We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Stern and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, what do you attribute your success to?
Hi, I’m the photographer’s commercial advertising agent of SternRep, @AskSternrep, and ASRsocial based in Los Angeles. I’ll tell you why my business has stayed strong for almost 30 years, but it may not be what you expect.
I was always a photographer. My plan of pursuing my goals seemed to be going well as I went to photo school and did the stills on independent films and TV commercials. The big shocker hit me at age 30 that I loved photography but didn’t want to be a photographer. I was stopped in my tracks as this unexpected turn made no sense to me even though I was the one feeling it.
This ‘a-ha’ pivotal change had me on a new unfamiliar roadway where I had no idea where I’d end up. It took some serious soul searching to put together a list (mind-mapping), breaking out the details of my ideal job without knowing my job title. I had to trust and follow what I didn’t know.
I wrote out a mind-mapping chart breaking out all the qualities of “My Ideal Job” and reached out to the president of Seattle’s ASMP Doug Landreth (https://douglandreth.com), to meet with me for his opinion on where I could fit within the photography business. He took one look at my list and said, “oh, you are a rep.” A rep, what’s a rep? That day changed my life. I trusted what I didn’t know; turned it into a lifelong, profoundly satisfying career by actively stepping forward without having the answers.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Repping photographers in the commercial advertising world is a fast-paced competitive industry where clients look to us to set the trends. We all have to stay on our cutting edge, which requires creative imagination.
I’ve repped too many photographers who became comfortable with the incoming jobs instead of pushing themselves forward, resulting in shortened careers. Years ago, I remember some reps didn’t want to move with the times to create a website. As you can imagine, they are no longer repping. Moving ahead with the times is a business requirement that can be avoided for a bit but will eventually bite us in the “butt” and catch up with us. I see it repeatedly with photographers getting comfortable in their experience with what they know. It’s honestly heart-wrenching as a rep to see people’s untapped potential and not be able to nudge them further along.
Perhaps this concept of forward-growth that some have, and others cannot get beyond their past history, is why the advertising photo business tends to be a younger person’s occupation way too often.
I avoided Instagram when it was starting to take off as the hot visual marketing platform, as I did not want to spend my time on my phone. Silly me, to think I could keep my company at the nationally recognized level I had created without figuring out my way to flourish on IG. A very wise art producer pulled me aside and said, “Andrea, you need an online social media presence.” Well, that woke me up, and she was right. If I didn’t jump full force onto Instagram, I could honestly say I may not be in business anymore.
Once I got the hang of it, my @sternrep lit a growing fire in me, invoking the related spin-offs asksternrep.com, temp-repping, and now ASRsocial that have given me a whole new way to define “success.” A success I would not have been able to imagine if I didn’t open up to trying the unfamiliar.
I wonder if the human nature block stems from assuming that we have to do this just like others do instead of finding our way. That may be the key for me; fine-tuning an expression of who I am into my forward-thinking approach is what works.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
https://la.apanational.org organization in Los Angeles for photographers.
https://www.oliviakatz.com for two of the images – Yr1gFVoK.jpeg and Ha87ufAj.jpeg