Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Martin Wonnacott: Cake Factory
Photographer Martin Wonnacott set out to build a kinder, gentler agency—and he has succeeded
When a photographer runs an agency, he makes damn sure that the details—particularly those pertaining to the visual identity of the company—are attended to. Wonnacott's own website won a Webby Award, and he puts more attention (and funding) into the Cake-Factory site than he can imagine any agency has ever put into their own site. It's because most agencies aren't run by photographers.
"Our website costs a bit to do," he says. "For a small agency, normally you wouldn't go to these lengths. In a way, we have more choice and freedom to do things than a larger agency because we're probably better funded than most of them. Obviously, a big agency has generally a larger income, but they employ more staff and the whole thing just scales up."
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.Though Wonnacott runs the show (he's quick to point out this isn't a co-op, it's not Magnum), he never did get mixed up with actually being an agent himself. He's a photographer, and he owns an agency, but he has no interest in being an agent. He's always hired talented reps who were keen on working within his system.
"There have been a couple of people over the years," he says, "that you say, ‘This may not be quite the right fit.' You've got to appreciate that some people who want to do this job have got their vision. Actually, it's our vision. So it's picking the right person who works within those parameters."
Cake-Factory currently represents four artists. In addition to Wonnacott, the still-life and beverage master, are Chris Bailey, who makes amazing images of cars, Bob Martin, sports and action photographer, and Darran Rees, creator of lifestyle and landscape photographs. As agency owner, Wonnacott lobbies on behalf of each of them. He doesn't run the ship with a heavy hand, preferring instead to stay mostly behind the scenes, consulting on design and creative aspects, and pitching in to attend meetings when help is needed.
"In New York," he says, "Tammy and her assistant, Nicole, they do the meetings. In London, Hazel goes out and does the meetings. I still look at it as a small, cuddly, cozy, little operation, but quite sharp. And I'm quite proud of its reputation."
Cake-Factory's reputation for quality isn't all he's talking about. Wonnacott is also referring to his agency's photographers not being divas, not being difficult, not being all-around pains in the arse. It's not just a preference. It's policy.
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