Mary Virginia Swanson makes it her goal to help guide photographers towards the strengths in their work and to identify appreciative audiences for their prints, exhibitions, editorial and licensing placement. Swanson has a diverse professional background, having coordinated educational, publication and exhibition programs for a wide range of institutions and businesses in our field.
Swanson is considered an expert in the area of marketing and licensing fine art. It was during her tenure heading special projects at Magnum Photos, that she recognized the opportunities for artists to develop second markets for their work and in 1991 she founded SWANSTOCK, an innovative agency that managed licensing rights for fine art photographers. She left the company in 1999 to return to teaching and writing projects, reaching more artists in this capacity than when she was an agent for a limited number of artists.
Swanson currently works with photographers as a marketing consultant, and is a sought-after portfolio reviewer at events such as Review Santa Fe, Review LA, FotoFest (Houston) and Lens Culture FotoFest Paris, PhotoNOLA, Palm Springs Photo Festival and Photolucida, among others.
Swanson also consults with business and agencies in our industry, assisting in their awareness of contemporary photography.
Her seminars, workshops and public lectures on the subject of marketing opportunities have aided countless photographers in moving their careers to the next level. After many years of teaching marketing workshops all over the US, Swanson now coordinates a limited number of short seminars herself, partnering with non-profit organizations to drive membership and enrich dialogue in their community. As a part of this partnership, She offers a discounted one-time, one-hour consultation at for members of host organizations who register for her seminar. Check “MVS On The Road” to learn when Ms. Swanson is coming to your town.
Swanson’s writing on marketing photography has established a broader dialogue with photographers through various industry publications. Most recently she has contributed an article “Take Steps to Build Your Brand” to the January 2011 issue of the British Journal of Photography.
Swanson maintains a popular blog about marketing photographs. She is the author of her self-published The Business of Photography: Principles and Practices, which is available through this website.
ON PUBLISHING PHOTOBOOKS:
From 2004-2007. She co-authored, with publisher/editor Darius Himes, a column on
“Publishing The Photographic Book” in the PhotoEye Booklist that was syndicated syndicated in American Photographer. Publication of this quarterly magazine concluded in 2007.
A book of these columns has evolved into the recently released title “PUBLISH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK” (Princeton Architectural Press, spring 2011). Co-authors Swanson and Himes will be offering a series of lectures and seminars across the country in 2011. Next up: JULY 11 in Los Angeles (Artbooks West @ Paper Chase) and AUGUST 1 (SF Camerawork). Join the mailing list here to learn when Swanson and Himes will be in your area.
Mary Virginia Swanson is widely respected as a leader in the fields of licensing and marketing fine art photography. Ms. Swanson is an expert in career development within the fine art, commercial and photojournalism fields, and is sought after as an educator and consultant.
While attending college at Arizona State University’s noted MFA Photography program, Swanson was the student director of Northlight Gallery, and completed an internship at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) where she served as research assistant to the MIA’s Curator of Photography, Carroll T. Hartwell, for the publication The Making of Collection (Aperture, 1982). It was while conducting research for this project that Swanson established professional relationships and friendships that she maintains today with many of today’s most revered fine art photographers.
After completing her degree program 1979 (MFA, Photography) Swanson was hired as Workshop Coordinator at the Friends of Photography (FOP) in Carmel, California, an organization founded in the 1960’s by Ansel Adams, Beaumont Newhall and other key figures of the day. Under the direction of James Alinder, FOP embarked on a growth campaign; Swanson headed the expansion and management of its educational programming, including the famed Ansel Adams Workshops, bringing hundreds of eminent photographers to teach in the programs at FOP.
In spring of 1984, Swanson relocated to New York City to direct Special Projects for Magnum Photos, the landmark photojournalism Cooperative founded by Henri-Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour and George Rodger at the end of World War II. Swanson’s mission was to enhance awareness of the work of Magnum photographers, and to establish opportunities for photographers within the fine art market. She worked with the rich archives of imagery held at the Magnum archive to coordinate exhibitions of contemporary and vintage work, as well as publications projects. It was during her tenure at Magnum that Swanson became aware of the increasing market for image licensing rights and reproduction.
In 1987, Swanson joined the team of photography professionals headed by David Cohen and Rick Smolan, founders of the “Day In The Life” series, to coordinate the traveling exhibition of Day in the Life of America. She later worked with this team to produce “SO FAR,” a publication celebrating ten years of Apple Computer. She served as Assignment Editor for this publication, overseeing production of images by noted photojournalists.
Following the Day in the Life project, Swanson joined the staff of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she held a joint position within the departments of Photography and Film (1989-1991). Swanson was the founding director of the American Photography Institute at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and directed the film festivals, an important launch of new talent with eagerly anticipated screenings in NYC and Los Angeles.
In 1991, Swanson relocated to Tucson, Arizona launched the business she had long envisioned, establishing SWANSTOCK, a landmark alternative agency that managed licensing rights for fine art photographers. At the time of its merger (1997) with The Image Bank, a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak, Swanstock represented the works of over 600 noted fine art photographers, including Tom Baril, Jo Whaley, Keith Carter, Linda Connor, Peter de Lory, Macduff Everton, Sally Gall, Mark Klett, Holly Roberts, Jeff Brouws and Olivia Parker among many others. The agency was the subject of cover stories in both Photo District News (PDN) and Advertising Ages’ Creativity Magazine in 1994, and articles in Communication Arts and Creative Review among other publications upon the launch of its marketing catalogue in 1998, which more closely resembled an art book than licensing sales tools of the day. Mervyn Kurlansky, a founder of Pentagram London, designed the book. In 1999, The Image Bank sold all its agencies to Getty Images, which subsequently closed Swanstock. This unique agency is fondly remembered by the photography and client communities alike as the preeminent source for fine art imagery and exceptional representation of extraordinary photographers. Many industry professionals continue to seek creative advice from Ms. Swanson in planning their campaigns. Additionally, Swanson has served as an expert witness on legal cases dealing with valuation of commercial and fine art photography collections and archives.
Swanson continues her commitment to bringing photography and photographers to new markets through consulting, lectures and educational programming.
Swanson contributes articles to many print and online publications, including Photo District News (PDN) and PDNEDU, Digital Journalist, Nueva Luz, British Journal of Photography, The Education of a Photographer and teachingphoto.com, among others in the U.S. and abroad. She aids numerous other organizations in an advisory capacity, including Blue Earth Alliance and National Geographic’s ALL ROADS Photography Program, and contributes seminars annually to many events including the Society for Photographic Education’s national and regional meetings.
Swanson is a favorite reviewer at noted photography portfolio events such as “FotoFest,” “Review Americas” and “Review Santa Fe” in the USA, and “Rhubarb Festival” in the UK, important gatherings of emerging talent and industry professionals. She coordinated a day of educational programming at FotoFest 2002 and 2004 events. At the Project Symposium component of Review Santa Fe in 2003, Swanson organized and moderated a panel on “Strategies for Emerging Artists” that was very well received. She has participated annually at this even. For this past year¹s Symposium “Publishing the Photographic Book” she contributed a presentation on publishing contracts. This successful Symposium is was repeated at photo l.a. 2004.
Since 2001, Swanson has been a popular presenter at PhotoPlus Expo, the annual gathering of industry professionals, product developers and manufacturers sponsored by Photo District News, held at the Javitts center in New York City. Among the seminars she has given to this professional audience are “Presenting Your Work to the Fine Art Market”, “Choosing a Career with your Camera” and “Licensing Rights: A Primer”.”
In conjunction with the Center for Creative Photography’s ANSEL ADAMS CENTENNIAL Exhibition in 2002, Swanson presented a lecture entitled “Ansel Adams: Educator.” Subsequently, she expanded her original research on Mr. Adams, and presented “Ansel Adams: Advocate for American Photography” at the 2003 National Meeting of the Society for Photographic Education, and later at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography (October 2003), as well as at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in 2004.
Since 1999, Swanson continues her passion of bringing professional awareness to photography students, gaining a solid reputation for one who brings practical advice to the classroom. She has spoken on careers in photography to graduating seniors and graduate candidates at many colleges and universities including Tyler School of Art, University of the Arts (both Philadelphia), Emerson College, Simmons and Massachusetts College of the Arts (Boston), College for Creative Studies (Detroit), San Francisco Art Institute, Pratt (Brooklyn), College of DuPage (Chicago area), School of Visual Arts, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, University of New Mexico, Light Work/Syracuse University, Art Institutes of Minnesota, New England School of Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design and her alma matter Arizona State University among other institutions. Swanson is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education (SPE), rising through the ranks of regional and national board participation, culminating in chairing its national meeting in 1992. She has served as a presenter and portfolio reviewer at nearly every national meeting since her tenure on the board. In 2002, she co-coordinated a pre-conference workshop for scholarship recipients and conference volunteers (only) entitled “Making and Marketing Art: Strategies for a Career as an Artist” continues annually with co-presenter Susan kae Grant and moderator Dennis Keeley. Swanson was a member of the “The Fuji Talent Team” of Fuji Photo Film USA, which sponsored her “Target Your Market” lectures at regional meetings of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), including San Diego, Phoenix and Philadelphia in 2002. In 2007 she was a member of the “PDN ON THE ROAD” team which brought lectures on professional practices to six cities, sponsored by Photo District News Magazine. This summer she will participate in PDN’s newest event, “Outdoor World” in Salt Lake City in early August.
In the fall of 2002, she developed a course for School of the Visual Art’s MFA Program called “Professional Practices”“Marketing Guidebook for Photographers,” which is used as a course book at many colleges. She continued to teach at SVA (BFA and MFA programs) during the fall semesters. She brought the course to Savannah College of Art and Design for the spring term of 2005, working with both BFA and MFA students as a Visiting Professor. Swanson accepted another Visiting Professor appointment Fall of 2009 to teach a Business of Art class for NYU’s Department of Photography & Imaging, Tisch School of the Art.
Swanson conducts marketing workshops for photographers at many prominent institutions, and conducts repeat visits annually to the Santa Fe Workshops. She has also presented lectures at Women in Photography/New England, Professional Women Photographers (NYC), PhotoNOLA and The Darkroom (New Orleans) PhotoAlliance and The Print Center (Philadelphia). She frequently presents educational programs at portfolio review events, including FotoFest, Photolucida, PhotoNOLA and Review Santa Fe.
Among the many events Swanson was involved with in 2005 include leading a seminar on “Collecting Contemporary Photography” at photo l.a., and participating as a Portfolio Reviewer at Photolucida and Review Santa Fe, with summer 2005 teaching engagements at the Minnesota Center for Photography, Santa Fe Workshops, Santa Fe Center for Photography (SFCP), Photographic Center Northwest, International Center for Photography and Maine Photographic Workshops. She conducted a marketing workshop sponsored by SFCP hosted by Photo NY, and presented two seminars at PhotoPlus Expo sponsored by Photo District News magazine. Swanson contributed to an article on the book jacket market for fine art photography in PDN, and Swanson was again published in FotoMAGAZIN and Photo Technics Magazine (Germany), and most recently in the British Journal of Photography.
In recent years Swanson coordinated the ‘Creative Edge’ lecture sponsored by CENTER and hosted by photo la entitled “The Business of being an Artist” and presented lectures moderated panels at the SILVER symposium (all 2006), the National Meetings of the Society for Photographic Education (annually) and the Agency VII West Coast Seminar (April, Pasadena). Swanson gave the keynote address for the New England School of Photography’s CROSS CURRENTS series for the past 5 years, as well as conducting her annual summer workshops in Santa Fe and Maine, she will once again serve as a Portfolio Reviewer at FotoFest as well as developing educational programs which in previous years have focussed on careers, photobook publishing and multimedia. More reviews in 2008 include Review Santa Fe and the Rhubarb Festival of the Image in Birmingham, England with her annual presentations at Palm Springs Photo Festival, FotoFest and PhotoPlus Expo. 2009 found her continuing her participation and presentations at schools, industry and portfolio review events, as well as a seminar at Light Work in Syracuse with co-presenter Susan kae Grant. Fall semester of 2009 Swanson was a visiting professor at NYU’s Department of Photography and Imaging within the Tisch School of the Arts, teaching The Business of Art. 2010 brought the addition of two new events to her calendar: Swanson presented a marketing seminar at the start of Flash Forward Festival in Toronto, and participating as a reviewer at the first Lensculture FotoFest Paris. In 2011, She has presented marketing seminars at the PRC in Boston (January), Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (April) with upcoming presentations in LA/SF/Milwaukee/Chicago/Syracuse on the calendar, as well as participating as a portfolio reviewer at Filter Photo Festival in Chicago (October). Details, including when Swanson is available for consultations before and/or after the events will be announced on the MVS ON THE ROAD section of this website.
See her BLOG to learn of these events, and more! Favorite events she never misses attending: BookExpo America, the NY Art Book Fair and the Society for Photographic Education national and regional conferences. Not to be missed
PUBLISH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK: Beginning in the Fall of 2010, Swanson and co-author Darius Himes began their series of public lectures on their forthcoming title “Publish Your Photography Book” which will be released Winter, 2011 (Princeton Architectural Press). They presented lectures at PhotoPlus Expo, Corcoran Museum during FotoWeek DC, and the New York Public Library. A lecture/seminar series has been developed which will bring Himes and Swanson t0 Gilbert (Phoenix) in January, Los Angeles in February, New York City in March, Santa Fe in April, Denver in September, Boston and New York in October (other 2011 PYPB dates to be confirmed in Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle).
Swanson and Himes will again teach their only one-week publishing intensive of the year at the Santa Fe Workshops. For 2011 the course begins on Sunday evening, June 26th, concluding late morning on Saturday, July 2nd. Space is limited at this comprehensive workshop (which will sell out); contact SFW at (505) 983-1400 to register for this workshop; housing is available on campus.
When not meeting with photographers, presenting and attending industry events Swanson continues her industry and marketing research, her writings on photography, and her mentoring and volunteerism.
Swanson currently serves on the Boards of Advisors of National Geographic Society’s ALL ROADS Photography Program, Blue Earth Alliance, PhotoNOLA, PhotoAlliance, Texas Photographic Society, and the National Advisory Board of Photolucida. Most recently she has accepted the invitation to join the Affiliate Council of the International League of Conservation Photographers and the Advisory Board of the Houston Center for Photography. Swanson has served full board terms in the past with the Society for Photographic Education, the Santa Fe Center for Photography (now CENTER), the Board of Directors of the ASMP Foundation, and the Board of Advisors of the Center for Photographic Arts.