Less About the Image, More About Who’s Behind the Camera


Our theme ‘Six Continents’ is judged by the wonderful Patrick di Nola – long time head of reportage photography at Getty Images. He’s now Commercial Director at Verbatim, and agency which he founded this year, representing a range of globally-acclaimed photojournalists such as Veronique de Viguerie, Brett Stirton and Peter Dench.

We sat down with Patrick to ask him about Verbatim, his approach to judging and critiquing photography, the work behind the scenes in photojournalism, and what he think it takes to be a photographer on assignment in a rapidly-changing world.

Banner image © Veronique de Viguerie, represented by Verbatim Agency


Hi Patrick, firstly thank so much for joining us as our judge for Life Framer’s theme ‘Six Continents’. Having sat on award juries before, and through your experience, can you tell us the types of things you’re looking for in a winning image?

With this particular contest and theme I am seeking out images that inspire and inform, that take the viewer to the location and connect them with what they are seeing. There is a wealth of travel imagery out there, so there are some inevitable clichés, but I am seeking something that brings a fresh look at what it is depicting.

What drew you to photography initially? And then from making images to editorial work?

My brother was briefly a travel photographer, so I started shooting as a young teenager, then went on to study photography at university. It was a technical course however, just as the digital revolution was taking place in photography, so as it taught me about Photoshop, metadata, and some of how the industry/business of photography operates. Based on that I decided to pursue a career involved in photography without being a photographer myself. The skills I had enabled me to get a job on a picture desk, and from there I developed a passion for editorial photography, particularly photojournalism. Over the years it evolved from editorial and NGO work, to applying the unique skills and talents of leading photojournalists to the commercial world, working with brands and on campaigns.

Image © Lynsey Addario, represented by Verbatim Agency

You recently founded Verbatim Agency, a subsidiary of Getty Images, and are now Commercial Director. Can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?

Having worked to create and manage Getty Images Reportage, a platform to represent and syndicate the work of some of the foremost award-winning photojournalists over the past 10 years, we recently launched Verbatim Agency with a specific focus on commercial assignment work for a core group of 10 of these photographers, supported with a much wider network of 700+ freelance photographers & videographers in over 70 countries globally. My colleagues and I at Verbatim work direct with brands and also via advertising/creative agencies on commercial shoots, often telling the stories of brands, working with this group of some of the world’s best storytellers. Sometimes that is close to the traditional work of a photojournalist, for example documenting a corporate responsibility initiative of a large company out in the field… other times it is more in line with traditional advertising work.

You represent a number of photojournalists such as Tom Stoddart and Marco Di Lauro. How do you work with them? And what types of skills do you tend to add, not in their repertoires?

We act as their exclusive commercial agent, for all their commercial assignment work, be it in stills or video. Being a freelance photographer, often out in the field shooting, can mean being quite separated from clients, particularly outside of the city/country you work in. My colleagues and I are here to focus our time 100% on promoting & pitching these photographers for new commercial work, negotiating rights & rates on their behalf, looking after the commerce of their careers, whilst also engaging in day to day management of the photographers in terms of collaborative discussions about projects they want to do, finding partners they could work with on a topic of mutual interest, etc.


Image © Gillian Laub, represented by Verbatim Agency

“The person behind the camera is often the part that blows me away… the dedication, the passion, the drive and focus that the best photojournalists demonstrate is still nothing short of incredible”.


Image © Tom Stoddart, represented by Verbatim Agency

And what about working with NGOs. Can you tell us a bit about that?

This is really something I used to do some years back, working with the likes of UNICEF, the ICRC, Save The Children and WWF. These are still important relationships for us and our photographers, due to there being so many areas of common focus between us all, however as a business we are now focused on the larger scale campaign work, rather than the day to day coverage needs, and indeed we are often working with the commercial partners of these charities/NGOs, or indeed commercial partners who are involved in supporting similar initiatives to these charities/NGOs.

I’m drawn to something that Alec Soth said – that photographs aren’t good at telling stories, but are brilliant at suggesting them. Would you agree with that? And with the type of photography you work with, do you feel that images and a written narrative always need to go hand in hand?

I guess the classic counter to that is the old saying that “a picture can speak a thousand words”… I think there is so much range in visual language, in storytelling, in different mediums, that there really isn’t one rule for this. Sometimes a single image can sum up or convey a very broad story in an impressively succinct way… other times a sequence of images is necessary, or captions may be needed… in the early days of ‘multimedia’ we saw a lot of online slideshows of photos with audio recordings played over the top to enrich the storytelling… and more recently a lot of photojournalists have embraced video and film-making as a sometimes-richer medium for telling some very complex stories, such as our very own Sh