Hi Emily! So excited to be catching up with you here in Chicago again. What do you consider your job title? How do you define your job?
I'm a photography agent. A big part of my job is providing structure to the creative process. That structure is successful when the process can be inspired, while also being profitable. That balance is the marriage of two different strengths; creative and business.
Consider yourself lucky if you have both strengths. Those who would like to concentrate on the creative and delegate the business aspect, might consider partnering with an agent.
TP: How did you come to be a photo agent? What was your career path?
I went to photography school & the program had a pretty clear end game, but I knew I didn’t want to be the one holding the camera. I made it a point to shop around a variety of industry opportunities while growing my skill set.
Before becoming an agent, I was producing for ad agencies. Before that, I was a photo editor at a magazine and way before that I was a studio manager and photo assistant. I found myself always advocating for the artist, so it was a natural decision that motivated my move to become an agent.
TP: I have very fond memories of working with you in many of your various “past-lives”! As an agent, is there such a thing as an average day for you?
EH: An average day is not very average at all. Every day is a little different, which anyone in advertising will tell you can be one of the more refreshing parts of the job. Some days, I’m running to agencies meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. You can usually spot me with a huge red treasure chest on wheels that holds all the portfolios, ipads, leave-behinds and all the goodies you could ever dream of. Other days, I’m in my office banging out estimates, emails, pdfs and making calls. Being an agent requires that you have both logistical and people skills. I exercise both everyday.
TP: We’ll come back to that word exercise a bit later! Tell me, what do you like the most about your work?
EH: Getting to look behind the curtain with some of my favorite photographers! I love having a front row seat to the work before anyone puts eyes on it. It’s rewarding to be able to share that with those who will be inspired by it. It creates deeper relationships with clients and turns into new shoots to be proud of!
TP: What’s the most challenging?
EH: Managing different types of personalities on a daily basis is very challenging. Every photographer, client and project has it’s own set of needs. Patience and proper timing are necessary qualities to being an agent. Our attention and time is invested in each one of our photographers and clients. We are constantly balancing their changing schedules and egos.
TP: Also, that 15th revision on the estimate you’ve been working on for weeks & weeks. Yeah, that’s pretty challenging.
EH: Oh, I can absolutely commiserate with you on those endless estimate revisions
TP: How do you juggle everything? Do you work alone or as part of a team?
EH: While our company’s individuals may be geographically spread out across the country, we very much work as part of a team. When one of us is showing portfolios or meeting with an agency, the team makes sure estimates get out, calls are answered and everyone is happy.
TP: What would your advice be to an aspiring photo agent?
EH: Never dismiss the power of networking and attend as many industry events as possible. Once you’re hired, take every opportunity to learn and gain experience. Then, double your networking efforts. By the time you’re ready for your next challenge, you’ll have an entire community to guide you.
TP: How do you normally get new projects or work?
EH: Hustle. I’ve learned the hustle is a long game of consistency and perseverance, especially when faced with rejection, which happens a lot in this industry. We’re lucky to benefit from the reputation that CG&A has established. That makes my job easy when I reach out to my new favorite small agency which happens to be creating amazing content. Appealing to them as an agency and as individuals is the sweet spot.
TP: What are 3 indispensible tools you need to do your job?
EH: My social and semi-sarcastic personality, a 5-star Uber rating and my iPhone.
TP: Have any mentors or others you look up to?
EH: I have certain mentors whom I look to for specific strengths. When I find myself in need of guidance or reassurance, I feel lucky to have access those people I find inspiring in an a la carte kind of way. Their combined qualities would result in a mentor hybrid and would encompass the tenacity of Amelia Earhart, the mindfulness of Marina Abramovic and the hair whips of Beyonce.
TP: This sounds like a great Frankenstein Halloween costume idea! If anyone can pull it off, it’s you!
TP: Speaking of mentors, what’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from anyone?
EH: ‘Do first, ask forgiveness later.’ - Director of Content Strategy at VSA Partners
TP: Ok, I promised we’d come back to that word exercise. Now’s your chance to tell me about you, separate from your career.
EH: I’m an Ironman! Like, for real. I’ve crossed the finish at over 20 triathlons across the country, most recently, Ironman Arizona. Training for long distance endurance races is what keeps my work/life balance in check. It keeps me on schedule, eating clean, up early and focused. It’s also the perfect excuse to explore any city by water, by bike and by foot! The common thread that applies to both worlds is having a finish line to cross. Setting your goal. Seeing that goal, then working backwards to make it a reality. In triathlons, that metaphor is absolute. In business, the finish line is a little more conceptual.
TP: Thanks for sharing your story with such humor and candor, Emily!