She shares with us how she got started working with dancers underwater, how she channels her fears and nightmares in to her work as a kind of therapy, and her approach to creating art that sells.
Mallory’s evolution into underwater photography allowed her to introduce another element to this union and extend the range of her talent even further. Her use of dancers in an underwater environment allows Mallory to challenge the boundaries of people photography – utilizing weightlessness to tell stories, which explore the depths of movement and composition.
Mallory has sold her fine artwork to collectors across the U.S. as well as Australia, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, and Belgium. She was included in Saatchi’s Art’s 100 Voices 100 Artists catalog, celebrating their Top Women Artists.
Ep 24 – Mallory Morrison
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] this week on the underwater podcast, we’re learning how to value our work with fine art photographer, Mallory Morrison. Mallory has perfected her a theorial and minimal style underwater, and also her print sales process. She shares with us, how she got started working with dancers, underwater, how she channels her fears and nightmares into her work as a kind of therapy and her approach to creating art that sells. Okay. Let’s dive in. Mallory. Welcome to the underwater podcast.
Mallory Morrison: [00:00:27] Thank you so much, Brett. I’m so excited to be here.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:30] I’m excited to have you here. I don’t know if I’ve told you or not, but, um, I mean, we spoke about a week ago just to, as a pre thing for the, for the interview, but, uh, you were like one of the first inspirations for me in underwater photography, you were doing things that. I’d never seen before taking things under water and beds and all that sort of stuff. your kind of, one of the reasons that I do what I do today. So
Mallory Morrison: [00:00:55] Thank you. I know this is a audio, not visual, but I’m blushing. Um, Um, thank you. And that really means a lot to me. Um, and that, although I’ve kind of moved away, uh, in the last years from, from working with props that is been, uh, that definitely kind of started. The, uh, the inspiration path of like, okay, what can I put under there?
What, what will that do and how, you know, creating a scene? Um, how does that tell a story?
Brett Stanley: [00:01:20] Yeah. And I think that really came through with what you were doing. so the way I found you years ago was through a. Like not a YouTube show called the frame show. Um, and I didn’t realize how long ago that was until I went looking for her the other day. And it’s almost 10 years
Mallory Morrison: [00:01:37] yeah. 2011. Yeah, I think, yeah,
Brett Stanley: [00:01:40] There’s time just flies.
Mallory Morrison: [00:01:41] I know. And I still, I do kind of reference that video a lot to me. It’s a half an hour episode. So it’s, it’s, it’s pretty long. Um, but I actually ended up using that as a reference, like teaching guide almost for anyone who’s working with me for the first time, especially models. And I say, Hey, check, check this out.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:04] Well, I think at the time I was really impressed and surprised about how much detail there was in that and how much behind the scenes happening. and yeah, I think it’s a really good teaching tool cause it shows. It shows what you’re doing, kind of lighting wise and technically, but it’s also got a lot of information about how to deal with, with models and props.
And even, I think there’s an interview from your safety guy talking about stuff.
Mallory Morrison: [00:02:28] Yeah. All of the, all of the people that come together to make it, make it happen. Um, and it’s definitely not just one person that’s for sure.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:35] So, so how did you get into it? Let’s let’s take it right back to the
Mallory Morrison: [00:02:38] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:39] How did you get into underwater photography? Is that where you started or was there a, was there a life before that?
Mallory Morrison: [00:02:44] there was, there were a few lives before that. So, um, I entered the underwater world. I feel like pretty differently than most people do. Um, I, so I grew up as a ballet dancer. Um, so I started when I was four, I had to quit when I was 28, uh, the knee injury. So I had to stop. Um, but, um, yeah, during those last few years of, of dancing, I was going through college and, um, photography was a hobby for me.
I learned from my dad. Uh, who was also a hobbyist photographer and in, um, in middle school, high school. And when I, um, when I got to college, I took my first photography class, just as a, basically a, um, lower division class within the art department. Cause I knew I wanted to be an art. Um, but I was going to be a sculptor. Uh, I was into ceramics pretty heavily in high school. And so I was like, I’m going to be up I’m it had a little pottery studio and I had no concept of like making money. I just decided, Oh, this will somehow work out. Um, And I took a photography class on my first actual class. And I didn’t realize that, okay, this is, this feels really right to me.
Um, and what I had access to were dancers. Um, and I even was, I was co-directing a student run. Uh, dance performance. And so I had access to like all the dress rehearsals. And so while watching, as the director I also was at, was taking pictures of everything. And then that ended up being my, um, my senior, um, project.
Then I ended up showing it in a gallery and then a stranger that I’d never met that ended up at the gallery, bought one of the pieces. And that totally shifted things for me of, of like, okay, so I’m on the right track here. I love art. And I like the idea of the fine art side of things. So, um, then, so that was at UC Santa Cruz.
And then when I, I, um, decided to continue on and get a second bachelor’s degree, which is. Uh, kind of ridiculous for a photographer as you don’t even need a degree to begin with, but it really was my yeah. Yeah. Um, Hmm. It was my path of how I was able to kind of find my way. And I, uh, I went to Brooks Institute of photography in Santa Barbara and, um, I was still shooting dancers and I was able to kind of take them off the stage and bring them into the studio.
And that’s where the change happened was I. Was getting really frustrated with in the studio with a nine foot wide seamless and concrete floors and stations, Henry lights, and a moving subject. And the frustrating part was that I wanted them to jump and just stay there, stay right in the middle. Don’t have a hand go off and be off the seamless or out of the light.
Um, and I would be bringing in trampolines and crash pads, like for gymnast to get them, to be able to kind of stay up there longer. And there was this moment. I had when I was just about to fall asleep one night, um, when just sort of like your, your, your conscious mind is, is going to sleep and your subconscious is connecting some dots.
And I realized, Oh, okay. My problem is gravity. Okay. Great. Well, okay. So all I need to do is just to suspend gravity. Okay? Sure. Okay. Got it. I’ll just go to NASA. Um,
Brett Stanley: [00:06:16] And is that where you, where your brain went was like space first or did
Mallory Morrison: [00:06:19] no, my, I think it was just, I think at that time that was 2007. Um, I feel like I had seen some imagery just through, through school.
There’s so much imagery that we’re kind of coming that’s coming at us. Um, I might’ve come across an underwater or fashion shot or something. So I think that was just in the back of my head. And, um, I was like, Oh, if I put them in, if I put them in water, then. All of those problems go away and a whole bunch of news problems come.
But, uh, so I tried to once and, um, I didn’t even, I have an idea that I would have to be weighted down, so I kept floating, popping up to the surface. So my assistant at the time had to hold me, hold my shoulders down and hold me underwater. Wow. I shot with my, um, another friend’s surf housing that only had was, was, was buoyant.
And it would only have a shutter release button. That’s the only button on the house. And so I had to quickly look before the, before the image went away just to see if I’m okay. And, um, um, you know, looking through those images the first, first shoot. I was just mesmerized. Uh, and so my, my journey towards underwater was a, a solution to a problem I was having.
And it was a tool that I could use to create the imagery that I see in my head as a dance photographer.
Brett Stanley: [00:07:43] That’s incredible. Cause that’s such a different way of coming to it. Then, then a lot of people I’ve spoken to and even myself where, you know, you, we should underwater it because we want to be underwater. why not take photos while you’re down there, whereas for you you’ve come from, like you say, having a solution to a problem
Mallory Morrison: [00:08:00] right.
Brett Stanley: [00:08:01] Were you a water person to start with? Are you drawn to the water or it was purely just to solve this problem.
Mallory Morrison: [00:08:06] You know, I, so I tried out for swim. Um, so we have a team in high school. Um, didn’t make it past a few weeks, mostly just timing wise. I couldn’t be able to get to do ballet and swimming at the same time. I couldn’t get the flip. Like I’d always go sideways then knows that my water when I was. And so, um, so I has a dancer.
Water is. A a place of complete release and, uh, it’s just. I mean, I think everyone feels that it’s really relaxing to be able to kind of float around, but to be able to move in a way that you’re not bound by gravity, that you can kind of see and it’s spend spent and float and move in this three D space that, um, the effect of water is what really, uh, drew me to it.
Um, but I mean, I was never really a strong swimmer, um, But I am an Aquarius. So I guess that it’s just my, uh, my destiny.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:01] got that water side. Yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:09:04] Yeah. And, um, and so, so it was, it started off as a solution to a problem, but it has morphed, uh, and, and evolved into, um, Absolute partner of, uh, of creation. And for me that we, we together the water and I together, uh, come together to, to make it.
And, and then utilizing that environment, not just for the anti-gravity, but for the different themes and, um, stories that can be told specifically because it’s in water.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:38] it’s an interesting kind of. Way to think of it as the water is a partner to you. The, so for me, when I came to underwater photography, it felt like it completed me.
for me, it felt like this was the tool that I was lacking to make the images that I was seeing. And it was a way to. I dunno, like the, not just like you say, like not just the weightlessness, but it’s also the, the atmosphere under the water, the feeling of being under the water.
Um, and that aesthetic, I think for me personally, was when I, everything clicked for me. That’s when I became an artist. That’s when I became a photographer, everything before that was just leading up to this point. Is that kinda how you felt too? Was it like this total light bulb moment?
Mallory Morrison: [00:10:24] Yeah, it was, like the dance photography that I was what I was creating in the studio. There was just always something missing. And even when there was an image that, you know, they, they jumped just right. The hair’s going the, the fabric’s just perfect. That moment that can never be recreated again was, um, Was still full.
It only was special to me for a moment. And then it just kind of doled. It was either I’ve seen it before or, I am bored with it. Um, you know, I was like, okay, I’ve seen people do it better actually. Um, and the benefit and, and difficulty of Mmm. And say in that way of like, I’ve see of, of, of looking at what’s out there and comparing myself to the absolute great photographers out there as a student is, is difficult, uphill climb.
Um, but also, you know, it always pushes you to get better.
Brett Stanley: [00:11:25] Exactly. Cause you can see that there is some way to climb too. You can see that that’s possible.
Mallory Morrison: [00:11:29] Yeah. And, that, I didn’t know that that was something that was missing. I didn’t know what I was looking for until I found it.
Brett Stanley: [00:11:38] Yeah. Yeah. And so when you finally got under water and you had your assistant basically tried to drown you, um, how did it, how did it go from there? What was it like taking these dancers that you’ve been working with on the dry land? Take them under water. Was there a, uh, like a transition period for them to get used to it as well?
Mallory Morrison: [00:11:55] Oh yeah, it was mostly, it was the communication thing. Being able to in the studio being able to say great. Do it again. Okay. This time, remember careful. Look at the arm. Watch that, watch that there was so many, um,
Brett Stanley: [00:12:09] Instant
feedback kind of stuff.
Mallory Morrison: [00:12:11] Yeah. And I, you know, as photographers in general, we’re, we’re used to being able to do that.
And so that was the biggest shift for me is to really be able to clearly communicate what I want in words. But then also I found myself, um, kind of getting. More into a choreographer director role of kind of showing them a little bit of what I want them to do. Not necessarily go in the deep end and do it exactly right.
But, um, you know, standing in the shallow end, standing outside of the pool and, um, and showing them what works and what doesn’t work. And so it felt a little bit more like dance teacher sort of in a situation. And I just, I fell into that role, um, without really thinking of it. But then later realizing, Oh, that is actually, uh, a big, strong suit that I have that not necessarily everybody has is that I have that, that ability to communicate that way.
That doesn’t just, it isn’t just words.
Brett Stanley: [00:13:16] Yeah. And I think that that is such a skill in this in underwater photography. Cause a lot of us have. You know, think we can work with dancers, but if we don’t know how to tell them what we want, you know, it’s kind of hard for them to understand what we want. Whereas you’ve got that background. You can, you know, the language to be able to, to be able to talk to them.
Mallory Morrison: [00:13:35] right. And that’s, I think what I’ve throughout, uh, my whole underwater shooting, uh, career, I have been really focused on. The deliberate body language and posing, that it isn’t just an accident that they look graceful, that it isn’t necessarily that I’m saying dang each limb needs to be placed here, here, and here and here.
But, uh, but I’m, I’m, I’m waiting for that all. To come together and knowing when that moment really is and understanding that when I catch it before and after, even if, Ooh, the hair looks really good there, but Nope, not the legs. Aren’t right. That isn’t the image and, and knowing, and being, being able to, to kind of call through your images and edit through them to, to really do what is the image and what looks like an outtake.
Um, there, there are a ton of outtakes with underwater, um, ton of outtakes. And that’s, that’s the process that I ended up going through an issue is. Uh, after, after a shoot, when at the end of the day, I don’t download my pictures right away, the way I just kind of bask in the glow of the, of the experience of it.
And then the next day, I, I know to expect a little bit of a dip in. Confidence, because I have to look through all of these images and there are the ones, the good ones they’re in there, but they’re, they’re surrounded by a whole of this outtake, bubbles going things flying up, you know, and, and that’s just the nature of it.
So yeah. You know, that I’m like, okay, I need to go. I need, I need to look through all of them. And then all the bad ones, I literally just erase. I delete them.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:17] Right. You don’t want them in your life at all?
Mallory Morrison: [00:15:19] Yeah. And nor, yeah, I have no use for the men nor does the model. And I, it’s a little bit of a, kind of a respect to the model too, of like there isn’t.
That bad shot. Isn’t out there for either of us to be, to be seen. Um, you know, and, and, you know, just really respecting, um, my, you know, my subject and their abilities to making sure that I’m, I’m showing them in their best light and I’m not showing any work. That makes sense. Uh, I feel like there, yeah, look less than what they can do.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:51] I think that’s a thing that we have as, as photographers, because we’re dealing with the still image, you know, we’re dealing with one slice of time that we have a responsibility to make sure that slice of time is the good one, because there’s so many slice of time on either side. That art is great.
And I always have this thing where I’m watching, watching a music video or I’m watching, you know, a movie or something and I’m thinking. You know, you can have bad moments in there, but they’re always made up for by the following moments, which are good. And so you can watch a video where someone looks terrible for a couple of seconds, but then they look good and you’ll forget about the bad stuff. But if you’re looking at a still image for, you know, 20, 30 seconds, you will see every little thing that is wrong
or doesn’t. It doesn’t work for you personally. And I feel like there’s a lot of responsibility from our point of view, to be able to create an image that doesn’t have anything bad about it,
Mallory Morrison: [00:16:47] Right.
Brett Stanley: [00:16:47] think what we all strive for.
Mallory Morrison: [00:16:48] Yeah. And I think that from the model’s point of view, there needs to be a lot of trust in us to know when the right shot is. And I think that is immediately fast-forwarded for me with, with newer, with people that I haven’t worked with before, knowing that I’m a dancer as well, they. I F I feel that they’re like, okay, you get it.
You okay, you get it. I I’m in your hands. And so I think that that kind of lends itself to, um, then being more comfortable to try new things that they are maybe thinking, Oh, I might look really weird from the majority of this right now, but I trust that you’re going to see that and see when the moment is and try and trust.
To, to know that, to say, Hey, you know what? That’s not working. Let’s move on.
Cause we, yeah, that we try things that, you know, if you don’t have that trust, then you’re going to S as, as a model, you’re going to want to stay in the safe zone. It’s like, I know I look good here. I’m going to stay here. You know?
And so I feel like we can kind of push it a little bit.
Brett Stanley: [00:17:54] How much feedback are you giving them as you’re shooting? Are you, are you letting them see the back of the camera or are you just like, it’s just letting them go off of what you’re telling them.
Mallory Morrison: [00:18:04] I mean, it all depends on the model. Cause sometimes models don’t want to see it. Um, and I also don’t show them every single time because that disrupts the flow of things. But I feel the benefit of, of being able to be shooting, shooting digitally and is to once again, have another tool to, uh, To communicate with, to them to say, see, do you see how this doesn’t look quite right?
But then do you see how this does that? I might not necessarily be able to have the words because words talking oddly enough is my least favorite form of communication. Um, Um, words, ups.
I know I’m working on it. Um, you know, that there’s, there’s just so much nuance and there’s so much, there’s so much to be.
Set in the unsaid. Um, and so to be able to show them. What’s working. And every once in a while, what’s not working only if they don’t seem to be moving past it. If, if I keep saying, if I keep trying to give them the same correction and then they keep doing it, then there needs to be okay. I need to find another way of going about communicating this.
But, um, um, but mostly it’s for the good ones. Cause I it’s, it’s difficult. It should be in their position. And so to have that confidence boost, it’s really a confidence boost thing. And, uh, and, and like, yeah, okay. Oh my God, we already got something really good. You know what, Oh, let’s try this. And it really, it really kind of, it AIDS the collaboration because they’re seeing what is the end product.
And so be able to see, to envision, they know. What they can do. I don’t know the limits of what they can do. I can have ideas of, of posing and, and body language that I want them to express, but it’s really so much to do with in the moment when, what they can do also with what they’re wearing. Um, you know, that there are limitations based on what kind of limitations I’ve put on them, what I’ll put them in, um, you know, and or the size of the pool or whatever.
Um, so. Yeah. So it definitely, it pushes the, pushes it forward to have that, to see the visual, but then also to have that communication. So pretty much every time we come up cause I’m, I’m never on scuba. I don’t actually, I am not super certified. Um, I haven’t found it necessary. I’m free diving. Yeah. I’m I’m in the shallow end.
I’m only under about a foot.
And I’m weighted down in the shallow end and they’re there, um, in the deep end, um, I have yet to find it necessary to be on scuba. Um, also I just feel like if you’re breathing out with scuba that the bubbles are gonna have an issue coming up in front of the lens, um, And so I just, I have found that I liked to kind of be stripped down as close to possible as the model is like, I need to have goggles on and in a weight belt and that’s about it, but I’m in there with them and we’re experiencing the same thing.
I’m holding my breath as long as they are. And so now I can kind of. I can tell, I can kind of gauge if I’m tired. That means they are definitely tired and there’s a lot of adrenaline that goes into, um, You know, into these, uh, uh, these shoots, especially if it’s the first time that they’re doing underwater.
And so they might be ignoring their body’s signals and there, therefore there’s a possibility of them crashing hard, uh, before we’re really done, um, because they’re exerting themselves way too hard upfront and they’re sprinting a marathon. Um, and so if I’m able to gauge my tired level and I’m able to take a big breath of air and just sit under there, then they definitely.
Um, need a brick. And so instead of checking in and, and asking, are you okay? Are you okay? I just say, Hey, let’s take a break that I kind of, I keep the pace, but then also, um, Hmm. Kind of, uh, I communicate with them a lot beforehand that we kind of have a little, um, session beforehand where we are actually stretching together. And that stretching. We’re just talking about kind of how, how I want to go about things. Um, and even when we’re stretching, it’s like we’re kind of practicing being in sync with each other that we’re, we’re kind of getting a sense of, of. You know, we’re doing something together, uh, and, and communicating what I, you know, I want to, what I want them to do, uh, or what is possible, what I would like to see happen.
And then we can kind of get a game plan together. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:22:33] And how am I, so if you got to, do you kind of start a, a shoot with a definite vision in mind, or are you just kind of having, uh, you know, sort of rough kind of sketches in your mind, and then what happens on the day happens? How much are you kind of controlling the output?
Mallory Morrison: [00:22:49] combination of the two. So usually how I shoot is, um, I’m shooting a series of, of work, uh, and that’ll be over multiple shoots, most likely, um, different models. Um, but I have a theme. I have a have an idea in mind. Um, for instance, uh, a series that I did was called presence and it was like most of my series, it was it’s was born from my journey of, um, of what kind of, what I’m working through personally.
And, um, at the time I was getting into meditation and trying to be mindful and. Uh, and just really in the present moment and not being lost in, in thoughts of the future of the past. And, uh, I found that, you know, being underwater is the most present. You can be, especially when you’re holding your breath, you are absolutely present.
In that very, very moment. You, I mean, when I’m under there, it’s completely silent and all I can hear is the shutter and my heartbeat. And that I think plays a big part in how much I enjoy it because I’m so very present in there. So I thought let’s, let’s explore that, that. Idea visually, and, and not just being kind of at the end of this path, but actually going through the process of shedding the.
The, the, the tape loop that goes on in our head, the, the, the, the frustration, the, the, the kind of torrent of emotions that go on in our head in water, because we have bubbles, we have motion, we have all of these things and the kind of the progression and everything. So I had written down for that series.
I had written down a whole bunch of kind of keywords for the difficulty, the, the process, the, the. Kind of basically not living mindfully sort of, um, uh, you know, keywords and then also words that were, uh, were focused on, you know, being mindful and being present. And I, I talked to those over with the models beforehand and are, do any of these words?
Resonate with you. And does that elicit some sort of movement to you? And that’s, that’s really modern dance right there. Um, it’s improv modern dance, you
Brett Stanley: [00:25:21] so you’re letting them kind of interpret the words you’re giving them and, and, and the, the kind of the theme.
Mallory Morrison: [00:25:27] Yeah. And so, because, you know, it’s a journey for me, but also, um, you know, All, all of my work. I want to be able to have other people, collaborate and the, and the final product. I want them the viewer of, of the work to be able to say yes that I, I, I understand that. I get that you know, I want there to be something.
That someone can relate to and, and not necessarily to be as broad as I can, but I, um, I’m not, you usually work working on themes of super, super, super specific, uh, three, one, one event that happened in my life. It’s feelings yeah. Are happening that I’m processing. And I mean, even I’ve, I’ve even. Processed out nightmares, um, and, and kind of take in parts of a nightmare at feeling mostly, and, and put that underwater.
And that’s a way for me to visually kind of see it. And then it kind of sheds light on the boogeyman a little bit of like, Oh, see, it’s not that it’s not that scary. Actually. I’ve made it a little beautiful and it can still be a little haunting and mysterious, but it’s still has its beauty too.
Brett Stanley: [00:26:42] So are you using the underwater photography sometimes like therapy?
Mallory Morrison: [00:26:46] I mean isn’t art therapy anyway. I mean,
Brett Stanley: [00:26:50] we admit admit it or not, I think, yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:26:52] yeah, creating art, I mean, and also viewing art and, and, and owning it too. And so I, I like that. I really, after. Having the experiences of selling the work and selling work, especially to strangers. That was like the big crux for me was that, that I don’t have, they don’t have any vested interest in me.
They don’t, they don’t like the work because Oh, Mallory made it. They like it because there’s something in there that is speaking to them really deeply. And, and it’s important to them to see that all the time in their house. And. I, I place a lot of, uh, uh, value in, um, in your search, in my surroundings, you know, that it’s, it’s, it’s so important that I’m, I’m pretty affected by my environment, uh, for better or worse.
Um, and, and, and so to, I feel like it’s the, it’s the most. I feel so honored when someone chooses to have my work in their home and see that all the time and have that emotion, uh, and in response have had that in, you know, in their daily life. So that does inform the creation of the work too.
Brett Stanley: [00:28:03] Yeah. So, so say when you’re doing. Mike your presence series, which was, you know, the, the meditation kind of one was that kind of envisaged to be something that was going to be sold. And was it done with people’s, you know, uh, artwork on the wall in mind?
Mallory Morrison: [00:28:23] yes. So that one, that one specifically was not only, um, you know, can you relate to this, this. Moment in this feeling, but I, I really liked the idea of having this work, the, the, the, kind of the positive side of the, of the series, the, the more kind of calm. Centered feeling have potentially, if someone has a meditation practice, generally you can do it.
They didn’t seem police all the time. If, kind of find a little area to make that be a little corner or rumor, if you know, super luxurious, you have your own, your own meditation room or something, That the work could be placed in there as, as something when you’re kind of settling in and your eyes aren’t closed yet.
And it’s almost something to look at almost like a mind pallet cleanser.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:15] Yeah. Like a tool, something that’s useful to, to yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:29:19] So just seeing how, what other ways the work can be utilized besides just a look at it as pretty on the wall,
Brett Stanley: [00:29:30] Right. Yeah. Giving it a function, making it functional.
Mallory Morrison: [00:29:32] Functional. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:34] so how does that work with that side of your business? I mean, you’ve got this very creative, artistic side, and then if you’re creating this art with. Resell and income in mind. How are you dealing with that? Cause the, I mean the business side and the two different sides of the brain pretty much. Is that something that
you had to learn?
Mallory Morrison: [00:29:54] Oh yeah. From coming from being, going to, I’m going to be a Potter and like have my little studio and somehow that I’m going to have a business. That was where I was starting with high school. Um, you know, I, I can’t really recall. Uh, specific moment in time where my mindset shifted. It’s been a very slow and steady shift.
Um, but also just, just having others, uh, artists that I’m talking to and seeing how they’re doing things. And, and mostly, I, I talk with people that are photographers, uh, mostly painters I’ve I find myself in, um, uh, Around painters a lot. Um, and anyway, we, you know, have a totally different process. So I have to, I have to, um, translate it to, to the photography world, but, um, just seeing how.
How they run things. But then also my partner, Brandon, um, has a background in law and, uh, and a marketing degree. And so he came on as my business manager a few years ago and, um, Just cause he was already helping me with a lot of things and usually I’d get down down a rabbit hole and that’d be like, Hey, could you, what do you think I should do?
And he’s like, well, you shouldn’t have done this and this. So, and then we realized, okay, actually, if you’re, if you’re, uh, some input at the beginning, maybe we go down a path that isn’t difficult. That is. Beneficial for everyone. Um, and, and that is, you know, he’s been a tremendous help of, of being able to, you know, just having someone outside that that really has your best interest in mind and wants to see you be successful, but can separate.
The emotion of these images as your children, you know, as like the things you’ve birthed, you know, that it’s, that is okay. Now it is a product and it is a wonderful product. And I, and there has to be heart in there to have it be a wonderful product, but you are a business selling a product and that’s okay to think that way.
Brett Stanley: [00:31:57] Yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:31:58] it.
Brett Stanley: [00:32:00] that is something that separates a lot of successful photographers, especially fine art photographers is the ones who can separate themselves from their work. I have a
Mallory Morrison: [00:32:10] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:32:11] I cannot separate myself from my work. And that drives my wife nuts because she’s like, why did you choose that image?
I’m like, well, look at the lighting, the lighting I did, they’re so clever. And she’s like, yeah, but it’s not a great photo. And I, you know, I’m the person who’s going to buy it. I’m not looking at it going, wow, isn’t he clever?
Mallory Morrison: [00:32:28] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:32:30] you’ve kinda gotta be objective somehow. And I think that’s really hard to be objective about your own work.
So having someone else who can kind of look over your shoulder and go. No, these are the ones that are going to be more appealing.
Mallory Morrison: [00:32:43] Yeah. And also you just never, she just never know sometimes. I mean, it’s also market tested stuff. There were you have, you have a workout there. Um, and that’s what I actually find really helpful about Instagram is that I, I post almost everything on there as a little bit of a market tester are people, um, you know, interested, um, You know, I mean the likes and comments and stuff, it is a, a thermometer is like, okay.
So is this actually, um, is this working, is this resonating with people and why? And I’m able to immediately ask then and there, okay. Hey, why, why do you like that? And, you know, there are a few images that I continue to sell that, that are older images that I would be okay with retiring. Um, But then they end up selling
Brett Stanley: [00:33:32] So people still like them.
Mallory Morrison: [00:33:33] yeah.
Um, and, and then there’s other ones that I’m like, come on. That is so awesome. And then there’s just like crickets. I’m like, okay, well that’s for me. Um, and you know, and it doesn’t make any of them lesser or better in my eyes, but it’s just seeing that. Okay. So as that product. Okay. So. Okay. So, you know, you have bestsellers and you have ones that go on sale.
It’s like, that’s a product.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:56] Do you find, do you find that you’ve got a demographic? Like, are you able to see from your sales, the types of people that like your work.
Mallory Morrison: [00:34:05] You know, for demographic generally? Well, cause I, I sell a multiple platforms, but the, the biggest, uh, help, um, of kind of determining the demographic is our fairs to be able to see people in person and talk with them and get a, get a sense of who they are. Um, generally, um, you know, Between my like early thirties to mid fifties women, um, who have some extra yeah.
Money laying around that they want to, and that they, they value, um, home design. They value their health, you know, that they are designing their home or, you know, new homeowners. Um, that’s direct sales are generally in that way. And there’s, there’s usually a, of the pun undercurrent of some sort of, I mean, how many punts?
There’s just always so many puns when it
Brett Stanley: [00:34:58] Oh, yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:34:59] talking about underwater. It’s ridiculous. Drowning and ponds. Ah, okay. Anyway, um, don’t get me started. I can punt all that. Okay. Uh,
Brett Stanley: [00:35:06] That’s a whole nother, that’s a whole nother podcast.
Mallory Morrison: [00:35:07] As well as, um, so yeah, there’s usually either like a dance background or I used to swim in high school, or I grew up with a pool, um, sort of background of, of people that, who by my work, that there is either a dance or Swin background, um, involved.
Yeah. And it helps to be, yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:35:29] um, how much of that kind of feedback that you get at these art fairs and from Instagram and stuff? How much does that. Change your style, does it at all? Are you, are you influenced by these people in terms of what you’re creating or are you just creating what you create and hoping they like it?
Mallory Morrison: [00:35:45] I’m influenced by the, by like seeing what sells and what doesn’t sell. And early on the biggest. Um, feedback that I found from seeing what people are engaged with in like, and what they say, Oh, that’s pretty, but they don’t buy it. Um, when it comes to, when you, when I’m taking a picture of a person that is not a celebrity, why would someone have a picture of a person they don’t know in their house?
And the biggest. Thing that it came down to was it’s not a portrait it’s so I rarely now rarely have the face be ever looking at the camera. Like they never looking at the camera. And if, if the face is visible, it’s a pretty far away shot. And it’s still really about everything altogether. It’s not about.
This person and their, their expression on their face solely it is it’s really about their body language. And a lot of times I end up having the face obscured either they’re turned away, turned to the side here in front of their face. Um, You know, I, and I used to work with makeup artists every time I shoot in the last year or so I’ve just not been using a makeup artist because I’m like, well, I never really see their face.
So it’s kind of a, it’s a waste for them to, to, to be working. Um, um, and you know, and then it’s about. The it’s the body language and what they’re saying. And then also I’m realizing that the, the generally women that are buying my work, they there’s a level of them either putting themselves in that position or kind of being able to have an imagination of what that person looks like. Yeah. And, and so I think, and that you’re able to then kind of immerse into it rather than. Stare at a person staring back at you.
Brett Stanley: [00:37:42] Yeah, which I think is a, is an interesting, again, a thing that we as photographers don’t I don’t think we think about that to start with, because we’re so enraptured by our own work. But again, my wife, who is always correct, you know, doesn’t want pictures of other people on her walls, which is totally fine, you
know? Um, and if you, uh, uh, like yourself, your, I mean, your business is your income is based on selling prints. Right?
Mallory Morrison: [00:38:09] Partially.
Brett Stanley: [00:38:09] part of it? Yeah. And so you want to make sure that that’s as attractive to people as possible.
So giving them something that is yeah. Obscured. So you can’t really tell what it is or they can picture themselves in the image or whatever.
That’s, that’s the thing that brings them. The men.
Mallory Morrison: [00:38:26] Yeah. And it isn’t necessarily, I mean, that feedback just sort of. That made sense to me, but then also it didn’t necessarily change my work that much. I mean, I just, you know, I’m not, I’m not now avoiding portraits. It’s that? Cause it really always was about the body. Yeah. And it was, it was always about the body.
Brett Stanley: [00:38:48] Yeah.
Cause you’re you’re, I mean, you’re a dance photographer
Mallory Morrison: [00:38:50] Yeah. It’s it’s the dance. Yeah. Um, and the dance isn’t necessarily only about someone’s facial expression and the facial expression. Absolutely. It plays an integral part, but it’s, it’s, it’s one of the, one of the parts.
Brett Stanley: [00:39:04] Well, to be honest for me, because I come out from it from a different point of view, I am a portrait photographer. I take pictures of clients who pay me to take their photos, as opposed to me creating artworks that are going to go. And be sold somewhere. So my job is to make sure that you can totally see who that person is,
Mallory Morrison: [00:39:23] Correct. Yeah. Which is so hard. I mean, I applaud you for that because that’s hard. It’s very hard to have the client be the model. They have an idea of what they, what they look like, whether it’s in, based in reality or not. And then put them under water. That’s hard. That’s
Brett Stanley: [00:39:37] is hard. Yeah. Yeah, it is. And what you were saying before about having so many throwaway images is that I have more because, but I have the images I throw away the images that you’re probably keeping because the ones that are, you know, if their faces are obscured by their hair, I’m throwing that away.
All those sorts of things. But I love those photos. I love P personally, I love the photo of wow. Like it looks like she’s got a mask of hair. you can only see the back of that guy’s head, you know, I love the mystery of those sorts of things for me personally. That’s my aesthetic,
Mallory Morrison: [00:40:08] And it’s just this lost in the moment. I feel like that’s what I’m always chasing. Is this lost in a moment?
Brett Stanley: [00:40:13] yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:40:14] of feeling yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:40:16] letting go? It’s that? It’s that private moment.
Mallory Morrison: [00:40:19] Yeah.
Which it can’t Which it can’t be manufactured. It has to just be caught.
Brett Stanley: [00:40:24] Exactly. Yeah. And I think one of the things that is beautiful about underwater as a tool is that it makes those moments happen organically
because if someone just lets go and sinks, then that’s generally what happens is that
Mallory Morrison: [00:40:38] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:40:39] is an element of them letting go.
Mallory Morrison: [00:40:40] And there, there are so many things that they have to think about. Um, that I think the camera ends up being the last on the list as I give them a good little to do Wist, uh, and that it always, it keeps growing throughout the day, like, okay, remember we’re doing this and this and this. And then now remember, make sure this, you know, but always keeping, you know, a positive tone and, and not, and trying to slowly build that.
So it’s not overwhelming because no one can really keep all that straight when you’re also holding your breath and your, your own, their, their body. Is is reacting there. Their body is saying, Hey, you don’t have air. Um, so they’re gonna be in a, a little bit of a state of fight or flight, um, if not a lot, depending on their, um, experience level.
Um, and, and so they’re gonna, you know, being Alaska in the moment is, um, you know, they’re just, they’re definitely not necessarily, um, As focused on the camera as you are outside of the water.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:38] Oh, yeah, exactly.
Mallory Morrison: [00:41:39] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:39] and so, so we were talking about your incomes were part of your income stream coming from Prince, as a photographer in this kind of COVID-19 craziness, how has that, has that affected your print sales at all?
Or is it just affecting your ability to create new work?
Mallory Morrison: [00:41:58] it has affected my print sales, uh, for the better,
oddly enough, I, I have been very surprised. Happily surprised, um, that, uh, a good amount of interior designers have been reaching out to, um, I think everyone being in their home, not necessarily all out of work, but maybe working from home. And so their income hasn’t changed, um, that they are now in their home, looking at their walls, wanting to change.
Uh, and I, it was, uh, it was probably a timing thing, um, that I was included. Um, so I, I sell my work also through Saatchi art. And so they, um, they, for the month of March was international women’s month and they put together a catalog of, they chose a hundred. Um, of their top female artists. Um, and I was honored to be included in that list and they created a printed catalog of, and then one image per, uh, artist, and then sent that out to.
Thousands of people have their up collectors, um, probably past collectors, um, and, and everything. So I got a influx of, of print sales after that. So that just so happened that came out in mid March. So it was just timing wise. That was kind of right where everything was kind of shutting down. And I was definitely.
You know, as, as owning one freaking out a little bit, don’t have any savings. Um, Um, so just sort of like, okay, what can I sign up for? Cause I don’t pay into unemployment and all that. So, um, and it was definitely a good timing thing that, that, that amount of marketing and promotion was happening on my behalf.
Um, Without having to pay for it. Um, and Sasha has been absolutely fantastic there. Everybody who works there is just, uh, truly there to help artists sell work. Um, and so I’ve, I’ve really enjoyed my relationship with them and also, cause they’re based in LA too. So I’ve been able have been, have a, a personal relationship with them.
Um, But to, you know, to have that exposure has been really great. And it was a wonderful confidence boost too, to know that even right, when things are incredibly offended and, and difficult for a lot of people around the world, there are still, uh, Bunch of people that are excited and, and able to buy my work all over the world.
So, so if I can do that now, I mean, there, I just had this renewed drive to, to just get my work out there as much as, uh, as much as I can. Um, and in many, as many platforms as I can, because I, there are people out there. That will be excited to find my work. And, um, and that is, um, a mindset that, um, I forget sometimes, but that is, is something that, you know, all are all artists, um, you know, it would just be, it benefit from that mindset of instead of like, Oh, maybe somebody will like it.
Well, I like it it’s I can’t wait to. Find all of these people who are dying to find my work, that they are going to be so excited when they find this, um, um, that, that mindset for marketing. Um, has, has helped me because generally coming from the artist’s point of view and having to learn, um, Hmm. The basics of marketing and, and everything, it feels very like, I don’t ever want to be salesy.
I don’t want to be like, Hey, buy my stuff. Um, you know, I’m having a hard time finding. Initially was, I was having our time finding the, the, the voice and the tone of how I sell my work. Um, I initially I felt like I was just regurgitating old advertisements
Brett Stanley: [00:45:48] and when your, your voice and your tone, and you’re talking about the copy, like the written word and the sales kinda kind of stuff.
Mallory Morrison: [00:45:55] that, uh, but then also just in person, um, you know, at fairs, which has, you know, Yeah, paused for now. Um, but I have, I have learned so much from, from selling at fairs, but, but being able to learn how to sell to someone and to have someone there be captivated by your work and to see it and to have the opportunity to.
Kind of circle back to, it’s not just one gallery building that it’s just all solo. Show me that, that it’s a fair where there’s multiple artists and they’re able to see multiple things. And so it has a little bit of a softer sell, um, that they are choosing my work, uh, from the menu of artists that are available.
Um, Um, and you
Brett Stanley: [00:46:40] that instant feedback as well for, as you’re kind of selling to them,
can kind of gauge whether it’s working or not.
Mallory Morrison: [00:46:46] Yeah, body language is a big thing. And just gate and just, just reading the room of, of seeing where they’re coming from and not necessarily completely changing my personality to fit someone, but to, to know really when. To be quiet
Brett Stanley: [00:47:01] Yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:47:02] to be able to yeah. And like, after they say, okay, I’ll take it.
That’s when you say great, thank you. Don’t continue to sell. That’s it. Thanks for coming. I was like, yeah, that’s great. And then you’re also going to like this and this, it was like, damn, they said sold. Shut up. Process, um, you know, there, the, the confidence in selling and selling, the way that you want to sell is, is a process that takes a while to get, to get an idea of what is best for you, because you can look up all the articles you want about how to sell, um, You know, some things it’s a balancing act of like some things feel like, Ooh, that doesn’t seem like me.
That maybe is it, does it not seem like me because I, um, and learning something new. And so therefore, yes, I have not done that before, and that is tried and true. It works. So just go out of your comfort zone and do it, or is this really just not resonating with me and I, I’m going to find a different approach.
Brett Stanley: [00:48:02] Have you found that your. I guess, sales personality, which is not different from you. It’s just a different way of, of kind of presenting yourself. Has that changed in over time? Like your initial gut reaction of how to sell when you first started, has it changed? Do you think you were doing, do you think you’re doing better things now than you were when you first started?
Mallory Morrison: [00:48:22] Definitely. I. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with my own pricing, which I think is very, um, I think that’s such a difficult thing for, for artists to feel comfortable about their pricing. Um, being able to have their PR you know, having your PR rice for your arts set to not only the retail price, be something that you can explain.
And, and have an understanding of why it’s that price also to, to note, to be okay with taking up to a 50% hit on that and still be okay. So to, to be able to be selling something and making an okay profit from 50% off and then still be okay with asking someone to pay a hundred percent. That was, that was my biggest hurdle was starting off.
Um, in LA doing shows. I was pressured to increase my price. Um, and. The galleries, because on the one hand they’re like, well, you’re only getting 50% of this. Remember, so make sure this is worth it for you. And, and you know, your material costs are coming out of your side. Um, but then also, so they need to, um, basically.
Have collectors take them seriously as like, Oh, this is, this is worth something. There’s the little bit of the, the markup factor of this is this is important or I don’t know any kind of
Brett Stanley: [00:49:57] Cause there is a, there is a kind of, um, like as photographers, we, you know, we come into this, that’s something that we’ve kind of done from a hobby. And then we come into it as a full time job or whatever. And none of us are really know how to process our work. Like we, we, we feel like we’re, I don’t know if we’re charging a lot of money.
We feel like we’re. Ripping people off or something, you know, like for us, you know, it’s hard to know your own value, but for the people that are coming from the other side, if it’s cheap, they expect it to be cheap, you know? Like, but if it’s expensive, they think, Oh, this is, this has got value.
Why is it this expensive?
Let me find out.
they work out whether it’s for them or not.
Mallory Morrison: [00:50:38] Right. And you know, there’s a lot of psychology that goes into it. Um, as far as, you know, like you price something at. 1950 versus 2000, you know, that kind of the whole psychology of, of, of pricing things. You know, why, um, you know, one 99 99 works
Brett Stanley: [00:50:55] And that there’s a psychology as well of, of, of round numbers. Then I don’t mean round numbers as in the actual shape of the final
Mallory Morrison: [00:51:02] Yeah. If there’s lots of zeros, people get freaked out, you know? Um, and you know, I’m not, I don’t go to the extent of, of being like 95, 99, but, um, I definitely noticed that the pieces that I do have priced at 2000 very rarely sell. Yeah. I think that there’s, I mean, there’s a whole science behind the, um, the psychology of, of, you know, pricing and everything, but, um, but then also like the idea of finding a price, um, that like really incorporates all of.
Like all of the looking material cost price is something that’s very easy to determine, but then what is the, the value of you? What is that price? What is the, the rarity of what you’re creating? Um, and that I think is something that’s really, um, It’s hard to determine it’s it’s definitely fluctuates and it can, it can change definitely over time and then, and different different work could potentially, um, have a different price.
I generally try to keep my pricing all the same. And then also I’m doing limited additions and there’s a whole other pricing structure with that where, um, some artists, as they sell more in the addition, the, the price of the print increases.
Brett Stanley: [00:52:20] Oh,
Mallory Morrison: [00:52:20] Mmm. Mmm. Usually in, in sections where say, if it’s an edition of 15, the first five or a certain price, then the second five and the third five, they’re all different prices because now they’re becoming more rare.
And so rarity does play a part in the price. Um, I have yet to do that. I want to keep, um, The price the same as much as I can, if I’m getting towards the very, very end of an addition, I might raise the price a little bit. Um, but I mean, I’m just, I’m, I’m trying to balance the, the, um, the kind of the value you and the scarcity, the originality of what I create with.
Making sure that the final retail price is something reasonable that, um, that I could, I could say. Yeah. If people have, you know, a couple grand saved, there’s someone that could, could reasonably, I could save up for it or, yeah, I have, I have, you know, I have some disposable income, but it isn’t like 10 grand, you know, it’s something that reasonably.
A good amount of people could afford.
Brett Stanley: [00:53:28] Right.
And is there, is there a market value or like, I mean, a market rate, are you kind of comparing your prices to other artists or is it, is it a very solo kind of pricing?
Mallory Morrison: [00:53:39] I take into account other artist’s work, but everyone is at a different place. So I have looked at other underwater art, um, I actually check out Xeno hallways work. Um, but then, but also I take into account not only she’s in London. And so we have, you know, different buying habits and everything, but, um, but that’s not her sole thing.
She’s mostly a commercial person. So it was like, everyone has so many different factors. Um, so. Aye. Aye. Aye. Check it out. When I look to see okay. If I’m in the ballpark of cool, if I’m way off, then let’s do some more research, but I’m, I’ve mostly just sort of, I’d take that as one element. Um, no, to say, Oh, you press that, that size at that price.
Got it done. That’s mine. Cause we have different material costs. You know, we have all sorts of different factors that are at play. So. Um, Um, and then the, you know, the, um, I think the biggest factor is, is the market price. It’s like, what are people buying at that price? Okay. Then that’s its value. It’s not as value until someone buys it.
Brett Stanley: [00:54:50] yeah. Do you have work that has you have changed the price on because it either sold or different
Mallory Morrison: [00:54:56] No, because the price is based on size. Um, and so, you know, if it’s not, if, if a certain piece isn’t selling, I consider it to be the piece, the issue of the image that it isn’t necessarily, um, kind of, uh, resonating with people. Um,
Brett Stanley: [00:55:13] Do you then change the price on that, on that piece,
Mallory Morrison: [00:55:16] no, I usually just say, okay. Um, take it off, get off my store because I have an online store. Um, and so I’m able to just sort of, kind of take things off and, um, and then, you know, I am always making new work and there’s, I have, I have almost too much on, on my store. I mean, it’s not, I don’t consider it too much, but it could be, it can be maybe a little.
Um, overwhelming, overwhelming, but it’s like, Oh wow. I have a lot of options. Um, Um, you know, my store. So I, I don’t want to just continue to add more. I, when I add more, I, I evaluate what’s there already and decide, okay. Is there, are there older pieces that have kind of run their course where it’s like, yeah, they’ve sold the last few years that I was, you know, a couple of years after making it and then it died out.
Okay. So it’s time to retire that image.
Brett Stanley: [00:56:04] right. Yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [00:56:05] Um, even if the, the addition is, um, you know, if there’s still prints left in the edition and it’s not, not for sale, I just don’t advertise it for sale.
Brett Stanley: [00:56:13] And I guess that kind of adds to that rarity as well. Right? Like it’s, you know, Oh, I saw that she had this image, but it’s gone now. Maybe it’s sold out, Oh, contact her and see if she’s still got it. And then you’re like, yeah, but that’s, you know, it’s at the end of the run. So it’s now this kind of price,
Mallory Morrison: [00:56:28] I wouldn’t necessarily change the PR. I mean, I do give, um, I give discounts to people, but for specific situations, um, I, when I work with interior designers, it’s across the board generally, um, 20% off of retail. Um, Um, that’s know. Yeah. Cause then that’s their cut. So they don’t, they’re not, they’re not charging the client more than retail.
Brett Stanley: [00:56:52] So you’re building a cut in for them.
Mallory Morrison: [00:56:55] Yeah. And then when people buy multiple pieces, I usually, um, add a little bit of a discount if they’re buying multiple pieces.
Brett Stanley: [00:57:00] How does it work for you? So you’ve got online sales and then you’ve also got the art fairs. Um, how did the art fairs work? Are you, are you selling actual physical stuff or do you just have it like a showroom and then create prints based on what you’ve sold?
Mallory Morrison: [00:57:16] and selling the physical piece, uh, for art fairs I had, um, I’ve actually started to, uh, this was almost 10 years ago. I started making a whole kind of different process of work that is smaller and they’re open edition. Because the additions are based on the size of the print. And so a lot of artists have kind of smaller pieces, um, that, that it’s open edition at that, but the smaller size and the limited edition are larger Prince.
Um, so I have a whole handmade process where I print it out on really heavyweight net paper. And then I have these wood panels, um, Birch panels that are, have a kind of a frame on the back. And, uh, so I glue it to the panel, press it overnight, trim it. And then I paint over to seal it with this clear gel medium.
And so that seals it in, but then it also has a clear brushstroke texture and it, um, UV coats it and, and it’s water resistant. And so it’s kind of all ready to go. Doesn’t need to be then framed behind glass. Um, and so it becomes a little, a little bit more of like, world’s a core rather than fine art.
It’s a little bit of a different category. Um, and so then, and then I price it accordingly because I, the, the, the largest size that go is 16 by 20 for those, um, for those pieces. And, uh, and then I go all the way down to like a little eight inch diameter circle I’ve been doing. Cause they make the panels and circles and stuff and making them in circles too.
Um, yeah, so that. Is that work is what I sell it or fairs generally.
Brett Stanley: [00:59:02] And then, And then, and that’s what you’ve already invested in already created. Are you taking orders for stuff that you haven’t created there or is it, is it basically selling what you’ve got in stock?
Mallory Morrison: [00:59:11] Generally, it’s what I haven’t stocked because people really like to be able to just kind of take it and go, and then I have, um, I gallery wall them all over the, the booth. And so there’s a good, I mean, I’ve made, usually I make like 60 pieces for a show.
Brett Stanley: [00:59:26] Right. Yeah. So there’s investment upfront to get the show running.
Mallory Morrison: [00:59:30] Yeah. The majority of the investment really is my time making them, um, because the, I mean, I print at home, um, And so I was like, I have my own printer, but you know, it’s, it’s the matte paper, right.
Fluids. It’s the, the panels. Um, but the majority of the investment is my time. Um, and they sell really well. And so I’m able to, you know, I keep an inventory of pieces. So, um, I have all of those lists, all my store as well. And so if they, if I have the happen to have it in, in stock, I just ship it out right away.
And if someone people can order them and if they’re technically out of stock and then I just make it to order.
Brett Stanley: [01:00:05] not doing any drop shipping or anything. Your, you are actually creating and having an inventory of stuff. So every order comes through you,
not like you’re passing it off to a
Mallory Morrison: [01:00:16] no, no, yeah, no print on demand or anything. No. Cause I, I wanna make everything myself and, and have it all be, you know, quality control through me
Brett Stanley: [01:00:25] Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. Cause I think there’s, there’s so many yeah. Print on demand and there’s so many drop shipping kind of companies now, but you, the quality is just not there. If you’re doing fine art and especially with the way you’re doing, you know, the wood and the different panels,
like that’s, that’s something that only you could really be doing.
Mallory Morrison: [01:00:45] right. And for fine art prints. I, um, I have a printer that I go to that’s out in the brewery called contact photo lab, and they’re absolutely fantastic. And I love working with them. They had, um, They enclosed, um, in March for COVID and, uh, I had to find an online retailer and that they, uh, the online printer and they were great.
But, um, you know, just this last print that I got was the color was incredibly off. And I was like, okay, good thing that I go through me that I make sure, even though it takes a lot more time to have it shipped to me and then shipped the client. I not only need to sign it. Um, but I really need to inspect every time.
Brett Stanley: [01:01:22] And what And what do you do in that, in that case? Do you send stuff back or do you,
Mallory Morrison: [01:01:25] Um, I have them, uh, remake it. Um, yeah, so I’ve had them remake it and, uh, just, just in timing of this last, this last time, I, my, um, contact photo app has now opened up again. And so I just said, Hey, you know, give me a refund. And then I’m I, and I just ordered through a contact, uh, so I can see it, but also, um, shipping, um, Has been so delayed.
Um, and so it’s not really a matter of how long it takes to get remade. It’s how long it takes to get reshipped to me. Um, which, you know, if a client has already paid for it and I’ve already said, yes, it’s on its way. But, um, it, I don’t like being able to having, you know, having to say actually, sorry, wait another week.
Um, yeah, so I just want to get work out there.
Brett Stanley: [01:02:07] So in terms of diversifying your work, uh, uh, and your income streams, um, how does that work for you? Have you got more than, more than just the online print and, you know, the print sales in general as your income stream, or if you’ve got other things happening as well?
Mallory Morrison: [01:02:20] I’ve got a lot of little, um, avenues that I think that was been, has been my focus for probably the last three or four years is just diversify, diversify. How do I get my. Income to stabilize, um, and, and not wanting to have a part time job somewhere as an employee. Um, I am generally a good employee cause I like following the rules, but I am not a happy employee.
Cause I don’t like being, uh, uh, having somebody tell me how it did you think, um,
Brett Stanley: [01:02:53] You like following the rules being not so happy that there are rules.
Mallory Morrison: [01:02:56] Yeah. Or if the rules that I don’t agree with that I can’t change them. Um, especially coming from being, uh, my own business owner for so long. It’s like, I, um, I, I can’t be house trained again. I’m like, you know, I can’t, I have to stay on sanctions. Um, I, uh, so, so I’ve definitely kind of. Been always thinking of how do I continue to, um, earn money that, I mean, the, the baseline, whether or not it’s, it’s me actually taking pictures is when I’m earning money, is it something that makes me happy and fulfills me and hopefully also gives something positive back.
Uh, and so, so I do print sales. I do shoots on occasion, uh, commissions. The commissions are really case by case, uh, and the commissions I have worked on have been fantastic. Um, but it just really needs to be the right fit. It, it isn’t just, you know, take my picture. It’s um, you know, someone that really kind of understands, um, understand my work as an artist, rather than a technician that can facilitate a picture for them. Uh, and then they say, place me in your art and that if that’s the mindset, then it always is just a great. End result. Um, and I, and I really, I really love that cause it’s just, it’s another collaboration. Um, and so I do, I do, um, those sort of print sales and I assist here and there too, but only, you know, just for my, um, business partner, um, which I’ll get into.
Yeah. I also own a photo studio. Um, yeah, it’s called I’m in seven collective, uh, in downtown. L a and, um, so that’s actually where I live. Um, that’s a live workspace and an art colony. Uh,
Brett Stanley: [01:04:43] Oh,
Mallory Morrison: [01:04:43] Uh, yeah, it’s called the Santa Fe art colony. There it’s the last remaining true art colony, uh, uh, where you have to be an artist to live here.
Brett Stanley: [01:04:54] Wow. And so how
Mallory Morrison: [01:04:55] Um, A business. So we had to show our LLC papers and everything that we were a business. Um, Um, so we are a business of we’re an artists’ collective, but, um, mainly our business is a photo studio rental for photo and video shoots. Um, and so my business partner, Liz spreads also incredible photographer and my partner, Brandon Henderson.
And so all three of us live here and, and, uh, run the photo studio. And so then that’s now another income stream.
Uh, Uh, I mean, not right now because we’re closed, but, uh, we will be continuing when we open soon.
Brett Stanley: [01:05:30] But that’s the, that’s the beauty of diversifying, right? You’ve got your print sales, which are reasonably passive, or at least you don’t require human contact, particularly. And then you’ve got this studio that when it runs, when it does open up again, then that’s your other kind of income stream.
Mallory Morrison: [01:05:45] Yeah. And the, and the, the students, um, um, offsets, uh, like pays part of the rent too. So we’re able to live in a 3000 square foot beautiful space. Um, For a very affordable price because the studio pays part of it. Um, Um, and so it, yeah, it has, it has perks more than just a paycheck. Um, but, um, yeah, so that’s another way of diversify.
And then, um, about four years ago, I decided to go to massage therapy school. And, um, um, and so I’m a certified massage therapist as well, and I don’t work in a spa. I’ve never really. Found that to be something I would want to do mostly cause they are horrendously, underpaid, um, and overworked. Um, but it’s, you know, I just I’m I’m mobile and, and have, um, a handful of clients and then they refer me to their PE people.
So it’s. It’s all kind of referral-based cause I’m going into people’s homes and um, um, you know, I need to trust, they need to trust. And I found that as, as a dancer, the dance, having a dance background massage really came very naturally to me. And um, when I was getting into that, I. You know, and putting, kind of putting that out there on, um, um, on Facebook.
Um, there was a lot of confusion. People are like, Whoa, Whoa, wait a minute. Are you not a photographer anymore? Um, that’s so that’s such a, wow, you’re a Jack of all trades. You’re just doing all of these crazy different things. Uh, yeah. And to that, I, I say that it is absolutely still completely me. That, um, um, I’ve realized that I, I, my healer, I like to give instruments of healing and that is a undercurrent of my photography work.
Is that sense of being able to see, have, have someone see my work and feel something generally positive feeling good and having that art therapy. And so. You know, having a different type of therapy and another way of communicating that. Yes. Once again, isn’t talking, um, um, it just, you know, it completely, it makes sense, you know, and, and to be able to, um, to interact with someone, and that way is really, really special to be able to, to make someone feel physically and emotionally better, um, is really rewarding.
So it’s, it’s within my ethos of how I want to earn money.
Brett Stanley: [01:08:08] Oh, totally. Yeah. And it fits within your ethos of, you know, the working for yourself thing. It fits into your schedule. It fits into what you need to do rather than being employed by someone where you’ve, you know, you’ve got to fit into their boxes.
You know, you’ve got your, you’ve got your own little empire You know, it’s driven by you. It’s, it’s things are decided by you. And I think that’s, that’s what we all kind of, a lot of us, I think strive for is having that autonomy to be able to do what we want when we want,
and to be able to earn money from it.
Mallory Morrison: [01:08:39] Yeah. And, um, um, it’s a constant, the process of, of, you know, I had been recently, um, trying to educate myself and tests the waters. Sorry. I keep punting here of, um, of licensing.
the world of licensing. Um, and I ended up getting into this book, uh, it’s called art money, success by Maria Brophy. Um, and she’s in San Clemente.
So in this area and, um, um, and, and she manages her husband’s are art career and, and licensing is a big part of, of how they earn money. And it’s, it’s passive income. Once you get it all dialed in. It set it up and forget it, and then checks just to come in and I’m like, I want to get on that train, but, um, I’m finding as a photographer who also sells limited edition decently priced work, that is hard to be doing both.
Brett Stanley: [01:09:37] Why is that? Does one conflict with the other.
Mallory Morrison: [01:09:40] Depending on it. It’s how you’re like I’ve licensed a specific image to a specific use, like a, um, book publisher for a book cover, um, for a magazine and everything where like, I know exactly where it’s going, how it’s being utilized, that the company is reputable, that it’s going to look good. Um, that I am totally open for still, but it’s.
It’s the mass, um, basically it’s art that you find in target on Wayfair. Um, but I can beyond that is licensed artwork, um, that is sold all over and various price ranges, but generally very, very, very affordable. Um,
Brett Stanley: [01:10:18] the artwork that you can buy from target. It’s not like, you know, advertising stuff. It’s you
Mallory Morrison: [01:10:22] It’s dark. Yeah. It’s it’s wall art. Yeah. . Yeah. Um, but also it could be licensed to be put on certain things, but generally photography isn’t really used for the same, as I say, like illustration or painting, like an illustration can be used for lots more things, you know, textiles and rugs and, you know, all sorts of things that photography doesn’t necessarily translate as well.
Um, But so I’m finding not only is there a limitation in my medium for licensing, but also what would I give them? What I, how would I give them work? That first of all would never be. Uh, uh, an inch that I’m also selling as limited edition print, but you know, what is that image? It’s still gonna be looking like my style.
And then I am now potentially devaluing my own work out into the end of the world. Uh, Uh,
Brett Stanley: [01:11:14] you go on, Why would you pay two grand for a Mallory Morrison when you can get a target and get one for $30,
Mallory Morrison: [01:11:19] Or discounted or marked up, or, you know, I don’t. I don’t have that, that printing control that I have, you know, I just, I would be giving it all away. Um, and you know, and so I’m, I’m still navigating that in an, a, not closing the door on that, but the mass, uh, NASA licensing, um, it just doesn’t seem, seem right.
And so it’s just like, through the, the process of trying to continue to diversify and really, really hunting for that passive income. Within art, the art world also trying to stay true to myself as an artist and keep the value of the work for myself and my collectors.
Brett Stanley: [01:12:01] And I guess that’s the tight rope, right? Like you’re keeping your credibility also trying to maximize the amount of income you get from it.
Mallory Morrison: [01:12:08] yeah. And, and
really, yeah, cause I mean, I really, I just, I want as many people as possible to see my work. That, you know? Um,
Brett Stanley: [01:12:18] people to be happy to have you on their walls, but that’s the general you get from selling prints.
Mallory Morrison: [01:12:23] right. And so, so that’s, I think where, where licensing, where the initial idea of licensing, uh, uh, and interest came from, I was like, okay, well, the more people that have it the better, but that isn’t necessarily gonna be always the case.
Like I have to, I have to, to, to take into consideration a lot of other factors.
Brett Stanley: [01:12:46] No, that’s really interesting. I hadn’t really thought about the, uh, uh, the licensing side of things too much. And, um, um, so yeah, having all those different streams from, from one, one photo shoot, you could create all these different kind of products and potential income.
Mallory Morrison: [01:13:01] right. Yeah. And, and being so specific about what I shoot, not only being, um, You know, dance photographer, but being, you know, shooting underwater and just shooting, um, you know, pretty much primarily women, um, you know, where do, where does that go? So another Avenue that I’m kind of going, going down is, is working with showrooms. So generally I’m not necessarily having a lot of work. That’s printed in frames ready for gallery shows. Cause I’m not really doing gallery shows that much anymore. Um, And because I haven’t yet to find that actually be financially viable for me, not until I get to a certain point where I’m like pre-selling out before, even the show before the show opens.
And it’s a big gallery. I, you know, that’s just not the place for me right now. Um, so, you know, so I considering actually producing more physical work pre-sale, uh, to show in showrooms, um, And, you know, it’s within interior design world, which I, um, as far as marketing goes, I I’m, I’m very much marketing, not only to direct direct sale to, to the buyer, but a big portion of how I market and, and, and my attention goes towards working, um, to build relationships with interior designers and art consultants, and they go to shores,
Brett Stanley: [01:14:21] you
Mallory Morrison: [01:14:21] um,
Brett Stanley: [01:14:22] you mean, this is where an interior designer would go to, to pick out furniture and fixtures and artwork.
Mallory Morrison: [01:14:28] Yeah. Did they have little vignettes of, you know, whole set ups of everything. So I would be a piece of that puzzle rather than only art. Um, and so they see, you know, they see the couch and the lamp and my art and they’re like, Ooh, all of that together. Yes. I’ll take it.
Um, you know, staging. Yeah. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [01:14:47] I think, I think I’ve seen on your website or on, on social media, you’ve done mock ups of what his artwork will look like, you know, in a lounge room or whatever.
Mallory Morrison: [01:14:56] Yeah, I think it’s important to see
Brett Stanley: [01:14:57] to see it like that.
Mallory Morrison: [01:14:59] Yeah. And also to see it to scale. So what I’ve been doing, um, recently, which has just been so helpful for me and for the interested, uh, buyer is to do mock ups. And so I do digital mock ups. They take a picture of their wall with some sort of. A marker in there. If it’s like about the bed, you know, you see the head of the bed frame, or if it’s a couch, you see it living room, you see the couch, some sort of marker that gives me a, a dimension.
And then I can just scale put in the image. And so they can, um, you know, preview it. Uh, and that has, that has changed and into not only, um, a way for them to really feel confident about their purchase. And that there’s now. No, not really as many surprises later. Um, but it, it burns into a unintentional upsell because they see the, see the two by two foot piece.
And then they see the three by three foot piece on the wall and they’re like, yeah, the three by three foot looks better.
And I don’t have to tell them that I don’t have to be. Yeah. Don’t you want the bigger one? That’s more expensive. It, you know, and I show them, I show them that I don’t just show them the big, big, big pieces on their walls.
I sh I give them. The options and give them the, the choice to decide for themselves. I have my preferences of what I think looks best and not always, it’s not always bigger is better. Um, but, uh, you know, it’s in, you know, it’s their home. Um, they, they decided what, what looks best and plus, you know, with a smaller print, you could also do larger matting and framing and you could, you can fill a space differently and just with the print, um, you know, but,
Brett Stanley: [01:16:41] if you’ve got a series, then you could be, you know, rather than the one big print, how about four of smaller ones?
Mallory Morrison: [01:16:47] right. And, and the benefit of being so niche is that majority, the majority of my work talks to each other.
Brett Stanley: [01:16:54] Yeah.
Yeah. You have a very, very constant aesthetic through your work, which I think is, is beautiful because it all works together.
Mallory Morrison: [01:17:02] Yeah. And then it ends up like being able to kind of gallery wall together. I’ve had collectors with the pieces that I do on wood for the art fairs have I’ve collected multiple pieces and I’ve kind of created their own little gallery wall. Uh, and it’s, it’s kind of an, uh, creative exercise for them and in a creative expression for them, of which images they choose to talk to each other.
And it would be next to each other. So it’s like they have now a collaborative part of the process of how they’re displaying their work at my work on their walls is, is what’s what if they are having three of my pieces, how do they want them to be displayed together? You know? That’s yeah,
Brett Stanley: [01:17:45] such a great way of doing it. It’s an, it’s a so whole side of things that for me, as a portrait photographer, I don’t particularly think about a lot, but to hear from your point of view, that this is, this is how your businesses is run. Like this is the basis for your business.
It really gives me ideas of, of how I can use those sort of tools myself. You know, how can I create work? That is. Yeah, it’s more attractive to go on people’s walls and use these kind of avenues to, to change my income stream.
So that’s, that’s really cool.
Mallory Morrison: [01:18:18] Yeah. yeah, I just, I think that there’s, there’s so much to be learned and it just feels pretty elusive. I I’ve definitely feel like I’m kind of groping around in the dark a lot of times trying to figure out how, how to go about. Building this, this business, the way that I want to, um, without really that much of an example, set to follow.
Brett Stanley: [01:18:41] something that you’re looking to, uh, maybe share with other photographers in, in, in workshops or
Mallory Morrison: [01:18:46] Mm, good. Good question. So, um, I, right now, actually on. The workshops. I have been, um, cooking up a workshop for a little while now that I was planning on doing this year, um, that I will be doing next year, um, um, that I rented out a whole micro resort in Palm Springs with a beautiful pool, so we can have it all to ourselves.
We’ll have a max of like eight students. Um, And the first one, I want to kind of do it in a series. The first one is going to be basically it’s the foundations. So what I’m hoping is that, you know, if someone has had maybe one experience shooting underwater, maybe borrowed a friend’s housing, or, you know, even did it on their phone that had some sort of, they’ve tried it once and I’m like, Whoa, this is.
Overwhelming, how do I do this? I want to know more, um, to then be able to kind of, you know, to have a, have a three day, um, weekend with me to, to really kind of, to take the technical side. I like the mystery of that out of it. So then that can kind of open them up to the conceptual. And then, then I’m thinking that the next, um, workshop would be the conceptual and then following that would be the business,
Brett Stanley: [01:20:09] Yeah.
Mallory Morrison: [01:20:10] you know, that, you know, it’s an aside.
Yeah. Yeah. And then kind of just kind of repeat, repeat those, the, that cycle. Um, and because I do find myself asking myself in my head when I’m, when I’m trying to figure out a new path or like, okay, Oh, I, I made a pencil that way. How did it, Oh, that’s good. Noted. I always think in my head, I want other artists to know about this.
Aye. Aye. And excited to teach other artists how to do this. So I’m at the point now that I’m like, okay, I have some things figured out, but I’m still, I’m still working. So I have, I definitely have plenty of things to. Just start, uh, sharing, but I’m still on that path too. And I guess we’ll always, I guess the lesson here is I’m always going to be on that path, so it’s not like, Oh, I figured it out now, check.
Okay. Now I can teach it. You know, it’s like, we’re always, and we’re learning to when, when we’re teaching too, you know? Um, and yeah, so guiding people through the process, but you know, not, not starting at the business side first is like, we need to make the product first. We need to, we need to start there.
Brett Stanley: [01:21:20] true. Very true.
Mallory. This has been
Mallory Morrison: [01:21:22] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [01:21:23] Yeah.
It’s very, very motivating. Yeah, it’s really great. Um, Um, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and all the knowledge that you’ve kind of picked up, uh, on the business side of stuff. I think it’s really invaluable and, uh, I think people get a lot out of it.
Mallory Morrison: [01:21:37] Great. Yeah. And I’m very open ears to, for anyone who, um, Has questions too, you know, go get me a on Instagram, Mallory Morrison. It’s my Instagram. There’s all my, all my links and everything on there too. But you know, I’m an open book. Do you have questions? We’re happy to help.
Brett Stanley: [01:21:54] Well, we do have a Facebook group, uh,
on, uh, on Facebook, obviously. Uh, Uh, so we’ll add you to there. And then if people have got questions, then, uh, then hopefully you can try and answer them for them.
Mallory Morrison: [01:22:03] Perfect. Yeah. Wonderful.
Brett Stanley: [01:22:05] Well, thanks Mallory. And we’ll speak to you soon.
Mallory Morrison: [01:22:07] Thanks Brett.