Setting up a creative collective

By Tan Lee Kuen (writer and photographer/Malaysia)

What is a collective, and how does it function? We spoke to Collecti.Vision’s Andri Tambunan to find out more was formed in August 2016 as a collective of creative visual storytellers in Asia. The collective currently has five members, including photographers, videographers, brand developers and designers, and aims to work with brands, organisations and publications in creating impactful visual projects and campaigns. Andri Tambunan, a documentary photographer, shares their experiences of setting up a collective.

What’s the collective about?
Our collective was not formed as a documentary type collective; the idea is to create a visual team in which we can approach corporate, commercial and government clients, something which we wouldn’t be able to do by ourselves.

What is the purpose of the collective?
The whole purpose is to create a separate brand catering to these types of clients. All of us are still focused on our personal projects, but it’s difficult to make a living in this kind of field. By creating this team, we can go after plans that have bigger budgets and use our expertise in documentary story-telling to offer something unique – authenticity with images that capture humanity and that are believable. We have the experience. The idea is to have a separate brand, an extension to what we do, and it does not interfere with our personal projects. No one is obligated to do anything if it conflicts with their schedule.

Who are the members of the collective?
There are five members including myself. Nanang Sujana is an award-winning filmmaker who works a lot with environmental and social issues. Caleb Ming is also a filmmaker and photographer but his clients are mostly commercial clients like hotels and resorts. Nanang and Caleb are both drone pilots. Jason Lorico is based in San Francisco. He does web work and graphics and is also a brand manager. His expertise is in creating your brand from ground up – logo and website to managing social media. Gembong Nusantara is also a photographer, videographer and producer. We need someone like him, with a good documentary background, to produce stories. And there’s me. My background is documentary photography but I also do video and social media consultancy.

How does the collective work?
Basically, each of us brings something to the table that is unique. We’ve created a portfolio that highlights our individual experiences and successes. We pool our resources together and show potential clients what we’ve done individually and illustrate what we can do as a team. As, we pitch as a team, not as an individual.

Right now, we are building a list of potential clients together. We tried Agency Access, which we purchased for a yearly fee, and this would be a good starting point for looking for clients. When we pool our resources together, everyone brings in their contacts from their past work experiences that we can pitch to as a team. We want to go after the big campaigns, the year-long contracts. For every project we work on, the collective takes 5% from each member’s commission, depending on their role in the project. The money is put back into the company to meet overheads, for promotional collaterals and to maintain the website.

What sort of projects is the collective interested in?
With our documentary background, we want to focus on working with big NGOs on social and environmental issues; big visual campaigns that allow us to use our background in creating visuals and engaging with the audience

What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned so far, in your few short months as a collective?
Create a collective not because you have to, but because you want to. You have to have a vision statement, why you formed this collective in the first place. Also, the collective should not interfere with your personal projects. It is a delicate balance.

Choose the right people, find someone who is on the same page and bring something new to the table. You don’t want all five people to do the same thing. You want a team that provides a new expertise or resource. In terms of finding members, you want to work with people you can depend on, who can deliver because you are going to rely on them. It is important to have trust and good communication so that people know their expectations and their goals. Members should also be able to communicate their obstacles and concerns during projects so that everyone can work to overcome it. If there is a problem, take the initiative to solve it.

Keep your ego in check. That’s important. You need everyone and everyone needs everyone. Have an open mind to ideas from your teammates. That’s what a team is. When we do have disagreements, it’s better to talk about it so that the team stays cohesive.


Tan Lee Kuen

She is a writer and photographer from Malaysia. She is also the founder of Asia PaperCamera, an online project celebrating photography in Asia with stories and interviews.

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