Must-have Photographer Features, Advice For Young Photographers And More – Photo Agent Angela Woods Interview
By Emily Lucas
Meet Angela Woods, London-based photo agent for over 15 years, who will be judging the Emerging Talent & Student category at the Spotlight Awards for Photographic Excellence. Read the interview to learn how Angela picks photographers to represent, why is it important for emerging photographers and students to participate in competitions, and much more!
Production Paradise: Could you give us some insight into your background and how you came to establish yourself as the lead agent of a successful photographic agency?
Angela Woods: It’s a long story and it’s quite an obscure profession, so I didn’t wake up one day and think that I’m going to be a photographer’s agent because there are only really about 50 or so of us in London, so it was quite a circuitous route.
I studied English literature at university and then I became involved in the fine art scene and represented some fine artists. After that, I moved to represent some illustrators, and that just morphed into representing photographers. It was not necessarily a logical route and I think I could have just as easily become a literary agent or a lawyer but it ended up being a photographer’s agent.
It is perfect because it’s all about dealing with visuals, but also strongly with negotiation and communicating with clients and photographers as well as nurturing talent, which is one of the best parts of the job.
Production Paradise: How long have you been working as a photographer’s agent?
Angela Woods: It’s been over 15 years, but I’ve been self-employed for longer than that.
Production Paradise: You manage a roster of highly talented artists. Are there any “must-have” requisites when selecting photographers to represent?
Angela Woods: Yes and it is borne out of a long period of seeing many photographers come through the ranks. It comes from seeing them in all sorts of different environments where they cope with multiple pressures and requirements. So from this I know they have got to do well in meetings, they have to be able to communicate their ideas, they have to be able to help write treatments, lead the team creatively, be great on a shoot, sensitive to what’s going on and flexible, but at the same time focused.
In a creative respect, they have to be original. Everyone thinks they’re a photographer these days and I think people have to remember what it really means to be a photographer and that is someone who is technically brilliant, but also creatively unique to stand out from the rest. So I make it my business to represent people who I think have got something that is very original and I find those types of photographers are the ones in demand from my clients.
So I think someone that’s creative, someone that has commercial relevance, but also the business skills to lead a group, to be confident on set and just a decent person that can carry a project forward with their agent. No one is going to want to do a job with a person who is misbehaving or is too arrogant and not a true collaborator. You have to have the confidence to be a proper collaborator. I think photographers used to hold everything too closely and those that are creatively confident will allow other people into the process and respect their contribution. I believe that’s one of the ways of creating unique work.
Production Paradise: What is it about the student category that appeals to you?
Angela Woods: As an agent, I have always been wanting to encourage new talent to grow, and if people get in touch with us about wanting to assist or they’re looking for work experience or need advice, quite often I will pick someone out based on the way they present themselves, or from their CV or maybe just some images. If we like something about them, we will fast track people and give them spots on our shoots so they can get a bit of work experience. We like to keep the team fresh, so it’s about giving talent space and giving them an understanding of what it’s like to be a valued member of our team.
I really like bringing through young talent and it is what keeps the whole industry continually fired up. I think anyone, especially agents, that don’t keep an eye on what is happening at the entry level are missing a trick because that’s where it all happens. A number of my photographers are on Instagram, and that’s where a lot of students and new talents emerges. You have got to occupy those spaces so that you can bring people through and spot people.
Production Paradise: With the boom of high-quality mobile phone cameras and apps such as Instagram, how do you think technological developments have impacted the creativity of the younger generation?
Angela Woods: That’s a good question. I think it means that people can record their experiences much more immediately, but I think the downside of it is that it’s not always a process that is that considered. I think there is still definitely relevance for craft and a considered process.
Yes, there is a lot going on in the disposable world, but photography requires learned skills and patience, and things to move at less than frenetic speed. I find that everything has opened up and there are more places to share photography and find inspiration, but I am also constantly surprised at the lack of knowledge and appreciation of copyright laws and not understanding that images that a photographer creates or that anyone creates are valuable, not only monetarily but also as a creative thing in their own right. These are not just images that can be handed around, they are things that people own, and I find that there are a lot of people that have no understanding of that principle.
I think that whatever you take a picture with is irrelevant, it’s going to come down to what is seen through the lens not where that lens belongs. Whether the photograph comes from a cheap mobile camera or whether it’s from £40,000 worth of kit, it comes down to the photographer’s eye. Whatever that camera may be, how they compose the photograph, how they understand color, what they catch and what they see is the most important thing. Although you will require more expensive kit as you get older, purely because of the pressures of the commercial world, but in terms of experimenting, people should be looking at whatever means they have of taking photographs and seeing if it’s for them.
Production Paradise: Running a successful agency is all about making sure your photographers are getting the right exposure and connecting with the right clients. How do you believe the Production Paradise Photographic Awards will benefit students in terms of marketing and exposure?
Angela Woods: I think students should enter awards because it is the first step to understanding the world of photography – the standards and the inspirations of the professional world. It’s a step up from sharing images with your friends or fellow students. It’s a step up into a more grown world of photography and it’s a chance to be spotted and recognised. I think it is important that students get the chance to be part of the photographic community because, like any person, it can be at times quite an isolating experience. It’s good to give people prizes and recognition, a chance to plug into a photographic community, and to start to have commissioners of work look at what they’re doing.
Anyone that enters even if they haven’t won themselves, can go back and see who has won and can try to understand why that image might have been recognised. It’s a good thing to be able to analyse what makes a good photograph. That means you might get commissioned. It’s all very well thinking that you can produce good photographs but it has to be a good picture that makes a commissioner think they would be suitable for a campaign.
Production Paradise: You are just starting up your new agency called Garden, could you tell us a little bit about that?
Angela Woods: Garden is a new agency that is launching next month and it is in response to some of the talent that has helped us realise our moving image and stills photography projects. They are people who are just as talented and driven as our photographers. I had some approaches from people saying, “We like the way you represent photographers, what about something for other people?” So it just seemed entirely logical and now the Angela Woods Agency has had a little sister.
We thank Angela for the talk and look forward to your submissions to student, shoot on mobile or one of the 13 commercial photography categories.