Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marie Audier D'Alessandris, Founder of The Select Gallery, located in New York City, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our business is The Selects Gallery, a gallery dedicated to fine art photography. Our photographers are all renowned in fashion photography, having shot the top supermodels of their day and with images published in magazines such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle. Our photographs are printed on demand and in limited editions, making them premier collector's items.
We have a range of clients, from individual buyers who want to add a bit of coolness and edge to their homes to interior designers working to source art for their projects to large-scale developers working on luxury buildings and hotels. Fashion photography can completely transform a space, and our curation is broad enough so that there is something for everyone.
Tell us about yourself
I worked in the fashion and beauty industry for over two decades in marketing positions at Coach, L'Oréal, and Coty. I had the opportunity to work on many photoshoots during my career. I realized that a tremendous amount of creativity went into photoshoots, from which only a few images would be chosen and would have a short lifespan in a magazine before disappearing. Many fashion photographers care about the creation process and shooting, not so much about managing their archives. In parallel, while the genre becomes more established, many foundational fashion photographers are aging. Launching a gallery was the way to retain the images from some of the most outstanding fashion photographers. It became a calling, a necessity to create the gallery and preserve the works before it would be too late.
The fashion photography genre is underpenetrated in the US compared to Europe, and the demand we are seeing will only continue to grow. Fashion photography has seen a considerable increase in museum exhibitions and auctions in recent years, and more and more people, particularly forward-thinking people with stylish interiors, want these images in their homes. Our mission is to provide people with art they love while preserving the history of this genre and telling the stories of photographs and photographers by putting them back in historical context or by sharing their life journeys.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There have been many unexpected and incredibly gratifying accomplishments as a business owner. There is such versatility in how and where we show the works and meet with our collectors and prescribers!
In only a few years, we have collaborated with luxury interior design showrooms such as Ligne Roset, Liaigre, and Par Excellence, exhibited at interior designer showhouses such as the Galerie House of Art + Design, Holiday House New York City, have supported BCRF and Housing works. We have partnered with brands such as YSL, Maison Margiela, Ba&Sh, and Davines. Our work was featured in Kravitz Design's building at 75 Kenmare, spearheaded by the Lenny Kravitz development firm. We are currently on view at One Steuart Lane in San Francisco, a stunning new development designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merril. We have been written about in Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire US and Germany, The Flair Index, and The Eye of Photography, to name a few.
Our most significant achievement, however, is the trust we have built with our artists, a beautiful relationship, and mutual respect. Nothing is more rewarding than those magic moments when we contribute to shed new light on their work, getting the world to understand their art and vision better.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Building a business can be wild at times and scary. The highs are high, and the lows are low. The first discovery of the seasonality of sales was terrifying, and it took me four years to consider that I had proof of concept and that the business would be sustainable. We are a self-funded business; at the beginning, we were a team of one. Consistently finding the internal energy to wear so many hats with no opportunity to discuss can feel draining: from accounting to content creation, day-to-day to business development, and many more. I realized that my ideas very often develop when I express myself out loud, so I created a group of "friends of the gallery" to speak to, with different backgrounds, expertise, and business types, very often entrepreneurs, like an ad hoc, mutually supportive group of advisors. Starting and growing a business is naturally turbulent, so it is an effort to create a sense of balance when facing setbacks or low points. That ever-evolving group of like-minded people and enthusiasts is precious.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
It is a great chance to work in a business or environment that stimulates and elevates you. Photographers are artists who bring their vision of the world with a distinctively refined and edgy worldview formed in the highly creative, on-the-pulse world of Fashion. Working surrounded by the artworks, connecting with the photographers and their vision lifts me. Some love to read a book and I love to learn and speak about fashion photography, so I always have an opportunity to recharge while getting the job done. I also have the chance to be surrounded by people who share a passion for beautiful things and for creating beautiful environments with collectors, architects, or interior designers. We can get quite involved in the process of choosing the right piece, the right format, or the right frame. "When you put your heart and soul into your work, you cannot help but make something beautiful." This quote by Jay Ebben could be a motto for all of us.
It's essential to strike a balance between dreaming and prioritizing. There are so many directions I want to take The Selects Gallery in, so many opportunities to explore and ideas to try. However, it's not always possible to do everything as a small team and a young business. It's essential always to be thinking and evolving, never to limit my thinking about where the company can grow and what new ideas we can incorporate, but also to be realistic about what can be done now and what should be saved for later. In that context, I have learned to identify one key goal for each coming year. I was fascinated to discover that when you put a clear intention to the universe, it comes to fruition." where focus goes, energy flows. And where energy flows, whatever you're focusing on grows"!
Finally, go outside and meet as many people as you can. It is a piece of advice I received from one of my mentors, a very successful entrepreneur when I left the corporate world. In large corporations, the energy is focused on the people within the organization to get the project moving forward. As a leader, it was about collaboration, driving every stakeholder towards a shared vision and one direction.
As an entrepreneur, you have much more limited resources. It is much more unchartered territory and serendipity. The project progresses thanks to the people you meet. Attend events, be curious, connect with people, and connect people together. I was so impressed by the spirit of support and advocacy in the people I met. I feel so enriched and grateful to each of them.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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