Jozef Pavleye: I select talented photographers

Jozef Pavleye ( founder of Pavleye Art and Culture (, answers PhotoEkb’s questions.

— How popular is the institution of a photographer’s agent in the Czech Republic?

— Fifteen years ago, when we just started on photography, there were about fifteen professional photographers in the Czech Republic. They mainly did advertising and fashion projects then. Now there are about a hundred of them around, which is quite a lot for Prague: it is, after all, a small town.

There are only about three or four agents who represent photographers in Prague at the moment. This is how things came to work, as this isn’t a particularly profitable occupation, so working as a photographer’s agent in Prague is not a good business.

— Are there any estimates as to what kinds of photographers work with agencies most often?

— Fashion and advertising photography are the most popular kinds, of course, as they yield greatest profits.

— What are the main functions that your agency performs when doing business with a photographer?

— I represent Czech photographers like Anna Mrazek Kovacic, Miro Minarovych, Susanne Spiel, Filip Slapal, Prasad Naik. Also I work as an agent for Europe-based photographer Kurt Stallaert who does things for the American market. He is now fifth in the rating.

Our agency does virtually everything: we find work and orders for photographers, handle their promotion, provide financial services, and create advertising materials.

— How does the agency find a photographer to cooperate with? Is there any new star or talent scout system? Is it possible to provide statistics on the number of photographers who were rejected?

— I always know a new talent when I see it. This is my taste, my understanding.

I normally pick one photographer out of thirty. Some agencies work with great numbers of photographers. We only have a few, but they are all very gifted, and they are true professionals. It is not only through my instinct that I select the talented photographers; whether a photographer can somehow fill the style they are working in, show their portfolio, and demonstrate a concept of sorts is also important for me.

— Do your agency’s experts have any influence over a photographer’s creative activity?

— As for the photographers’ creative process, this is something we discuss in all the detail in every individual case. We speak of things that are trendy at the moment and of things they are interested in.

When the photographers want to add something new to their creative work, we definitely have to discuss this, and we come to an understanding in the end. This is the agent and the photographer’s joint work.

— Are there cases when a photographer’s vision differs from that of the customer, and how does your agency deal with this?

— Such things hardly ever happen. A photographer gets chosen on the basis of his or her portfolio, so the customer is aware of the photographer’s style from the start. In case the photographer and the customer fail to see eye to eye, the job will simply have to be re-done. In every case, the customer is always right. And if we happen to come across an extremely picky customer, we’ll simply stop working with them.

The customer can choose from three or four photographers.

— So the customer is always right?

— Not always. If this is a very picky and quarrelsome customer, no business will be done with them.

— Are there clashes with photographers based on creative differences of opinion?

— Sometimes there can be disagreements in cases when the creative process is involved. I am not the kind of person to talk of creativity to a photographer, since my vision is my vision and my ideas are my ideas. It is always important to offer a photographer a hundred percent support in their creative activity and not to tell them what to do.

— Czech photography is very distinct creative-wise. Are its history and style taken into account when some international projects are at hand?

— One cannot say that’s true of for-profit photography; history is only of secondary importance here. However, where pure art photography is involved, you can definitely see this Czech distinctiveness there.

For-profit photography has no Czech background whatsoever, it only emerged in 1989 after the fall of the Communist regime; this was the moment when for-profit photography as such came into being. I believe the case was pretty much the same in the Soviet Union.

— Some famous Russian photographers say that they don’t get hired when they try to make European-style photographs because it is easier to hire a European photographer from the start. Publishers are looking for a unique vision, it is the specifically Russian vision that they want?

— Yes, this is true. However, it all depends on the style the photography complies with. Perhaps this is a factor for art photography, conceptual photography, or documentary photography.

As far as fashion photography is concerned, it really does not matter what country the photographer comes from.

Naturally, you can tell by looking at a photograph whether its author was European or not. The style of the photograph tells you immediately that it has been taken from, say, ELLE magazine and was made to comply with the European style. Yet a layman will never be able to understand that the photograph was taken by an Indian photographer, whereas someone who knows a thing or two about photography will point out the differences to you at once: the model has a totally different makeup and a different style.

What matters to the publisher is what kind of audience this photograph will have and what part of the world it will be published in.

— Given all the competition, just how much easier does a photographer’s job get with an agent’s services? Is it more economically reasonable to get orders through an agency or to look for them on one’s own?

— First of all, working with a good agency and a good agent is a matter of prestige.

Secondly, a photographer just cannot focus on the process of creation and look for orders at the same time. And when an agent deals with finding orders and building a relationship with a customer, the photographer can concentrate entirely on their work.

— Are there cases when one agency ‘head-hunts’ a photographer from another? Or is switching from one agency to another a photographer’s own business?

— This can happen. Sometimes a photographer is head-hunted or lured into a new agency.

Yet I don’t believe in simply signing agreements between a photographer and an agent. What matters most is the mutual willingness to work together. A contract only works when some non-written agreements and the willingness to work together go along with it. This is what I believe in.

— Are there any prospects for the professional photography’s further development on a business scale in the world?

— Perhaps the job of a professional photographer does not have a future after all, as new technologies keep arriving on the scene every day. In twenty or thirty years, CGI technologies will undergo a total upgrade. So the computer will replace for-profit photography sooner or later. The day a human can be replaced by a computer, and the day you can get a computer-modeled image of a person that looks exactly like the one in the photograph, the job of a professional photographer will cease to exist. I am a realist.

For example, this is already true of object photography: it’s cheaper to create 3D images than take photographs. At the Cannes Festival last year, Samsonite won the grand prix with its fully 3D-based project.

This is why we diversify: in addition to a photo agency, I run another one, Artandculture. We coordinated a photo exhibition for David LaChapelle this year; this has been his largest global exhibition to date, with an after-party for 2,000 people.

We are also coordinating an exhibition for Michel Comte in Bratislava, Slovakia this year. Next year, we are planning on an exhibition for Mario Testino. So, I have quite a few ideas on what to do in the next three years.

— Do you do any photography yourself?

— Nudes only :)

— Does standing next to such famous photographers as David LaChapelle leave you transfixed and breathless?

— No, quite on the contrary. I feel quite at ease around them.

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