Lumi Light x Artist Photographer Mark Strachan
Lumi Light Edition 5: Mark Strachan of Artist Photographer
You may recognise this face.
Mark Strachan not only shares a space with Luminosity, but also shares a last name with our CEO and Founder, Karen.
Mark, like his wife, owns a small business in Geelong.
He is the man behind Artist Photographer, a group of photography studios specialising in family portraiture and black and white artistic photography. Since opening the doors in the 1980's, Mark's business has grown exponentially.
With a studio still operating out of Geelong, a second in Richmond and team of photographers, retouchers and framers, as well as an ambassadorship with brand Leica, Mark is at the helm of a thriving multi-faceted business. While nobody could predict what was to come in 2020, Artist Photographer has been able to survive forced closure, and come out stronger on the other end.
Read more of our feature with expert photographer Mark Strachan below to learn more.
What inspired you to create Artist Photographer?
I was given my first camera at the age of 7, and just prior to that time, my parents had divorced. My brother and I lived with our mum and I used my camera as a way of ‘keeping us all together’ when our dad visited. I always loved making pictures and at the age of 15, I thought how amazing it would be to do this for other families. Some of our clients have said that the family or child portrait we have created for them is the most valuable thing they own, which is so beautiful to hear. In the late 1980’s, it became clear that I would need help to be able to serve all of our clients, so I employed a number of other support staff and photographers, so we could remain creative and not suffer burnout.
Whats the best part about being a business owner?
I love the flexibility to be able to work the hours I prefer and with the people I want (both clients and staff). In my profession, no two days are ever the same and some of the most challenging sessions end up being the most cherished. We have 3 photographers including me and whilst most portraits are made at our studios in Geelong and Richmond, I get to work on location or at client homes which adds another layer of variety and creativity. I’m also an ambassador for Leica Camera in Germany, so this given me many opportunities for travel, presenting and conducting workshops far and wide
How much impact has the restrictions in trade caused by COVID-19 had on you and your business? How have you had to adapt?
We temporarily closed our studios in mid-March with over 100 families needing to be rescheduled, however, we had no idea when we could reschedule them to! We put in place a priority waitlist for those clients so they could get a similar day and time when we reopened. We kept a couple of staff on phones working from their homes to deal with any inbound calls. The surprising thing for us was the number of new clients that called to book sessions while we were closed. We noticed this also in during the Pyramid Building Society collapse in 1990 and the GFC in 2008. For us, time has proven that in times of financial uncertainty, many people tend to focus on that which is most important to them – their family. We had significant growth in those years and I expect this next 12 months will be a record year for us.
What does the 'Recovery' phase of C-19 look like for you and your business?
This next 4 to 6 weeks will be an exciting time for us as we have brought staff back on to look after our families. In March, all of our team undertook certified Federal Government COVID-19 training and we’ve added an additional 20% of time to our booking schedules to allow us to safely manage client visits to our business. It’s been encouraging to see that the clients that have already been to us have had a really fun time and no one even really talks about recent events – I think people just want to move on.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself at the start of 2020, what would it be?
We could probably have booked more clients into January and February to keep our retouch artist and framer busy during the shutdown. We were able to get all of our client’s artworks completed during the this time and for the first time in over a decade, they were completely up-to-date. I’m very proud of our production team that during the shutdown we still were able to honour promised ready dates for clients’ work – no client order ran late and in fact, many clients received their portraits well before they were expecting them.
Lastly, what are a couple of your favourite local Geelong small businesses and why?
Over the past few months, there was a teeny bit more of a focus on food in our home.
One of our favourite places to shop is The Fresh Food Merchant just a couple of hundred metres from our apartment. I love the range of wholesome and fresh food they have and also the variety. Ash and Lisa along with their staff are friendly and really helpful – it reminds me so much of the local green grocer near my childhood home in the 1960’s.
We also liked to treat ourselves with yummy French Pastries from That Place in Belmont. The owner, Ashlea is a Parisian-trained pastry chef - her croissants and delicate pastries are divine and probably account for a slight change in our COVID body shape (that we are walking daily to reduce!
Having the time to slow down recently, we have a renewed focus on our health and underwent Total Body Skin Cancer Scans at skinMD in Moorabool St. Full disclosure … this is my wife’s latest Doctor-run clinic which opened about a month before the shutdown. During the business’ recent ‘mini-vacation’, she took delivery of the latest in AI Mole Mapping technology from Germany and I underwent full body scan that only took 15 minutes with results during that same visit analysed by Dr Kath. Even though my life pace has slowed somewhat recently, I appreciated the fast yet accurate mapping appointment.