Isabelle Dervaux joins us from IsabelleDervaux.com in Brooklyn, New York…
Share your story about how you became a photo organizer…
One of my first assignments in art school was a piece collage using a found family photo. Before kids, I was doing collages and albums with all kinds of ephemera from my travels especially when I lived in Japan at the beginning of my career as an editorial illustrator. I never had much time doing photo albums after I had my two kids and let photos piles up in boxes. In 2009 we moved from a craftsman style home in San Francisco to a small apartment back to Manhattan. That move forced me to deal with twenty years worth of photographs, memorabilia, kids’ artwork, and letters thrown in beat-up boxes. With that experience I began to create digital photo narratives for others. While asking family and friends to send photos for slideshows I realized that everyone had horror stories to share like lost digital files, spilled liquid on laptops. I also noticed that many of them were making the same mistakes scanning their own images. With everyone around me starting to shoot with their smart phone and getting frustrated with the endless scrolling I thought there was something there to do as I was ready for a career change.
Primary services and which do you most enjoy?
What I love the best to do is curate, condense and edit photos to make a story flow. I have the excitement and patience to go through thousands and thousands at once because I know that at some point I will spot a truly wonderful one in the stack. This feels like a scavenger hunt. I can notice an emotion, something magical in a corner of an old photo that others might overlook.
Coaching is really fun for me. I like working with the enthusiastic young moms one to one or in small workshops. I have created a special course for them where I teach them to delete with confidence and view their photos with a photographer’s eye so they can transform their snapshots into photographs. After working with me they end up taking far less but better photos and have a system for the future. They love to get my tips and tricks to avoid spending hours of screen time at the end of the year. They have many years ahead of photos ahead of them and I love to help them save time in the process.
As an illustration teacher at Parsons I was helping students edit their portfolios. I now apply the same principles to my clients photo collections and pick out the most powerful images that tell their stories.
How did you find APPO and how long have you been a member?
When I told myself that I could help others and do this for a living I googled photo organizer and APPO came up. Cathi Nelson picked up the phone and that conversation made me join right away in 2012.
Favorite tool or vendor you use for photo organizing?
I do pretty much everything on the Photos app since my clients are mostly using Macs. Some features from iPhotos are gone but it is so much easier in Photos once you are used to it. I don’t see the need to move them to a more complicated system that they might not keep up with. I mostly teach the hidden features that people are unaware of.
I love the following book companies for prints and digital albums: Artifact Uprising and Pinhole Press as well as Pikto from Canada. Nice and simple design without too many overwhelming choices to make.
What is a big (or small) mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?
Not explaining fully the cost and the time it takes to work on a lifetime of pictures before moving into creating an album was one of my mistakes. Putting everything in chronological order can take hours and hours. Lot of detective work is invisible and tedious before doing the fun creative work of putting the images together.
Best client success story…
I feel that my work is the most meaningful when I help families go through difficult events such as divorce and death. I have worked twice with families who have lost very young children. As an outsider it was easier for me to pull images together to help the family grieve.
What is your favorite family tradition?
Taking road trips in the summer. This summer we drove from Brooklyn to Toronto discovering Niagara Falls on the way. Amazing to see the numbers of pictures taken on the Maid of the Mist boat ride… Everyone but us had a Go Pro!
If you weren’t a photo organizer, what would you be doing instead?
I have entertained being a NYC location scout, a magazine photo editor, a food photo stylist, working at a non profit focusing on environment and recycling issues.
Are your own photos organized?
Still a work in progress as you can always add more information to any photo. Our best family photos are framed. My paper and digital photos are physically organized meaning that my own kids can find what they are looking for without me. What I still need to do now is to display the best in old fashioned photo albums with yes —photo corners!
Best tip for a new photo organizer…what you wish someone would have told you sooner?
Update your software and keep current on technology but don’t try to learn everything out on the market at once.
Keep good records of how long it takes you to work on the projects you don’t get paid for while honing your skills to better estimate the jobs that will come in the future. It is so easy to get sucked into fun projects for friends and not see the time pass by. Estimating the work is what I still find the most difficult thing to do. Wished I had learned about the app Toggl earlier on.
Anything else you want our readers to know?
Very excited to come to the next APPO conference in March where I will be speaking about creating dynamic photo books.
Say hi to Isabelle in the comments below and share something you learned from her interview!