Even in difficult economic times, which have seen many agencies go under (including the much respected Kent News and Pictures)2, the United Kingdom is still not short of quality outfits transmitting pictures both regionally and nationally. Due to the heavy Southern bias in the locations of the national media's headquarters, the vast majority of the agencies operating on a regional basis are based in Northern England. North News and Pictures is a Newcastle-upon-Tyne agency which aims to provide the national print and online media with any content it requires from the North-East and Cumbria. In this respect the business model on which it operates is one which wisely exploits a location geographically inconvenient for the London-based media who make up the vast majority of the agency's client base. Similarly, Bradford's Guzelian, which is due to celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, provides pictures from throughout Yorkshire (and beyond) to an impressive list of national print and online media clients. As an example of how effective the regional-to-national approach can be, Guzelian's Lorne Campbell boasts an astonishing 800 national newspaper picture credits since joining the agency in 1999.3
With much of the national print media increasingly relying on subscription-based providers for their picture content, quality picture agencies operating on a genuinely national basis seem to be few and far between. Hamlet Mejloumian’s United National Photographers started life in 1997 as a regional picture agency before swapping the Northern in its name for National in 2000.4 Although its offices remain in the World Heritage listed village of Saltaire, Yorkshire, UNP now has a roster of fifty-six photographer's covering an area, which spans from Stornoway in Scotland to the Isle of Wight. Much of UNP's work still comes from national newspapers, weekend supplements and trade publications but the agency has recently redoubled its efforts towards the PR and Corporate markets and was rewarded with a 36% quarter-to-quarter sales increase in the first quarter of 2010, a success that was largely attributed to a rise in corporate headshot commissions.5
The website of Panos Pictures already has a fully integrated online catalogue, although aside from this fairly standard feature, this high quality agency is something of an admirable curiosity within the domestic marketplace. Despite being based in London, relatively little of Panos' output is produced from within the United Kingdom; the agency instead focuses on mainland European, African and Middle Eastern operations and has an impressive roster of photographers working in these regions, as well as in the Americas and parts of Asia.6 By its' own admission, Panos is chiefly interested in 'global social issues' and has an outlook which seeks to extend the dominant media agenda and offer interpretative perspectives which 'challenge commonly held assumptions.'7 These ethical considerations are also reflected in the agencies commitment to the not-for-profit sector, particularly in the number of their photographer's who have their work exhibited domestically and internationally.8
There are also several domestic agencies, which operate in more specialist markets, and the popularity of tabloid newspapers together with the explosion in the number of showbiz gossip magazines means that the demand for celebrity pictures is particularly well-serviced in the United Kingdom marketplace. Big Pictures, the biggest celebrity picture agency in the UK, works almost exclusively within this sector of the trade and, with an archive of over 5 million pictures, claims to be the world's best celebrity photography agency.9 Cavendish Press is another outfit which mines the celebrity market for much of its work, but it is also notable for being one of a few agencies (Ross Parry being another) which sell pre-packaged (pictures and text) 'everyday life' stories to women's magazines such as Chat, Bella and Take A Break. Both agencies use their websites to actively solicit these kinds of stories.10 The novel approaches adopted by agencies such as Cavendish seem to suggest that product diversification is becoming more of a priority for businesses operating in the difficult conditions of the United Kingdom's press photography sector.
The London Photo Agency is a newlyformed offspring covering The City and the home counties. They offer a wide range of professional photographic services. They specialise in magazine photography, corporate, business, news and PR photography. Their photographers work to extremely high standards - satisfaction guaranteed, their website claims.