We are delighted to present this exclusive interview with Image Source’s newly returned Founder, Christina Vaughan, who returned to the business less than 2 months ago after almost 4 years absence. Christina founded the business 20 years ago and ran and led it as the Company’s CEO for 16 years before stepping down to try new ventures in Music Licensing and then a new start up in Influencer platforms last year with Nuala Creative.
Christina has given few interviews since her return, preferring to keep her head down and remain entirely focused on jumping straight back in to Image Source. In this her first interview, we ask her why she returned and what is her vision for the new Image Source.
CEPIC: Christina, can you tell us what brought about your return to the industry?
Christina: I had started my new business Nuala Creative last Spring which is in the business of helping build Creators’ for YouTube and Instagram, two platforms that I had worked closely with in the music licensing industry. Nuala is a very exciting start-up and the early signs were very encouraging so I decided to seek external funding to accelerate its growth and in the process of my fund raise, I met experienced investor, Michael Jackson, who picked up on my first love and passion for Image Source and simply said, “Why don’t we buy back Image Source? It’s clear to me that your passion remains for the industry and with all the new experience and learnings you have from Nuala, surely Image Source will benefit from your return.” I knew that the former Cultura shareholders who had taken over the running of Image Source after my departure were keen to exit and Michael and I put together a plan that would see my return to Image Source and the opportunity for us to reinvigorate what is still one of the most loved brands across the globe.
CEPIC: Did this not seem like a step backwards for you?
Christina: On the contrary, quite the opposite. Image Source has always felt like unfinished business for me. It was my baby and I felt as though I had handed it over as an unruly teenager to foster parents. When I set the business up, 20 years ago, I was considered as a trailblazer, confident in the move from analogue to digital and being one of the very first e-Commerce sites for images in Europe. Having stepped outside of the industry, working for innovative music licensing companies like Peter Gabriel’s CueSongs and then setting up the new business, Nuala, reminded me of all the things in common the choices in my business life had – I have always believed in high end premium content – whether that be photography or Music, I believe in authenticity and delivering real emotional connectivity and finally, working with amazing talent to help them realise their creative goals. I am also a truly global person and have never limited myself to one country or place so I am completely at home in working with visual communications where one picture can speak 80 languages. I will be applying all my learnings from the new generation platforms of YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to reinvigorate Image Source and indeed the whole stock photography industry. Over the years at Image Source, we have licensed Images to the value of $ ¾ billion – very few individuals can make that claim so using that experience, knowledge, contact book and credentials to reshape a wonderful international brand like Image Source can only be a huge leap forward, never backwards.
CEPIC: Can you share your Vision for Image Source with us?
Christina: My Vision for Image Source is not so different as it was 20 years ago, to be the best we can possibly be by playing to our strengths, engaging photographers (and now videographers) to produce their best most engaging work and for me to then monetise their images using the power of global distribution partners. Today those distribution partners now include some of the best social platforms and new generation partnerships.
I want to reinvigorate Image Source and the Image licensing industry as I think, today more than ever, visual communication is so important – authentic storytelling is such a key component of Influencer Marketing, Digital Strategies and Social Media and producers like Image Source that understand how to art direct, produce, curate,edit and present it appropriately to the market place are more important than ever. Image Source is a multi million pound business with great credentials so it’s a great base to focus a new Vision for 2018 onwards. I am excited to be Chief Executive again.
CEPIC: How important are international distribution partners such as the CEPIC Members in terms of global partnerships.
Christina: They are as important as ever. Relationships are why people spend money on high end Imagery. It is important that an Image is technically and legally hygienic as well as being creative and relevant – however people buy from people they like and respect and so local partners, local relationships, language and culture remain key to successful international distribution – but it all begins with the Image.
CEPIC: Will Image Source be doing anything different now you are back?
Christina: I have always been an agent of change and ready to embrace new products, new technology and new ideas. We are going back to core in terms of High Production Values, Art Directed and Curated by experienced professionals.
Over the last 20 years, I have developed an amazing network of Art Directors, Producers and Editors, some seasoned industry professionals, many new to the industry but knowledgeable on saleable imagery and we will be working with them all to raise the bar again in terms of production standards.
I am also looking to weave in all my Nuala experience in Influencer marketing across the new generation platforms as we integrate Video in to our Production processes and look to develop even more innovative products for Stock licensing such as 3D for VR and AR next year. I have also worked with some great tech and digital businesses over the past 4 years who I will be getting to take a look at all our processes at Image Source so that we can once again be trailblazers.
CEPIC: Does the Industry seem better or worse to you today?
Christina: I think many people seem a little fearful and I have heard quite a few concerns about change, lower price points, subscription services and higher cost of sales. However, Change to me is good. Change is about evolution, growth and renewal. I don’t believe in looking backwards even though I have had a very successful 27 year career filled with many highs. To me, the best is yet to come and I only see opportunity, growth and new doors opening ahead. We live in a world of radical technological change and I have been so inspired by the people I have met over the last couple of years who have built amazing new businesses through the power of the new platforms. As the youngest of ten children and aunt and great aunt to over 30 nieces and nephews, I am really tuned in to youthful energy and dynamism. I am dealing with several business owners under 30 who already have multi million pound businesses and I see their hunger, curiosity and spending power for new fresh content that is professionally produced and tightly curated. These people are our audience, our buyers, our clients and I look towards them all to help me build up Image Source to become a first class business of the new generation. We are the bridge between experienced content creators and new generation buyers. What’s not to like about that?
Christina Vaughan founded Image Source in November 1998. She stepped down in 2014 as CEO and returned again in February 2018. Former President of CEPIC (2009 to 2013) and Vice President of DMLA, she is this year a Patron for Vote100, celebrating 100 years since Women got the vote in the UK. She is aiming to channel these experiences and energy to reinvigorate Image Source as well as share her experience of Start-Ups and Growth Businesses as a Speaker at the CEPIC Innovation Day in Berlin on 30th May.