I received an email this week from Leslie Simitch who is EVP of Trunk Archive. Trunk Archive is a fairly new image licensing company that represents the archives of photographers such as Terry Richardson, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, Pamela Hanson, Raymond Meier, Brigitte Lacombe, Martien Mulder, Francois Halard, amongst many others. With all of the stock/image licensing options out there I wanted to dig a little deeper. Here’s a little Q&A with Leslie along with images from the Archive.

CM: When did Trunk Archive officially open?

LS: Trunk Archive was actually launched 3 years ago in Denmark. In June 2007 the original group of that started the company hired Matthew Moneypenny to be their CEO. I would say that Trunk Archive as we know it today “officially opened” at that point.

CM: I recently read a PDN article on how its been a bad year for stock photography but Getty owned micro-stock site iStock has prospered. PDN reported that iStock will clear $200M this year and they made 72 million in 2007. How are you competing in a market where iStock flourishes?

LS: Actually we’ve flourished this year; tracking to triple last year’s sales (which is a faster rate of growth than iStock). I think that our success is due to the fact that we represent the direct opposite of what is on offer from the micro-stock business. Our business model is based on the idea of promoting individual artists and their archives. We don’t sell “stock photos.” We only license the work of very high-end photographers, in many cases making this level of work available for the first time. For instance Raymond Meier, Brigitte Lacombe and Miles Aldridge’s images were never available through an image licensing agency until now. Also we are very aware how important great customer service is, and this has been an enormous part of our success. We are offering a bespoke, boutique service. We do free image research, we offer free comps to good clients, we’re reachable 24 hours a day. All of the people that work here appreciate and understand great photography – most have previously worked at Conde Nast magazines, Art + Commerce, Box Digital, Magnum or at other high-end photographers’ agencies. We also put a very substantial effort into sales and marketing – both digitally and through printed media. We travel to see clients across the US, Europe, Russia, South America and Asia. We are growing so fast because of the increasing global demand for this level of art, a demand that can’t be filled by micro stock or a traditional stock library.

CM: How negotiable have you been on pricing? How much power do you have on pricing? Do photographer’s get pricing approval?

LS: Because the level of our photography is so high, our prices are higher than those at other agencies. Our clients realize that. But we are definitely aware that many of our clients don’t have the budgets that they had last year, so we figure out creative ways to work with them. We don’t have rate cards, each license is hand negotiated. Every license that we do is approved by the photographer beforehand, for price and for placement.

CM: There are a lot of high end stock resources these days like Gallery Stock, Art + Commerce Anthology, Eurostock, Aperture Images and Redux Pictures, what sets you apart from them?

LS: Well, first of all, what sets us apart are our photographers. We represent each of them exclusively. You can quickly see that Gallery Stock and Trunk Archive have a very different kind of content. Other image resources that you mention such as Art + Commerce are tied to their representation roster. Eurostock, Aperture and Redux don’t have images created on the budgets (or with the level of subjects) as the work our artists are able to create. On the other hand we work very collaboratively with all of the upper tier assignment agencies.

CM: What is your best selling image so far?

LS: A Miles Aldridge image of a close-up of a woman eating a sandwich has licensed countless times. One of our highest grossing images is a simple but beautiful image of pink tulips.

CM: What Clients have you been selling to?

LS: We’ve been licensing to over 2,000 clients worldwide. Editorial clients are as diverse and wide ranging as Hungarian GLAMOUR and Russian GQ and Brazilian CASA VOGUE and PARIS MATCH amongst hundreds and hundreds of other magazines around the world. We also license to advertising agencies, both large and small. Some of these companies are located in Dublin, others in Sao Paolo, others in St Louis. We are licensing images to hotels, restaurants and retail spaces. There are so many interesting places to license images these days, we’re excited by the possibilities

© Brigitte Lacombe 

© Achim Lippoth

© Miles Aldridge

© Jenny Van Sommers

© Raymond Meier

© Walter Chin

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