Calling all photographers, elevate your portfolio by shooting an ancient plant! Cannabis is evolving the world of photography and Ophelia Chong, founder and COO of Stockpot Images, has planted her flag. There is an ever growing need for cannabis related images, and more importantly, images that reflect the dynamics of people living on this planet. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ophelia and she shared with me how she got her start in the industry and how she hopes the industry will expand.
On how she got started:
I have a BFA in painting, yet my portfolio was all photography. I was a creative director for six years including three film festivals. I have always worked in creative fields. After 12 years working corporate I went solo. I’ve since been published in 14 books and a few shows. I believe people need at least three or four phases of their life. Picture yourself at fifty or sixty and you’re doing the same thing.
On what led to cannabis:
I came in completely naive. I had no idea what cannabis was, didn’t know a Sativa from an Indica. I got my card after I got the idea to do Stockpot. I was not in the industry at all. I was one of those people just milling around. Then I started meeting people. I took a deep dive in, meeting women and growers, etc. I met a woman named Alice and she gave me a jar and told me to grow some weed. That first year I learned from seed to harvest, I compacted that entire year into learning what cannabis is all about. Turnpines, wax, the dictionary was endless. There are now over 2000 distinct strains in our library.
On the role of COO:
Basically, I’m a middle man. There are over 180 photographers on my roster and over 15,000 images. We get a commission. I curate their images, add keywords and descriptions. All the photographers have to do is send the images in. Photographers can submit images to us. We go through their portfolio and if they have enough in their collection and we like their style we send them a contract.
On working with photographers and setting a standard:
At the beginning, I went after photographers. I looked for as many images as I could. Google is a great thing. I contacted them and told them what I wanted to do. After April of 2015, I was approached to take on other people’s collections. We don’t objectify women, and we’re changing the way people of color are portrayed in the mass media. From a nine-year-old, to a ninety-year-old Chinese mother, to African Americans in their Sunday best — smoking a joint. When we go online the first thing we see are images, we don’t read captions. At Stockpot Images – it’s not guys on a couch with a bong, or 420Nurses in a garden holding a joint.
On the future of StockPot Images:
I want to be that place that offers all the images everyone needs. We’re expanding on lifestyle, and working on adding more senior citizen images. We’re going to have a need for those images for testing labs and dispensaries. Rather than reacting, I’m going to be proactive by predicting what the community needs in 5-10 years.
On cannabis advertising:
We advertise now. I do social media – a lot of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Plus, I go face-to-face a lot, I’m meeting people constantly. I’ve found the more I’m on the road the more business I bring in. We also do pro bono work for brands like the 420 Games, doing things like that is great, it feels good and the company helps you which broadens your reach. New cannabis companies should do partnerships, we partnered with Cannabis Now to offers images at a discounted rate.
On POC getting into the industry and mainstream portrayal:
At every conference you have the token panel “diversity in cannabis” – it’s the feel good panel no one ever attends. What comes out of these panels? Why stick us all on one panel and not throughout. If conferences would get out of the diversity panel shit – and just put people of color on all the panels: Amber Senter on managing, Wanda James on operations and legal. We also need to lose our fear of cold approaches, assert yourself – get out of the fear of not knowing anyone!
In the media, you have the stereotypical stoner and all the Asians I’ve met are in ancillary businesses: attorneys, hardware, etc. I’ve met one in edibles – Yummi Karma – everyone else is underground. For any people of color in mainstream entertainment – Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong have a wide appeal. Margaret Cho is completely out of the cannabis business.
We need people before they go into the industry to understand what it’s about. The history of the plant, what it can do for you. I’d like to see good people go into it and create products that will help people without the greed that can sometimes hit industries like this. I’d like to see more women in nontraditional roles – outside of PR and design. We need more female heads of science, attorneys, more female investors, more muses and mentors and more women coming out to mentor.
For more information on Stock Pot Images follow Ophelia on Twitter.