DPP Home Profiles Martin Wonnacott: Cake Factory

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Martin Wonnacott: Cake Factory

Photographer Martin Wonnacott set out to build a kinder, gentler agency—and he has succeeded


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"I gave him the first shoot to handle for me," Wonnacott says, "to show, hey, some people want to work with me here. It was a campaign for Coca-Cola through Ogilvy in New York to launch Sprite Zero—not a bad first shoot. He then put me on his website."

Within three months, Wonnacott says, the agent had billed more than a half million dollars in assignments. The rep was happy. The photographer, alas, was not.

"He was an awkward character," Wonnacott says of his now former rep, "and a bit too old-fashioned in his approach to the industry. He was also about to start a new agency with another rep that was to be much larger; eventually, it would represent over 20 photographers."

This episode spurred Wonnacott to take Cake-Factory stateside, too. The photographer-rep relationship didn't need to be this way, he knew, and so he worked full force to reshape it.

Wonnacott's ideal agency would remain small—still representing only four photographers, including the owner. They wouldn't compete with one another, and they would incorporate the most refined branding and marketing with an award-winning website and stunning portfolios. In short, he'd run an agency the way a photographer would run an agency—and it would work wonderfully.

"I always wanted to have a very disciplined approach to our marketing," Wonnacott says, "as this was something I could never have any control over with my previous agent. It was also something that drove me crazy—seeing piles of photographers' cards with different designs all lumped together and sent out with folios. I might add it bugged me that my agent would send not one book, but two or three, sometimes in hope of getting a job for someone if the art buyer didn't like who they called in. This never ever happens at Cake-Factory.

"I wasn't very impressed by the way people worked," he continues of his previous experience with hired representatives, "and without being arrogant, it was a bit sloppy, and I didn't really believe in what they were doing and the way they were presenting people. There was no coherent messaging that was coming out. It was kind of scattergun. I'm not going to say it's not rocket science, but it was something like, ‘You know, if you cared a bit more, it could be presented better.' And I'm not putting down other agents; I don't want that to come across. It's not, ‘Hey, we do it better than anyone,' because obviously that's absolute rubbish. Everyone's got their own way of approaching things. But how I felt was if I'm going to be represented by someone… Your agent is an extension of yourself. And it was that simple: No, thanks."

So now with Cake-Factory, Wonnacott has done things the way he feels they could have been done all along. He has had his lawyer draw up contracts for photographers that are generally fairer, more "gentlemanly," than he had experienced before. He can sleep well at night.

"The relationship is much more close-knit," he says, "a bit more intimate, smaller as well. It's not massive stables of people. A lot of the ‘scattergun' agencies, from the artist perspective, there's certainly an element of getting lost in the big mix. There's no question of that. And this is something we're obviously quite focused on, staying small."


 

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