The Prisma archive was born almost thirty years ago as a source of images for any type of publication concerning art, history and literature. Taking off the business was not easy and there have been moments of crisis. Despite this, Prisma image library remains a firm point of reference for Spanish and international publishers.
How were the difficulties surmount? For a few months the Prisma archive has been using MomaPIX digital asset management to manage, distribute and promote the photos. By accessing their site it seems like entering a museum, the quality of the images and the attention to details immediately transpire. But it is not "only" this that has made Prisma a lasting historical archive. Being able to build excellent human relationships has made the difference.
We worked in agile mode for a few weeks in close contact with Federico Tarrés, founder of the Prisma archive, and we have been really impressed by his rare kindness and empathy. GoFundMe recently launched a storytelling campaign focused on kind people. We at MomaPIX also think that kindness is the winning card and we believe that telling the story of the Prisma archive can be a source of inspiration for those who are entering a new business or managing a business for years.
Q: Federico, when and how did you start working in the field of cultural heritage? A: “ It all started around 1987. By chance I started working in a photographic archive. The predominant themes were related to art and history. That experience for about five years got me interested in the subject. Starting a business in this field was very difficult for me. Although I had contacts at the time, I did not have a photographic archive available. I was not a photographer myself, so I had to produce my archives by commissioning reports from photographers I trusted. It took about two years, in which basically I worked with no clients and invested to get a minimum stock to start sales with, mainly in the publishing industry. One of the most important elements was the documentation of the images, it had to be as complete as possible. To do this I hired some people and this involved a considerable cost, higher than the initial calculations, as often happens when starting any business.”
Q: What is the purpose of the Prisma historical archive?
A: “The purpose of the archive is to provide high quality images for any type of publication. Over the years we have eliminated some subjects that are no longer of interest to our clients, simply because they can easily obtain these images with their own methods or by using agencies that have royalty free photos. That's why we have focused on art, history and literature. During the almost thirty years of Prisma Archivo's life we have never stopped producing our reportages. Thanks to this we are able to distribute our photos all over the world through the agencies we collaborate with. Times have changed and photo agencies (or image banks) have suffered a lot. With few resources we have been able to perform real miracles, managing to stay in business by competing in this difficult sector. It is very important to constantly add new images to the collection, which should never stop. The work and effort that this requires is enormous, but only those who dedicate themselves to this can understand how it can be satisfying.”
Q: Why is the photographic archive called Prisma? A: “It was not immediate to choose the name for my business. I didn't like acronyms and couldn't find a name I liked. In those days, it was the early 90s, I went out a lot in the evenings with my friends. We went out for dinner, went to bars with music in Barcelona. On one occasion I was having a drink in one of the usual places and I heard a song I loved. I remember that moment, when you feel happy ... with that drink, with your friends, with the music. I read the name of the place on a wall and thought it was the name I wanted: Prisma.”
Q: Who are your clients? A: “Over the years we have collaborated with the most important Spanish publishers. Textbooks, publications of all kinds, magazines, encyclopedias, newspaper supplements, etc. We have also worked extensively with travel wholesalers for their travel catalogs. The change in business models and the various economic crises have not left us indifferent. However, we have compensated for the loss of income in the Spanish domestic market by distributing part of our collection through agencies that sell around the world. This was and is very time-consuming, as it requires translation of all images into English. As for anything important, we must also think about the future: for about ten years we have been working hard to increase our international presence, always through distributors. At the moment we do not do direct sales abroad, we prefer to insist and keep what works rather than using resources on what we do not know.”
Q: How do you promote Prisma Archive? A: “The company's philosophy has always been that word of mouth was the best business card. This has been the case since 1992, when I started. New customers knew us thanks to the publications showing our credits. Also good relationships with clients, work with freelancers, which appeared today on one site and tomorrow on another. The result was always the same: whoever worked with Prisma for the first time always returned to Prisma. We were also interviewed in a national newspaper. All this contributed to making us known.
This philosophy still works, but only in part. The type of client is no longer the same, the continuity of editors in companies is very different, people no longer work for the same company for so much time. There are layoffs, temporary contracts, the certainty of staying in contact for several years with the same person has disappeared. At the moment we don't have a well-defined promotion model, the business has been running on its own for years. I know this is something to work on to continue to achieve the desired results.”
IT has been part of Prisma since the first day. Over the years, various platforms have been used, up to today, in which it was chosen to manage the photographic archive with MomaPIX DAM software.
We continued the interview with Federico Tarrés talking about the technological aspects related to the management of the image library.
Q: How does digital asset management help your business? A: “It would be impossible to run my business without good digital asset management. At Prisma we have always made adequate use of technology. Although there was no digitization of images at that time (we are talking about 1992), all the information was computerized from the very beginning. Traditional archives used typewriters to complete the texts of the typical covers with which photographs were mounted to archive and send them to customers. After a few years we incorporated scanners into our business and the archive was digitized. It was a new and demanding task that required quality, craftsmanship and, of course, a management software capable of optimizing the work. Each agency has its own methods and classification systems, but we all need to have an application that allows us to manage images and related information. Technology is constantly advancing and the truth is that until you work with the right platform to discover all its possibilities, you don't know how useful it is in your daily work. What I can say is that the MomaPIX solution is sensational and suitable for the type of archive we have.”
Q: What do you think about virtual museum exhibitions? A: “I've always thought technology is a great thing. It's okay if it's in the service of improving any business, any process, and if it's used not to replace people but to help them. Of course I think it's a great thing that museums can use technology to bring their content closer to everyone. However, I am convinced that it will never replace the pleasure you feel when you visit a museum and see that painting, that sculpture, those rooms, etc. firsthand. I think we need to understand that there is a difference between seeing and feeling, so it should never replace the desire to visit places.”
Previous PostGilardi Photo Library enhancement by DAM software