Benji Lanyado, founder of Picfair, Europe’s fastest-growing image marketplace, talks authenticity, big breaks and creativity. Oh, and West Ham. Sounds like a winning combination to us…
#1. So, what’s your favourite word?
Rambunctious. It’s a ridiculous word and it’s also sort of chewy.
#2. What gets you up in the morning?
Berocca and fear.
#3. What do you truly, honestly think of social media?
For businesses, I think it’s the greatest marketing resource ever invented. Personally, however, I think we’re approaching a sort of saturation point, where the volume and noise can feel overwhelming. It sometimes feels like a bit of a social experiment gradually going tragically wrong: what happens if you let everyone in the world talk to each other? When I first joined Twitter 9 years ago it was full of sharing and positivity and enthusiasm, but today it feels like an increasingly angry, tribal, divisive place where sober opinions go to get drunk and shouty. I wonder if this trend is irreversible.
#4. Kindles or books?
#5. What do you think is the biggest challenge to your industry right now?
Authenticity and fairness. The image licensing industry is absurdly weird in two significant ways: 1) The huge, exponentially-improving world of amateur photography isn’t available to license anywhere. 2) The money generated by the images that *are* available to license mostly goes to middlemen and agencies, rather than the photographers themselves – a photographer is lucky if they get 20% of the royalties their images generate. Picfair is reversing both of these trends.
#6. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A footballer, preferably a centre-forward for West Ham, with additional ambassadorial responsibilities. I still haven’t given up.
#7. There’s still time. What led you to your current career?
Frustration. I used to be a travel journalist for the Guardian and New York Times, and it was maddening using the same agency images every day, none of which reflected the aesthetics of *new* media – the images you find everyday on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr etc. I also desperately wanted to work with engineers. In the end I became one by mistake, and built Picfair myself.
#8. BOOOOM. Can you use your favourite word in a sentence?
(West Ham winger) Mikhail Antonio was in full flow; a constant, rambunctious menace to Arsenal’s full-backs. (My dreams sometimes look like this).
#9. Now can you make it rhyme?
Oh lord. OK.
“We’re bubbling over, too rambunctious // If we push too hard, it might just puncture us.”
Actually, I’m quite pleased with that.
#10. Back of the net. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stop caring about being cool. (see answer and self-satisfaction above).
#11. What’s the best thing anyone’s ever done for you?
The break my first editor at the Guardian, Andy Pietrasik, gave me. I emailed him while at university telling him that I thought the Guardian Travel section was useless for students and that I could do much better. He gave me a monthly column.
#12. Tell us, what’s been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
Leaving the luckiest job in the world – travelling for a living – and deciding to start all over again by learning how to code, and, eventually, building Picfair.
#13. If you won a big award of some kind, who would you thank?
My fiancee, for putting up with my constant obsessiveness. And my Dad – he arrived in this country with nothing as an 8-year old immigrant on a boat from India.
#14. Can you give us a timesaver of the day?
Brush your teeth in the shower.
#15. Where do you see your industry in 24 months?
Dominated by Picfair.
#16. Us too. Where were you 24 months ago?
With Picfair’s first team, working towards our 100,000th image. We’re currently homing in on our 5,000,000th.
#17. *Doffs cap*. What’s an interesting fact about your company?
We have over 24,000 photographers in 130 countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Suriname, and Djibouti.
#18. If you could have a 24-minute Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Donald Trump. I’d call him a prick 1440 times (once a second). It wouldn’t achieve anything but would make me feel better.
#19. What’s one word you’d want people to describe you with?
#20. Would you mind taking a selfie for us?
Here you go.
#21. What’s your favourite Twitter handle or social media campaign?
@Calvinn_Hobbes. Snippets from the greatest cartoon strips ever made. Thoughtful and silly – always a delightful antidote to daily stresses.
#22. What’s one quote that defines your work ethic?
Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
#23. What’s been the best part of your day?
Today? Seeing a Picfair image taken by an amateur photographer in Nairobi used in print by one of the biggest newspapers in the UK. This is Picfair’s raison d’etre: connecting emerging photographers anywhere, with publishers and businesses everywhere.
#24. LOVE. Finally, anything to plug?
Picfair, always. We’re the fastest-growing image marketplace in Europe, with millions of stunning images uploaded by emerging photographers across the globe. Our images start from £1, our licenses are extremely broad, we don’t force you into a monthly subscription (it’s pay-as-you-go), and we only make money if our photographers make more.
Seriously, if you’re not a fully paid-up member of Benji Lanyado’s fair and ethical army by now, well, we have no words
or images 🙂