Creative Director Martine Prässl has a key role at Westend61 because she is where the creative department’s threads intersect: Martine coordinates and supports the team in looking after the photographers—a wide range of tasks extending from acquiring and processing applications to the entire communication and support of production right through to image selection. Her staff consists of three full-time and two freelance art directors, an employee for content development and creative research as well as an employee in content management who is primarily responsible for quality control.
And that’s not by any means all: “I’m also continuously working on our visual language and how we communicate it outwardly. This includes, for example, selecting motifs for our website as well as for marketing and features in social networks,” explains Martine Prässl. And she must constantly (at least) keep an eye on the big wide world of images out there in order to recognize relevant trends and market developments early on. These observations then flow into the INSPIRE magazine with which the Westend61 team regularly keeps its photographers up to date.
Personal contact with the photographers important
After all, it is the women and men behind the camera who use their creativity to create the products that Westend61 markets. Yet the personal contact between photographer and agency, as it is practiced here, is by no means a matter of course in the industry; no one knows this better than Martine, who has worked with picture agencies for almost 30 years, most recently with Getty Images for 13 years. Good support for the photographers was also one of the reasons why she made Westend61 her new professional home five years ago: “From the very beginning, I particularly liked the fact that the pictures and above all those who produce them, the photographers, come first,” says Martine.
In Martine’s experience, the fact that a small, enthusiastic team with power and flat hierarchies is at work here not only benefits the working atmosphere and the motivation of colleagues, but also has a tangible advantage in tough competition: “Because the company is comparatively small, it is also very flexible when it comes to picking up on and implementing new ideas,” explains the creative director.
As already mentioned, the Westend61 team and its photographers operate in an ever-changing market environment that is driven largely by trends. Capturing and analyzing these flows is an important prerequisite for success. “In our work, we deal very intensively with megatrends, such as digitalization, individualization, and mindfulness, because these topics are very much relevant to society, and it is not possible to produce customer-relevant images without portraying these trends,” Martine knowingly explains. At the same time, however, many, sometimes very different, image styles exist successfully side by side in the world of stock photography. Against this backdrop, finding the right imagery in this environment requires experience, intuition, and creativity. “In any case, it is quite clear that the development of visual language in advertising and stock photography is strongly oriented toward social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. The snapshot-like, subjective visual representation there has had a lasting influence on our viewing habits,” Martine ascertains.
Recognizing trends and responding to customer wishes
Market observation and close coordination with the photographers are one side of Martine’s job, proximity to the customer the other. “In conversing with our customers, we find out exactly what is wanted and can then incorporate this directly into our work,” she explains. It’s, of course, all hard work, although Martine rarely finds it so. Since her youth she has been passionate about photography, and you could say that her hobby and profession have become one.