BJP, Competitions

Chantal Webber, founder of Webber Represents, on how to win the IPA

Main Image © Jake Webber, courtesy of Webber Represents

Webber Represents was founded in 2001 by Chantal Webber, who will be part of British Journal of Photography’s elite judging panel for the International Photography Award 2017.

Now a renowned creative agency with offices in London and New York, Webber Represents includes on its roster a group of contemporary and emerging photographers – as well as stylists, set designers and art directors – who are helping to define the future of the medium at its most cutting edge.

Chantal Webber became an agent at the age of 20. She started out with the creative collective Tomato and then as picture editor for fashion magazine i-D.

She opened Webber Represents’ New York office in 2006, and has built a reputation for representing photographers who balance active art and commercial careers.

Recalling on the emerging phase of her own career as a photography agent, Webber says: “In my early 20s, I worked briefly for an agent but didn’t really enjoy the process of trying to sell work that I had little or no connection with. I then started assisting a group of photographers who shared a studio, and as there weren’t many photo agents back then this progressed into me showing their work to people and meeting potential clients.

“Having worked so closely with the photographers, I had a good understanding of their process and I felt excited by the possibility of finding them commercial work which could both help develop their career and be financially rewarding. Knowing the work on that level was an important factor in being able to help them find the right collaborations and commissions.”

More recently, the company launched Webber Gallery Space, which hosts exhibitions showing the work of established and emerging photographers, both on and off roster. “Encouraging the personal practice of our artists is very much at the heart of the agency, so having the gallery plays an important part in supporting this.”

With a focus on the convergence between the commercial and established photography industry and the personal, relational art work that photographers create, Webber Represents see itself as “having a distinct balance between the opportunity to develop a creative outlet through the support of commercial practice”.

“The lines between fine art and commercial photography are blurring. Whilst this has always been the case for some, it now seems to be more acceptable to set out on this path and not have to choose between the two, paving the way for an exciting generation of young photographers whose personal and commercial practices are intertwined,” Webber says.

Bur what is Webber looking for in the IPA winner?

“What always stands out is a distinct voice or a sense of authorship,” she says. “ It’s instinctive – the work will connect because there’s an authentic voice behind it, or an emotional element to it.”

For young photographers who aspire to create a career in this industry, Webber says: “ I think it’s important not to become categorised by others too early on in your career, or at all. One of the things I find exciting about now is this blurring between the genres of photography. I think that in itself is good to be aware of, allowing yourself the space and time to develop your own language.

“With so many different platforms and processes available, now more than ever, there are emerging photographers using those unique combinations to make work unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“It’s very easy to become caught up with trying to predict where the industry might be heading and what’s going to happen next, but if you remain true to yourself and do what inspires you, that will create its own momentum.”

The deadline for BJP’s International Photography Award has been extended to Monday 28 November.

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