Alaska on Fire

Posted on 10/1/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

“We are having fun here,” says Jeff Shultz, owner of Anchorage-based Alaska Stock Images, which snagged the cover of this month’s issue of Newsweek. Shultz is also having a great month as a photographer: in a career-defining milestone, one of his images will be printed on a U.S. postal stamp commemorating Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood.

How does a small independent agency end up on a cover of Newsweek? The 2002 photo of U.S. vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin did not appear there by chance: according to its owner, Alaska Stock has a long-standing relationship with the magazine’s photo editor Mira Kreiman. “We also had a June polar-bear cover for a global-warming issue, and Newsweek has bought other images from us,” recalls Shultz.

When Palin’s candidacy was announced, Newsweek looked to her local agency. Though Shultz shot Palin’s official portrait when she was first elected Alaska’s governor, he said his stock agency had very few images in total. He added: “The first day [after the announcement] was a zoo here. Everybody was looking for photos!”

Alaska Stock put out a call to its photographers, who have since submitted hundreds of images—and Shultz said the agency was still receiving more. “One of our photographers did a lot of Palin’s campaign when she was running for mayor. These are exclusives you can’t get anywhere else,” he elaborated.

The Newsweek cover photo of Palin holding a gun was taken by photographer Judy Patrick. Alaska Stock represents images from over 100 photographers.

Last December, the agency submitted 13 images by 6 of these photographers to PhotoAssist, a Maryland-based photo-research company that coordinated the image-selection process for the U.S. Postal Service’s commemorative Alaska stamp. Alaska Stock had previously supplied USPS with images for its wildlife stamp series. The selection process for the commemorative stamp included feedback of a private-citizen advisory committee and the Alaska Statehood Celebration Commission. Shultz, who has photographed the Iditarod Great Sled Race for nearly 30 years, emerged as the favorite. “I feel very blessed and honored to be in this position,” he says.

At the unveiling of the stamp’s design, Palin stated: “I appreciate how appropriately [the image] represents Alaskans’ love for the outdoors and our pristine wilderness, as well as our determination to blaze new paths and forge ahead.” The stamp is scheduled for release in early January.

Can others learn from Alaska Stock’s experiences? Palin’s nomination is fortunate but coincidental; however, along with placement on a USPS stamp, it does reaffirm that being a niche or local leader yields tangible advantages. In addition, both successes highlight the importance of long-term client relationships. Shultz also thinks that surviving the microstock encroachment means staying on top of technology, which small and flexible agencies like Alaska Stock “are hopefully able to accomplish—or try to.”

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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