What I learned during Aurélie’s Gallery’s first year

What I learned during Aurélie’s Gallery’s first year

November 9, 2022

I launched Aurélie’s Gallery a year ago with just 3 photographers – 3 amazing people who trusted me with their work and decided to support me in this new adventure.

The road had been bumpy with a lot of false starts, delayed launch dates and website bugs. I was banging my head against the wall and thought the day would never come… and then, our website designer sent me a message saying the site was up and running!

I remember the moment clearly: I was out treat-or-tricking with friends’ kids up in Harlem in New York. Not the best moment to deal with work but there you have it – the life of a small business entrepreneur!

After years in advertising and fashion, organizing photo shoots, searching and hiring photographers for ad campaigns, curating photography portfolios and working on a photography magazine I had launched with a friend, I had met many talented photographers. I was looking for something new to do, a new challenge, a new project, a new way to work in photography, and the idea of having a gallery came naturally.

I thought at first of having a physical space, and although having a spot to call my own and model the way I saw fit was enticing, I also knew I would quickly hate having to go to a white cube, waiting for someone to walk in. Besides, the cost of renting a space was prohibitive for the self-funded start-up I was. The next best thing was to go online. (The covid pandemic only reinforced the need to have a virtual gallery, accessible anywhere at any time, free from time and space restrictions.)

Early on a friend of mine told me my job would be both art, commerce AND technology – truer words were never spoken! I learned so much these last 2 years! From SEO to social media, from e-commerce platforms to newsletters, from print on demand to shipping and sale tax… the learning curve has been steep at times and some topics remain quite obtuse despite my best efforts (I’m looking at you, SEO).  Technology constantly changes and evolves so there’s always something new to learn and try, which I enjoy. Work is never boring when you keep on learning new things!

 

There are plenty of things I would do differently if I did them today. Insight is 20/20 and all that jazz… But I do believe I did the best throughout the process with the information I had at the time. Regrets are a waste of time: to learn and move on is a much better use of my time!

What did I learn? Here are the Cliff Notes:

  • When starting a business geared to the general public, don’t underestimate how long it will take said public to notice you. Be ready for the long haul, and don’t get discouraged when you hear only crickets. Keep at it – time takes time.
  • Write a business plan (or better yet, work with a business consultant on one). Putting your ideas on paper will help you clarify your vision. It also makes your business idea feel more concrete and real.
  • Financial projections are important but be prepared for slow growth (or little growth, or even no growth!). Overnight successes don’t happen that often (and organic reach on social media doesn’t happen at all anymore – stop dreaming!). You need to invest in your company for it to exist. Put money aside for it, have a part-time job somewhere else… do what’s needed to give time for your company to find its footing while still paying your bills.
Portrait of Aurélie
  • Before launching, spend time creating a proper workflow and structuring your company. It’s not when you’re in the thick of it that you have time to work on the legalese of your contracts or figure out how to schedule your social media posts. Set things up before you put your baby out into the world.
  • Create as much content in advance as possible: blog posts, newsletters (even if you only have 5 people to send them to), social media posts, website pages, product descriptions, … Have as much of them ready early on so you have a leg up and can schedule ahead of time.
  • Contact everyone you know and invite them to follow you on social, sign up for your newsletter, spread the word, etc… Let’s be real here: your first few sales will come from friends and family, and that’s OK (big shout out to my friends and family!).
Aurélie and photographer Andre Baranowski
Aurélie and photographer Jimmy Katz
Aurélie and photographer Jazzmine Beaulieu
Aurélie and photographer Edwin Jimenez

From the initial 3 photographers we started with, we grew to now show 10 online exhibits! They span genres and styles, from landscapes to portraits, from Black and White to color photography. I knew some of the photographers from my previous career, working with them on ad campaigns or on my magazine; others approached me to work together, while some were recommended by friends.

The artists we feature come from different horizons and have very different styles. Yet, one thing remains, I love their work. There’s not one image here I don’t care about.

Stay tuned for more!

If you missed it, read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of how the gallery came to be.

Follow the blog for more of my adventures in entrepreneurship land!

Aurélie’s Gallery is 6 month-old!

Aurélie’s Gallery is 6 month-old!

May 9, 2022

Today is more or less our sixth-month anniversary. I say “more or less” because we had so many false starts when it came to launching the website, so many delays, bugs and revised timelines, we ended up with the softest of soft launches.

When people ask what the best and worst things about launching my online photo gallery are, it’s easy to know the worst part: creating the website has been the most challenging part of the process. I am not a coder, nor particularly fluent in geek-speak, so I’ve felt very lost.

Finding myself so dependent on technology (and one I have very little understanding of) has been a huge adjustment. As a friend of mine told me early on, “Your business rests on both art and technology.” I didn’t fully hear her then, but I sure do now!

And now for the fun part of having this gallery: I love being able to share my love of photography! It’s as simple as that.

I’ve always loved photography (maybe because my childhood bedroom was covered in Sarah Moon’s images?). I love its immediacy and intimacy. It’s the most ubiquitous art form, one that speaks to most people. I feel photography has become a “lingua franca,” a universal language by which we all communicate.

I am also happy and honored to champion photographers whose work I love.

Coming from the advertising and fashion photo industry, I don’t recognize the usual barriers the art world sets up. There if you don’t have the right pedigree (read: education and/or connections), your work is devalued (or, at least, not as valued).

For me, what matters is my response to the images. The curation is personal – I love every image I am showing; it is not calculated according to the art world’s rules and expectations.

Aurélie at work

Lastly, I love the freedom I enjoy. It’s a huge privilege. Freedom to feature who I want, to work from anywhere in the world, to create this new business from scratch – making lots of mistakes along the way, for sure, but loving every second of it.

So, here’s to our first 6 months! I can’t wait to continue to grow and develop Aurélie’s Gallery. See you around!

 

If you missed it, read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of how the gallery came to be.

Follow the blog for more of my adventures in entrepreneurship land!

Meet the Artist: Kourosh Sotoodeh

Meet the Artist: Kourosh Sotoodeh

Kourosh Sotoodeh had to leave his home country to pursue his photography passion. The road has not always been easy but the journey took him far and is still ongoing!

Originally from Iran, Kourosh studied Industrial Design and Cinema before focusing on photography. He fell in love with the medium while photographing his friends and family. From there he started experimenting and building his portfolio, although his work was limited by the fundamentalist laws ruling over Iranians’ lives.

Kourosh eventually left his home country when it became clear he would never be able to work as a photographer and express himself as an artist in the Islamic Republic. Although there might not have been laws forbidding fashion photography per se, taking photographs of people (and of people of the opposite sex) falls in a grey area and is left to subjective interpretations.

There have been crackdowns on the Iranian creative class over the years. What is permitted one day is not the next day, the rules are unspoken and ever-changing – an impossible situation for any artist to live and function in!

Female model looks a us as she's standing against a wall

Since then Kourosh has made a name for himself in New York and Los Angeles, where he works on both editorial & commercial assignments for fashion and cosmetic clients.

Being a foreigner in the US myself (I’m originally from Paris), I know firsthand how difficult emigrating can be. You are confronted with a new language, culture, and social code. You’re the new kid on the block, with no support or friends. Everything needs to be built from scratch – it’s no easy feat.

Succeeding then is a testament to your talent and hard work (and just enough luck to make it all work!).

Woman dressed in Indigenous dress, standing on a rock in a desert
Woman drapped in a long red fabric, standing in a desert

The images presented here span genres and styles – from hyper glamourous beauty shots to views of a starry sky. They come from both editorial shoots and personal work. I like the mix it creates.

I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s important for photographers to work on personal projects throughout their careers. If you’re only shooting for jobs (even editorial ones), you’re never free – there are always expectations and requests you need to worry about.

Personal projects allow you to truly express yourself. Which can be daunting for some. It’s equivalent to the fear of the white page for a writer!

I titled Kourosh’s exhibit “Moments” as the images presented here are a mix of past and present works, editorial images and personal projects. Aren’t all photographs moments after all?

See Kourosh Sotoodeh’s exhibit here.

Female fashion model seen in profile, dressed in a tight black leather top and shorts
Close-up of a woman's mouth with red lipstick, holding a precious gem between her teeth

How Aurélie’s Gallery came to be (last part)

How Aurélie’s Gallery came to be (last part)

October 21, 2021

We’ve been busy rebuilding the website. As painful as it is and as frustrating the delay is, at least I’m getting to know WordPress quite well!

I have to say that, one of the things I enjoyed the most about putting this business together has been learning new things. I’ve never been a techie but I am starting to understand how it works and to be able to figure things on my own, and that’s immensely rewarding!

November 1, 2021

We’re live!! Woowoo… although, to be honest, it’s a very soft and subdued launch.

Between the website’s unpredictable hiccups and having still to contend with Covid, I didn’t feel like organizing an event. It’s not the launch I had envisioned, but at least we’re on!

We will have a party later, but now everything feels too tentative and complicated. Once things are more settled (and the health crisis is under control), I want to have a series of pop-up events, setting up a few days in NY, LA, Paris, etc… Wherever I can find a cheap space and I know people!

I already have a million ideas on how to run the events – fingers crossed I’ll be able to start them in the next few months.

A open bottle of champagne

December 1, 2021

The first results are in: we got a lot of positive feedback (and some orders!). I am very happy with the 3 exhibits we started with. I think it’s a great mix.

Lori’s images of horses are stunning and different from what you usually see in “animal portraiture” (is there such a thing? I’m sure there is!). Andre’s nature photography couldn’t be lovelier – just looking at it you can feel the touch of the sun on the flowers and the breeze in the leaves. And Martin’s minimalist images of suburban development around the world are intriguing. His work raises many interesting questions about globalization and uniformity.

I’m forever grateful to them for trusting me with their images and believing in my project.

January 2, 2022

It will be interesting to see how things develop. We launched so late we were not really able to benefit from a full holiday shopping season. Fine art prints take time to make so we cut it close for people to get theirs on time. Even the home & work accessories in the Gift Shop are made on-demand, which means it takes a couple of weeks to get them… Not ideal when you’re competing with businesses that promise next-day delivery!  

We also can’t compete with cheap companies. I don’t have $50 prints – that’s not what we do. We will diversify in the coming months to offer a wider price range, but I know I’ll never be able nor want to compete with the “cheap & fast” companies.

I believe there’s a place for the gallery and what we offer. There’s a place for quality and uniqueness. We just need to find not only our audience but also our customers. They’re out there, I know it. After all, I’m out there! 😉

Portrait of Aurélie in front of a wall of photographs

If you missed it, read Part 1 and Part 2.

Follow the blog for more of my aventures in entrepreneurshipland!

Meet the Artists: Kiritin Beyer and Parris Jaru

Meet the Artists: Kiritin Beyer and Parris Jaru

“Reappropriation” is an apt title for this series. Abandoned spaces are reappropriated and turned into private playgrounds, while ancient customs are reinvented.

The photographs are a collaborative effort between Kiritin Beyer, a French & Danish photographer, and Parris Jaru, a Jamaica-born painter.

I met Kiritin a long time ago. When you both work in photography in New York AND are both French, you’re bound to cross paths! We moved in similar circles and worked a few times together. She has a very calm energy about her and you can feel some of it in her work. Her images are powerful but not “loud.”

I particularly love this series. Kiritin had shot an earlier series in an abandoned penal colony in French Guinea (West Africa). The place might have been empty, but she could feel the ghosts of its past.

A mysterious figure in a traditional African costume and mask dancing in a forest
This led her to the idea of “summoning” a character to stand guard in other deserted locations. Working with Parris Jaru and drawing on African, Indigenous and Caribbean rituals, she created costumes and searched for masks. They studied traditional dances and looked for forgotten places.

The resulting images are striking and filled with unanswered questions. A mysterious character inhabits a no man’s land of empty buildings that have been reclaimed by nature. He changes appearances and his face is always hidden by a mask.

We know nothing of him or where he is; he simply stands before us, caught in the middle of rituals and dances he alone knows the meaning of.

I love art that makes you wonder and takes you on a journey…

See “Reappropriation” here.

A mysterious figure in an African costume and mask strikes a pose in an abandoned indoor pool