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Capturing Aotearoa: New stock image library Truestock will become the first platform co-operative in NZ

Truestock, a New Zealand stock image library is offering exclusive, royalty-free local stock images capturing an authentic, multicultural Aotearoa. The site will also become the first platform co-operative in New Zealand

Locally owned and operated, all of Truestock’s photographer contributors become majority co-owners. The concept was born out of the challenges in obtaining high quality stock images that reflect an authentic representation of a diverse New Zealand.

Here we chat with Founder Tanmay Desai on how Truestock came about, the importance of the image library, and the challenges faced during the process.

How did the idea for Truestock come about?

New Zealand has such an immense amount of diverse and talented photographers in all parts of the country. Photographers with tremendous passion and skills, who are not just in the big cities but in smaller towns and rural regions as well. On the other hand we knew there was an ever present need for really well shot local stock images that show a true representation of a multicultural and diverse Aotearoa.  

Most international libraries just don’t cater to our unique diversity made up of everyday kiwis including tangata whenua and a vibrant mix of migrants who now call New Zealand home. The idea of Truestock was therefore born out of connecting this demand with New Zealand’s most talented photographers with an entrepreneurial streak. It gives these photographers a platform to not just create a source of passive income but leverage  from our marketing efforts to showcase their work to the wider industry as well.

The co-operative model seemed to be the best fit as we wanted to make it fair for our content creators. With such amazing talent in New Zealand, we wanted to truly partner up with local photographers by making them co-owners. That way they not only get the highest commission on photo sales (50%) but profit share and voting rights on the direction of the co-operative as well. We are in the final stages of becoming a co-operative.

How does one become a Truestock contributor/co-owner?

The process is very straightforward. Photographers apply through our website and once approved they need to sign two documents. A Contributor Agreement along with a Shareholder Agreement that outlines our Constitution. Our current contributors have all signed these documents and many have taken legal advice before doing so.

Why do you think it’s important to showcase an authentic, multicultural Aoetaroa?

New Zealand is unique. From the makeup of its diverse people to the flora and fauna and even our unique lifestyle. Our country has opened its arms to migrants from many countries as well, who are now active members of the local economy. It’s important to give local businesses and government agencies a resource that helps them represent this true face of Aotearoa in their marketing collateral. It’s imagery that shows a slice of New Zealand life in an authentic way, captured by some of the top photographers in New Zealand. 

Secondly, not everyone has the budget to commission a full custom photoshoot that helps them capture this, but the need for an authentic representation is ever present. Truestock very much aims to become a resource that caters to this need.

What challenges have you come across in the process of creating Truestock?

As with any start-up there were many challenges but no major surprises luckily. The two biggest challenges have been:

1. Creating a co-op and not a company. Creating a company is fairly straightforward but creating a co-op requires a lot more paperwork and legal consultation. This has been a learning experience but with organisations like Cooperative Business New Zealand helping us along the way. It has been very rewarding. Daniel Leddy, who is one of our Directors and co-founders has been instrumental in seeing this process through as he has a legal background. The photographers really appreciate this and understand the value of being co-owners rather than just contributors. 

2. Creating a world class platform. Creating a stock library from scratch has a plethora of technical aspects to it. From an easy to use contributor portal that makes uploading really efficient, to a customer facing library that caters to businesses with varying needs and team sizes and of course creating an intelligent search mechanism so people can find what they are looking for. Ovidii Alexeenco, also a Director and co-founder has been instrumental in building this ecosystem.

What feedback have you had so far?

The feedback has been extremely positive so far. Both from contributors and the market. We have had an amazing response from photographers across New Zealand. Many photographers had investigated submitting to international stock libraries but were instead after something more local and with a more rewarding commission model. Some hadn’t considered submitting to a stock library at all but having seen our business model made them apply.

Erica Sinclair, Te Whānau a Apanui, Contributing Co-owner said “I am excited to be part of Truestock and hope to offer an authentic insight into our Māori culture, values and narratives”

Graeme Murray, Contributing Co-owner, Top 200 Ad Photographers of the World* said “It’s exciting to be a part of a stock image library that is all about New Zealand. One that reflects the beauty of New Zealand, its amazing people, wildlife and even its cities. Being a co-owner of Truestock provides me with an opportunity to have a say and a greater motivation to create fresh images that reflect New Zealand.”

From a market response point of view we’ve had messages flowing in describing just how important the need for representing an authentic, multicultural and diverse New Zealand is. Our market validation campaign that ran through early 2021 proved that the need for high quality local stock images is very high. Roughly one month in now and we have had a really good mix of organisations purchase photos from various government agencies to SMEs and of course the creative sector. 

What makes Truestock unique?

Trustock is all in when it comes to championing diversity. This diversity is not just reflected in the content we shoot but also the makeup of our contributors. We have a lovely mix of enthinic backgrounds, ages, gender, locations and shooting styles when it comes to our contributors. Photographers who would traditionally only shoot local families or weddings for example are suddenly getting exposure with corporates and big agencies in need for authentic local imagery. Contributors with years of industry experience see Truestock as a platform to showcase imagery that they might not normally shoot for a commercial commission but expresses their personal style better. 

In terms of ethical payment structure, we believe in not only giving a robust commission and profit share but making sure that the everyday kiwi models who are in our photos get paid as well. We are, to our knowledge, the only stock library in the world that foots the bill for talent fees whether an image gets sold or not. This has been a huge success for our contributors who can easily approach their models knowing that Truesock will ensure fair payment to them. In addition we also encourage our photographers to pay a percentage of their income to the talent.

We also have valuable market insights which leads us to create targeted briefs for our photographers. Our in-house art direction and one-one-one mentorship strategies go a long way in making sure that the financial returns on time invested by our contributors makes it worth their while. We want to make sure that photographers not only enjoy capturing the content but are capturing content that is in demand.


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