting things has been diving into online advertising and learning how targeted your campaigns can be.
As a business owner working with a shoestring budget, I’m grateful I have access to these new tools. I would have never been able to afford an ad page in Elle Décor!
As a former ad producer, I’m dismayed to see how online platforms are siphoning ad budgets from print magazines, billboards and such. Even if I had the budget to put an ad in Elle Décor, would I when Google or Facebook ads are so much more targeted and trackable?
As a citizen, I’m also slightly freaked out by how granular online tools can be, how they can pinpoint people based on their interests, income, location, education etc… People give some of this info voluntarily, but a lot of it is deduced based on their/ our online behavior, using crazily smart computers.
It’s a brave new world out there, one filled with both possibilities and pitfalls.
Can I be honest in here for a second? I’m feeling overwhelmed by the demands of social media.
I used to enjoy it – while being fully aware of its addictive nature and propensity to create alienation (without even talking about how our personal information is used and abused!), I focused on its positive aspects. Social media allowed me to stay connected with my family and friends in France, with people in my industry, and to promote in a lighthearted way my production services and ideas.
I never thought about Stories, Reels or any of those things – I would post some pictures and write a funny caption every once in a while, and that was the extent of my social media habit.
All that changed once I had the idea to create the gallery: as an online business, social media is key to having people find us (that and SEO, but I leave the SEO to my husband and our web developer, aka, the nerd brigade). I had to learn social media on a whole new level. It’s not enough to post some pics and funny captions – I need a strategy, I need to mix formats and (God forbid!) include video… and then, track results, see what works, what doesn’t, try different configurations. Do I highlight a post by making a Story or a Reel? Do I do long videos or short ones? How often do I post?… So many questions!
I’m trying to enjoy the trial-and-error process (what’s what life is about, after all!), but it’s pretty overwhelming at times.
Read Part 2 for more trials and tribulations (and all the mistakes I made in the process!)