”It seems to us that there is a huge shift in how the industry and photographers are operating and the lines between fine art and commercial photography are blurring, paving the way for young photographers who are prepared to take risks and establish a career across both worlds. As a commercial agency we have always strived to develop the personal work of all our photographers and having a gallery space was a natural progression to this”.
Webber Projects is a new endeavor created from the basis of a photographic agency expanding into exhibitions of new talent such as Daniel Shea, Thomas Albdorf, and Gregory Halpern. With offices in New York and London, they operate in both capitals with a flow towards showcasing the work and helping their talent also work commercially. It is a fresh synthesis between art and getting photographers paid.
BF: Unseen is known as a fair where chances can be taken in terms of what galleries show. Your roster of young talent is pretty intense with Daniel Shea, Thomas Albdorf, and Gregory Halpern. The fair, in effect, seems like a perfect place for Webber Gallery Space to exhibit. Can you tell us a bit about how the gallery came to focus on such young talent?
Dominic Bell: The focus on younger talent is not wholly intentional but more a result of those particular artists being open to working in new ways outside of the traditional gallery environment, meaning Unseen is the perfect place for us to exhibit this year. It is our first international art fair since opening the gallery in 2014 and our audience has grown quickly in that time because of the roster and program. It seems to us that there is a huge shift in how the industry and photographers are operating and the lines between fine art and commercial photography are blurring, paving the way for young photographers who are prepared to take risks and establish a career across both worlds. As a commercial agency we have always strived to develop the personal work of all our photographers and having a gallery space was a natural progression to this.
BF: How does Webber projects work with operations in both New York and London? There seems to be a commercial side and a serious oncoming focus on selling original works. The confluence of this, entrepreneurially speaking, looks like it could be huge. How does the business make decisions on what to focus on in different environments?
DB: There is a constant line of communication between London and the New York office. The audiences and reception to work between the US and Europe can vary hugely, so we maintain perspective on what is coming out and where things are heading which informs our decisions. The three directors, Chantal Webber, Daisy Parker and Tom Claxton put a strong emphasis on maintaining a close relationship with the artists and keep them at the center of all decisions. Commercially the work is split between the offices with our photographers working worldwide to cover all kinds of briefs and projects. We are still at the early stages of our objectives, but we’re now starting to see a real interest in print sales from both sides. Working with such strong photographers who are pushing exhibitions and personal work helps drive ventures like Unseen and sales with independent clients but it also develops commercial opportunities.
@ Mark Peckmezian
@ Thomas Alborf
@ Daniel Shea
“I think having the ability to work between commercial and fine art gives photographers a greater perspective of their own work, which helps develops their careers and sustain interest in their style of imagery”.
BF: I’ve known you since your time with Michael Hoppen in London. Is there quite a big difference between the new venture and the standard format from your previous experience? You had worked with vintage images as well as older more established artists? Are there extremes between working with youthful artists and directors over those that have been in the business of strict art sales?
DB: The pace is so fast here and opportunities pop up at any given time, which is part of the reason I was so interested in joining Webber. It was also really interesting, for me, to see a commercial agency working with the likes of Gregory Halpern and Daniel Shea and not shying away from embracing both fields of their work. I think having the ability to work between commercial and fine art gives photographers a greater perspective of their own work, which helps develops their careers and sustain interest in their style of imagery. There’s also the advantage that the Gallery Space is positioned at a slightly different angle to other galleries meaning we may be able to take more risks with our exhibition schedule and the artists we work with. It’s clear that young photographers are becoming increasingly aware that there is an opening to work between both industries and this is driving them to experiment visually. It feels like this young audience is also more open to communication and collaboration that creates new chances and development.
BF: About Thomas Albdorf…what an interesting process and synthesis between photography and sculpture. Can you talk a bit about his process from your position and why it works for the gallery, as it is quite different from Halpern for example…
DB: Thomas is our most recent addition to the roster and he has been on our radar for a long time. He is positioned perfectly where we see a lot of the most interesting developments in photography occurring and he has an insane understanding of contemporary photography and how to communicate these themes visually. Obviously there has been a huge resurgence in sculptural photography and Thomas’ work explores our obsession with objects and intervention. Perhaps we feel the need to have a physical involvement in photography again, something we lost with digital which is why so many people find his work compelling.
BF:I interviewed Daniel Shea for Unseen this year. I find his ability to sort of work as a chameleon through genre’s within the medium fascinating. His images of Obama, Michael Gira, M.I.A. juxtaposed against a steady conceptual side is fascinating and quite rare. Do you ever find yourself in the position where you show the conceptual images, but clients are as interested in the commercial work? Do you sell physical images of his commercial works?
DB: We get a lot of interest in Daniel’s commercial work as physical prints – that is what is so encouraging, that his work has a great level of consistency and style no matter where it sits. There is obviously a great audience aware of works of his like Blisner but this is the same crowd who were so responsive and expressive to his photographs of Obama you mentioned. The vast amount of our commercial clients are now looking at and referring to Daniels personal work in relation to briefs, and when you look through his portfolio there is a strong mix of both – which is the case for all of our photographers.
BF I see you almost yearly for Unseen, what is it that brings you back here to the fair every year?
DB: The audience there is conscious of the shift happening in photography and the majority of the artists exhibited are working in magazines, commercially and on gallery walls, so it is exciting to be a part of that. Unseen has also managed to consistently develop and further their program meaning walking round the fair is a very different experience to your standard art fair, they also seem conscious of the shift in audiences and industries. The photographic industry is an incredibly complex social web sometimes and it is so fantastic to see it all come together at Unseen for a few days and the enthusiasm from everyone involved.
Look forward to seeing you there!
(All rights reserved. Text @ ASX. Images @ the artists.)