Contacts all over the world are of the utmost importance for Westend61. Oliver Marquardt (46), who is head of International Sales, plays a key role in this network. This is a large domain, as it encompasses much more than the mere sale of stock photography: “I maintain relations with other agencies and supply them with our photos, look for new partners to cooperate with, and do training,” he explains. It’s no wonder Oliver often travels the world; after all, Westend61 has business connections not only throughout Europe, but also in China, Korea, Japan, the United States, and Canada.
Born in Gelsenkirchen, he has lived in Cologne since 2001; there he also has his office and his own photo studio. After studying economics at the Ruhr University in Bochum, he first worked for a year in an advertising agency before then switching to the photo agency sector. For several years he worked for a German subsidiary of the British photo agency, Image Source, where, for five years until 2009, he was last responsible for “pretty much everything,” as Oliver says. “This was a brilliant start because it laid the groundwork for my work today,” he says in retrospect. The largely autonomous way of working, the many international contacts, and the practical experience in all aspects of the stock photography market not only expanded his skills, but also his horizons.
A feel for the customer’s wishes is important
Of course the comparatively short time in the advertising industry before that also prepared him for his current responsibilities. The work “on the other side” sharpened his focus on the needs of Westend61’s customers: “In advertising, you are always working under time pressure. That’s why it’s often about how to get good pictures fast.” So, it is important for a photo agency to not only offer good content, but to also be able to provide it quickly and above all with a sure instinct for the needs of the customer. And on the data highway of 2019, “fast” means something completely different than it did in the early 2000s, when images were still sent via ISDN, Oliver remembers with a smile.
So much has changed since the days of Oliver’s youth when he took his first steps as a photographer with an analog camera and then later through the rapid digitalization of photography. In 2010, he also began to offer his own photos. The continuous development of his own photography skills is another important prerequisite for his work because, as a photographer, his own view through the viewfinder complements the perspectives of the advertising expert and sales professional.
This know-how helps Oliver to provide a human relations service for the photographers who work for Westend61. Once or twice a year, he and his colleagues suggest a meeting in the Cologne area to pick up the photographers’ suggestions and ideas and to keep them up to date on developments in the stock photography market.
Recognizing new trends as they are still emerging
After all, Oliver Marquardt and his team move in a constantly changing environment. Although it always remains the basic goal to awaken emotions in the viewer using special images, the paths to this change and visual language and trends are always developing. “I believe, for example, that the concept of authenticity is currently being redefined,” Oliver observed, explaining, “Until now, it often looked as if the photographer was really just an observer. But in the meantime, pictures can again seem a bit posed and over-the-top – as long as you accept that the people portrayed stand for something.”
In addition to such trends in photography, it is the major social trends that constantly shift the focus in the colorful world of images, and good intuition is required to observe them. The fact that many movements also evoke countermovements, which sometimes lead to social polarizations, does not make the task any easier. A current example is the sometimes emotional debate on climate protection, which impacts many areas of life. “That’s a big challenge for the photo agencies,” Oliver is certain. “It’s all about the question: What form of photography manages to depict the largest possible part of society or to serve important niches?” That’s why he is convinced that “market research and market monitoring will become an increasingly important area of work.”
This is all the more true for a premium stock agency like Westend61, where they want to offer not only high-quality images, but also tailor-made solutions for demanding customers. This requires that new trends are not only taken up when they have already arrived in society, but that they also feel, so to speak, as if they are still in the making. As a result, Oliver is convinced: “Premium photography must always be one step ahead of the trends.”