VII is a photographer-owned agency, formed in response to the dramatic changes taking place in the ownership, representation and distribution of photojournalism.
Against a background of mergers, acquisitions and consolidations among photo agencies, the photographers of VII shared the same desire for change. VII was established to redefine the relationship between the photographers, their work, the agency and the public. The agency seeks to defend the rights of each one of its photographers and to develop new ways of supporting photographic projects in a bid to present them to a larger and wider international audience.
VII is named after the number of its founding members: Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Antonin Kratochvil, Christopher Morris, James Nachtwey and John Stanmeyer.
VII was founded in full recognition of the complex management issues that can arise out of such an ambitious project. Our approach is simple: to limit the number of member photographers to no more than 14. This constraint immediately sets a ceiling on management overheads and consequently maximizes the return for the photographers themselves. VII was conceived to present a small and flexible business model able to adapt quickly but with no aspiration to develop the supply side. In this way we all benefit from the shared knowledge and temperaments that come with our deliberate concentration of output towards a relatively narrow field.
Where VII intends to grow is in the production and distribution of its photographs. Working with software adapted by Metro Imaging in, we are pioneering the integration of digital workflow with photojournalism.
Through our collaboration with Metro, VII will retain the ability to provide more traditional delivery where required, although we are persuaded that this is a diminishing necessity.
The clear artistic, ethical and business aims of VII seek to maximize returns to its photographers. Through the virtue of its limited size and careful constitution, VII is structured to balance these aims so that no single priority emerges to the detriment of the others.
In setting specific limits to VII we have necessarily created something exclusive in terms of subject matter, quality and business method. However, we do not strive to be an elite; instead our intention is simply to find a practical scale for our work. We freely recommend the development of similarly conceived agencies.
VII’s conviction is that communities of enlightened self-interest have always best served the practitioners of any skill, but that there is a size of community beyond which self-interest takes the upper hand. In photojournalism, the use of digital distribution means that small groups can have all the reach and speed of big agencies. When this is the case competition will concentrate more fully on quality of expression, to the lasting benefit of the work we communicate.