Nelly Gocheva from T Brand Studio/The New York Times on new trends in lifestyle photography and our Spotlight Awards
We have the pleasure of hosting Nelly Gocheva, Global Editorial Director at T Brand Studio, The New York Times on the judging panel for the 2019 Spotlight Awards. Discover more in this interview as she discusses what she will be looking for in the People & Lifestyle category.
Production Paradise: Could you give us some insight into your background and your journey to becoming a Global Editorial Director at T Brand Studio International?
Nelly Gocheva: My background is in media and journalism. I started my career working on daily news digests for Factiva, and after getting an M.A. in International Journalism from City University in London I went on to work for Monocle. It was the early days of the company, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a diversity of projects and roles — from setting up and leading the Toronto bureau, writing and editing current affairs briefings or overseeing retail and fashion supplements to launching the Travel Guide series. I was even an interim business editor. By the time I left, we’d grown from a team of 30-ish to a brand with about 100 staff across six international bureaus, an online radio station, retail, cafes, newspaper offerings and a book publishing arm. There I got direct exposure to the commercial side of media, masterminding brand partnerships and advertorials. When T Brand came calling in 2015, it was an exciting time for content marketing, when native advertising was going through a sort of renaissance via a journalistic approach to creative storytelling and content partnerships between brands and publishers.
Production Paradise: What made you want to be a judge on the panel?
Nelly Gocheva: I’ve always had a soft spot for photography, and my career has always revolved around visual storytelling — whether commissioning business features around North America, interviewing city mayors and heads of state, or working on fashion spreads and editing books and travel guides. From the early days at Monocle to today’s content partnerships at The New York Times, my editorial and branded content work has always gone hand in hand with creative, including photography. Therefore, I’m constantly looking for talent and curious to discover new trends and techniques.
Production Paradise: What are some of the trends you see in People & Lifestyle imagery?
Nelly Gocheva: On one hand, we see brighter, louder colors and compositions with a pinch of irony. At the opposite end of the spectrum, simple, natural imagery remains really impactful: real people, feelings and moments. Also, with the rise of social media and mobile-first content, there’s been an embarrassment of riches where everyone can be a photographer — for better or for worse. Now we’re starting to see a new trend, led by Gen Z and emerging as an offset of the usually well-orchestrated “pretty” images on social — the use of raw, unstaged imagery of authentic moments to shape new visual storytelling.
Production Paradise: What sort of images would you like to see in the competition?
Nelly Gocheva: I want to see shots that tell real stories, genuine and unstaged — documentary-style photography that speaks directly to viewers. I’m looking for photos that pique curiosity and spark a reaction to secure my (and wider audiences’) attention: laughter, inspiration, shock, surprise. That being said, I won’t lie — I’m a huge fan of Viviane Sassen and Martin Parr’s work and organically lean toward similar approach and aesthetics.
Production Paradise: What are you looking for in a photographer?
Nelly Gocheva: An eye for great storytelling and perfect timing for *that* unique shot. But also professionalism, delivering on time and someone who’s a good team player. I’ve spent a lot of my career working with photographers on assignments, and a good working relationship is crucial in recommending or commissioning the same photographer again.
Production Paradise: How important are online platforms for finding new talent?
Nelly Gocheva: I think from a publisher or agency point of view, online platforms are helpful as a one-stop directory to scope talent, especially as we work across multiple industries, where photo needs differ from project to project. Also, when it comes to global projects around the world, you often need to identify trusted local photographers or someone who can easily travel for such assignments.
We thank Nelly for taking the time to speak to us; now you know how to catch this judge’s eye, pick your best People & Lifestyle shots and enter the Spotlight Awards!