Saturday, November 1, 2008

Red Square Photography Turns 10

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Red Square Photography. Just writing that sentence feels strange since I still consider photography my "new" career.

Back in November 1998, I had grown tired of the advertising business. As any ad agency staff can attest to, burnout is easy when you're overworked, underpaid and spend your days (plus some nights, weekends and holidays) surrounded by the wittiest, most intelligent, manipulative, fun and narcissistic people. I fell in love with TV and print advertising at a very young age and always thought I belonged in that industry. But after eight years in agency account management, I became depressed with the realization that the more brilliant our ideas, the more tumultuous the process of getting them approved and produced.

Finally, at famed Miami design firm Pinkhaus it was Joel Fuller who pulled the plug. He told me, "Corey, you're not the guy I heard about before we hired you" and he was absolutely right. He also said, "All the clients think you hate them" and he was right about that too. I agreed with Joel on all accounts, made a sincere apology and left that Friday with my final paycheck.

The very next morning, I got a call from Palm Beach interior designer Annick Presles who does very opulent residential work in South Florida and the Caribbean. My in-laws hired Annick to decorate their home and she had seen some snapshots I took around the house just for fun. She told me they were very good shots and that she would pay me to shoot her projects. I asked her if this type of photography was a real job and she replied in her very French accent, "Oh yes, I pay architectural photographers thousands of dollars."

That was all I needed to hear. I shot the job for Annick and began assisting Dan Forer, a veteran architectural photographer based in Miami. I told him that I had just given up my $70,000/year advertising job, my wife is three months pregnant and I wanted to be his assistant. Dan said, "Great, you can start at $5 per hour."

Lucky for me, I was also starting to shoot real estate for a Sotheby's affialiate in Boca Raton called Premier Estate Properties. Premier had three marketing-savvy partners who wanted to build their brand with the distinctive look of super high quality architectural images. They saw the value of good photography in not only selling properties but wowing a homeowner into giving them the listing to start. Over the next six years, I would shoot hundreds of homes for Premier, most of them massive estates which not only built my architectural portfolio but gave my client editorial coverage they would not have received with the typical low quality images like the rest of their industry.

That was how Red Square started. As of today, total company sales during the last 10 years have been $1,760,465.78 with the bulk of that from the last six years. While I do work from home in a mostly fee-based business, this number still includes travel expenses, employee payroll, equipment and other outside costs so it's not my personal income. But, what that number represents to me is the total value of my work to all of my clients. That's what they have given me to create marketing tools to help sell their products. In a way, I'm still in advertising.

Behind the scenes there are a few people who have been with me since Day 1 and they must be acknowledged. First is Lauren White who for 10 years has kept my books in order, taxes paid, forms filed and QuickBooks running. This is one job that I could not do.

The other person I have to thank is my wife Katia who was only supportive when I decided to change careers. Since then, she has spent many dusks and dawns alone with our kids so I can travel. She never gets to come with me when I work in amazing places like China, Bali or some island in the Caribbean. And now that I'm doing more resort lifestyle, I'm coming home with shots of models running on the beach or half-naked on a massage table. How many wives would put up with that? She knows she can trust me and she's right because I am doing this job for my family. I remember Addie Lorber (wife of photographer Peter Lorber) once told me, "We aren't 'photo wives' we are 'photo widows.'"

As for the future, I can see three things on the horizon (not including a painful recession): video, a new website and more photo products.

First, I've been experimenting with architectural timelapse HD video which I find a beautiful and natural progression from still images. I'm teaching myself Final Cut but have yet to find a commercial client willing to pay for this type of moving imagery. For the website, I have contracted with famed Belgian web designers Group94 for a complete re-design of the portfolio site which will launch next month. Last, Red Square's sister company Kamra will continue to make photo-based decorative and food service items for hotels and restaurants. It's been a slow start but I still believe the idea has potential. We will see.

This blog post officially concludes the first 10 years of Red Square Photography. Next update: November 2018.

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