In honor of our Mash-Up issue, we sat down with Susan Delgado and Nicholas Timmons, a pair of collaborators who just celebrated the 20th anniversary of their photography business, the aptly named Double Image Studio. As graduates of the Communications Arts program at VCU, the two crossed paths several times at commercial photography businesses in the area before officially collaborating.
It was when Delgado and Timmons discovered that they were both bilingual (but in different languages) and each came from a multicultural background that things began to come together. Starting a business together did not seem illogical. Noting that they are the type of best friends that finish each other’s sentences, it has been a self-described “fantastic voyage.” They love what they do and it comes across clearly to clients and friends alike.
20 years of business gives you an interesting period to reflect on. For example, the complete conversion from film-to-digital occurred during that period. What have been your key takeaways?
SUSAN: We felt the central reason for our partnering and teaming together was the idea of offering twice the creativity in a single source. We’ve definitely been validated on that thinking time and time again by clients, so that was the correct idea. We bring both a female and male insight to projects, which is a plus, and we’ve also stayed open to change or even tried to stay ahead of the curve in predicting changes to the business model of commercial photography. It was pretty easy to see that the conversion to digital would move quickly and definitively. While the same is true for all creative services—advertising, architecture, mass media—digital photography called for a completely digital workflow start to finish, so we were there slightly ahead of most of our clients…which is always a good thing.
Do you have some specific examples of how your collaboration has helped your business stay ahead over the years?
NICHOLAS: Sure. Still photography and editorial video work have been on similar but separate paths for more than a decade. We felt that the technical side of these two channels would just keep getting closer and closer so we built a creative model around the two of us as a single vision team to photograph and direct the still and video pieces of the equation as one. A hybrid moment in the creative process. We proposed it to several clients and began to work that way. For the client it means a much more focused creative partner who can deliver a single, conceptual feel: the still photography plus the video, for web usage, mobile apps, websites, YouTube, etc. It fits the need to work with today’s compressed timeframes and often compressed budgets. We think of it as effective creativity when we have one location to shoot, but two photographers capturing two types of media simultaneously.
How do you see collaboration?
SUSAN: It’s very essential for us; it always has been. In creative services, the key driver
is that everyone is working towards a common goal of the best idea or the best solution for the challenge. So we see collaboration as a catalyst to a successful outcome. We’re often part of a project team with a known set of deliverables, but the intermediate steps to get there are very fluid. Via collaboration, thinking open-sourced if you will, your contributions can not only get your part done, but they might inspire another person on the team to do their part differently. As an interesting aside, as a project increases in complexity, the level of organic collaboration often increases as well. For us this is very natural. It stems from the fact that we produce very complex work with many moving parts, but the goal of having the end-result images look simple and very natural never wavers.
What is a client project.
SUSAN: We did a great project for Radio Heard Here with agencies Work Labs, 93 Octane, O’Keefe Brands, and Fultz Marketing, the goal of which was to develop a library of on-brand images for the client that all stake- holders could access. Obviously there were lots of players and opinions involved. We’d like to think we balanced all of the inputs and delivered images that benefited everyone. Start-to-finish took about three weeks, which is, let’s say, moving very fast for a project of this scale. It was a challenge but lots of fun for everyone.
How is Richmond as a home base for your studio?
NICHOLAS: Richmond has evolved at the same time our business was establishing itself and growing. For us, there is a distinct quality of life advantage that a city like Richmond has over, for example, Los Angeles. Travel times and distances for everyday life are much shorter and less stressful here than in larger cities. We have a great network with our alma mater, the School of the Arts at VCU, so that ties us in with rising talent and skills in key areas like editing and sound. About 10 years ago, Susan got married and later started a family, so the work-life juggle of managing a business and raising a family is easier to balance here than in other places. We’ve also ben- efited from the rise of sourcing photography via the Internet. The clients who would hire us for specific types of projects are looking equitably at our work, our skills, our client base, and those items now weigh more heavily in their decision versus the city or region we are in.