By Tina Fischer
The Los Angeles based agency Zahara Reps represents a roster of professional photographers with a wide range of specialities such as lifestyle & health photography, food & product photography or fashion & beauty photography to name a few. The founder and face of the agency Lesley Zahara, who started representing artists over 25 years ago, simply loves what she does. Therefore it is no wonder that clients such as Budweiser, BMW, Lufthansa or Adidas appreciate her dedication for every project and her close collaboration with the client and the photographer from assignment to completion.
We spoke to Lesley about her agency and the personal story behind it.
Photographer: Bonnie Holland
Production Paradise: What role does photography play in your life?
Zahara Reps: Photography basically is my life, at least the work part of it. I’ve been an agent and producer for more than 25 years and I can’t imagine what else I’d be doing if not this. It’s invigorating, challenging, frustrating at times, but extremely fulfilling to me. I love what I do.
Photographer: Bonnie Holland
Production Paradise: How did you come up with the idea of having your own talent representation?
Zahara Reps: I didn’t really come up with the idea, it just happened through a personal relationship when I was in my 20‘s and morphed from there. I discovered it was something that I was gifted to do and that I enjoyed, it doesn’t get any better than that!
Production Paradise: Did you focus on specific categories at the beginning, or were you open to different kinds of photography from the start?
Zahara Reps: I have never focused on specific types of photography or categories. I know what I like, and as with all reps I think, we are drawn to what we like on a personal level, which in the end dictates what kind of photographers we end up representing. I like to keep everyone that I take on very much separated as far as the subject matter and style of what they shoot though. I’d never want to have people competing for the same jobs against each other, and I like to have photographers that are vastly different in style, it keeps it interesting as an agency. These days I get an average of 20+ requests every week for representation from all over the world. It’s hard not to want to take on more because there are so many talented photographers out there. I think I have an amazing group, and the market these days is fiercely competitive, but that’s part of what makes it such a great business and keeps us all on our toes.
Photographer: Wilhelm Scholz
Production Paradise: Which photographic category is the most important for you and why?
Zahara Reps: There isn’t a category that’s more important for me, they are all important. My busiest category has always been location work involving people and landscapes. That seems to be the one that spans the most categories and brings in the most work right now. Food and alcohol are also big, but one thing I do tell photographers looking for representation in food and drink, it’s location driven. It’s very hard to get a client and agency to fly across the country to shoot food unless the photographer is so unique that no one else could do the shoot. If you specialise in food you really should choose a city that has a good local base of that type of work, like Chicago or New York.
Photographer: Andy Mahr
Production Paradise: When and why did you decide to expand your agency to New York and Minneapolis?
Zahara Reps: I met my MN partner some years back when she was art buying at Arnold in Boston and we kept in touch. About 5 years ago she ended up moving to MN because of her husbands work so I approached her about joining forces as a rep with ZR. I wanted to expand to cover more territory more effectively. The NY partnership did not work out and Virginia is currently in France for the next 2 years, but we’re figuring out how to keep things going while she’s there.
Photographer: Scott Markewitz
Production Paradise: What are the most important characteristics and strengths a photographer must have to be represented by your agency?
Zahara Reps: I think that I look for a photographer to be as dedicated to his craft as I am to mine. All too often photographers think that once they get a rep they don’t need to participate any more. That’s a huge mistake. I love to collaborate with the people who are focused and understand the amount of hard work and effort involved in this business on both sides. Rep/photographer relationships are a marriage of sorts and have to be nurtured and worked on. I love it when someone really understands the need for advertising and self promotion, and keeping out in the spotlight all the time in every venue available. Personal one on one meetings with agencies are important for a rep but equally as important for the photographer. Sometimes a job is literally won or lost based on how the art buyer or creative on the job feels about the photographer. You also have to spend money to make money and it needs to be consistent… just throwing an ad out there once in a while or doing sporadic email blasts isn’t going to be enough.
Photographer: Andy Mahr
Production Paradise: What are the most recent campaigns shot by your agency that you can share with us?
Zahara Reps: Timberland, Reebok, Purina, Budweiser, Harley Davidson, Kraft, Kinky Vodka, Adidas, Chick-fil-A, to name a few.
Production Paradise: What have you found most useful about being a Production Paradise member?
Zahara Reps: I’m really just getting started with PP so it will be interesting to see how it goes after the launch in the Agents Spotlight!
Photographer: Rob Grimm
You can also find Zahara Reps and other Los Angeles-based photo agents in our directory.