Anita Corbin, How winning an award kickstarted her success as a photographer
1.What is your business?
Photography; editorial portraiture, photojournalism and creative images for annual reports, prospectus, websites, brochures and exhibitions. My partner in business and pleasure is John O’Grady! We set up Corbin O’Grady Studios in 1984 and we are professional photographers specialising in making people look good.
2. What prompted you to start up in business?
In 1980, whilst still a 3rd year photography student at the Polytechnic of Central London, I entered a Sunday Times/ Nikon competition “Young Photojournalist of the Year”; my “Girls in Sport” series caught the judges’ eyes and I was given an “honourable mention”. A whole page of published pictures in a national magazine was exactly what I needed to launch my career at the highest level, it was a steep learning curve but I soaked up every minute , working along side the great photographers, art directors and designers of the day was a huge honour and unique experience. This lucky break reinforced my belief in myself and my talents, I knew I could do it. I became a regular freelancer with the Sunday Times magazine for the next 15 years, shooting portraits for human interest stories.
3. What was the market situation when you started up?
In 1981 the market for editorial photography was alive and kicking; colour supplements were commissioning original features and sending photographers and journalists all over the world. I wanted some of this action but it was a very competitive market and as a 22 year old woman in a male dominated world I had to be better than good, I had to be excellent and willing to work at the drop of a hat. I had a long an fruitful relationship with The Observer Magazine and travelled to some fantastic locations, every job was different and I began to develop my intuitive style.
In the mid 1980’s the market opened up as businesses recognised the power of strong imagery in their annual reports and other literature, we set up Corbin O’Grady Studio in Waterloo and began working with the top graphic design consultancies, in a city that’s well know for cutting edge design, on annual reports for the Blue Chip companies.... It was a period of rapid growth and our wide ranging skills in photography were in demand, so much so that we would often take all of the images in an annual report; portrait, abstract, landscape, product. It was a very competitive time and we had to work hard and respond quickly to the evolving market.
4. Do you have a vision for your business and if so, what is it?
To observe and interpret the world and to create images that move and inspire.
More personally; to initiate an archive of images of 21st century women- “Women 1st”
5. What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome and how did you do it?
Rejection was the biggest obstacle, I soon realised that I had to believe in my own abilities and not to take rejection (by art directors or designers) personally.
6. How did you find the finance to get started?
My Dad set me up with my first Nikon kit in 1981 - since then we’ve always reinvested in our business. In 1988, when we launched our new studio, a DTI grant helped to pay for our corporate identity design.
7. What are your personal qualities that have that have helped you to succeed in business? Determination, creative energy, physical strength, passion for photography, communication skills, self belief.
8. How do you keep going when things get tough?
Take a walk in nature...we moved to Somerset at the end of the 90’s.
Take in the details, soak up the beauty...remind myself that photography is my destiny!
9. How do you measure success?
Seeing our pictures published and exhibited, our images are out there in the world communicating a positive message.
Work from my archival exhibition of “Visible Girls” a study of Girls in Subculture, forming a major part of the syllabus for photography students at a London University.
Testimonials from clients are always a good sign!
10. If you had one piece of advice for a woman starting out in business, what would it be?
Nurture the creative aspects of your business, be honest with your clients and they will respect you.
Have a question for Sue? Ask or leave a comment below!