Solus Images

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It's no secret that the stock photography business is all about finding a niche outside the massive Corbis and Getty collections. Nearly three years ago, Arie Kopelman recognized that he could leverage his experience and connections as head of the American Society of Media Photographers and attorney to the Society of Illustrators, and transform his Direct Stock promotional catalog into a full-service agency that would have "the cachet to attract the more artistic and sophisticated photographers, some never before represented in the stock market, while serving the upper end of the advertising stock market that's driven by time constraints."

The result: He launched Solus Images ( about a year ago, with a library of images by well-known assignment photographers like Paul Aresu, Magdalena Caris, David Katzenstein, Henrik Kam, Antony Nagelmann, Lars Topelmann and Christoph Wilhelm. Many of them maintain dual careers, publishing monographs and exhibiting prints in galleries and museums while serving Mammon with commercial imagery. Signing with Solus enables them to gain income from both, through the same outlet.

Kopelman divides the 8,000-image library into three categories: Solus Gallery, a selection of personal work with an aesthetic strong enough to stand on its own even without an advertising or editorial context; Solus Vision, which strives to match the style and technique usually seen only in assignment images; and, because stock image marketing cannot live by Art alone, Solus Classic, which collects more mainstream images.

If the economics of stock requires Kopelman to offer the Classic collection, his heart is in the Vision and, even more so, the Gallery libraries. "I don't want to be bored by what I do and I like really good imagery," says Kopelman, not to be confused with the other Arie Kopelman, who ran DDB's New York office in the 1980s. They're first cousins.

Ad agencies represented more than 80 percent of Solus' sales in its first year, but a design firm was the first to license an image from the Gallery collection - a delicate latticework of bare tree limbs by Gary Gnidovic that appears in a variety of collateral materials for a human resource software company.

To help him build the library, Kopelman brought in as director of content Phyllis Giarnese, who ran Pete Turner's studio during the 1980s, then edited at FPG before becoming Kopelman's co-conspirator. "Solus was interesting to me because I knew we could build an archive from the ground up with images that wouldn't sell 10 years ago," says Giarnese. "I believe Solus is the first stock agency conceived from the outset to market photographers' personal and commercial imagery under the same umbrella."

During Giarnese's tenure with Turner she sat in on conceptual brainstorming meetings with creatives, an experience she draws upon while meeting with photographers to suggest images they might create for the collections. "We're not just after the trendiest images and there isn't a single 'Solus look' in any of the collections," she explains. "We want to be as eclectic as possible and allow the photographers to bring their personal vision into the archive. We're looking for images that are quick reads that get to the heart of the matter." And, Kopelman notes, many of the Solus images are drawn from the photographers' most original work, because no one was looking over their shoulder when they tripped the shutter.

A lawyer and consultant to photographers, illustrators and designers, Kopelman's first foray into marketing was a talent directory, NY Gold, with Ira Shapiro, publisher of American Showcase and a partner in Solus. He persuaded a law client, the late, legendary Tibor Kalman of M & Co., to design NY Gold's second edition, and Kalman thought to add a single line of copy to the mailing box: "This is not a hat." Although Kopelman approved the concept - the project remained in M & Co.'s portfolio for years afterward - he admits that he never really understood what Kalman meant by the line, beyond its vague association with the well-known Magritte painting of a pipe, until he and Giarnese were preparing Solus' first catalog. "Tibor wanted to get across the idea that people wouldn't know what they would find in the book until they actually looked inside," he explains.

That's even more relevant now that Kopelman and Giarnese are pushing the envelope of what can be found in a stock image collection. So, non-hats off to them.

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