Now in its second year, the latest Unsigned showcase features work by 50 artists, directors, photographers and illustrators. Many of them have already created work for major brands and clients but at the time of writing they remain unsigned by agents and production companies.
Work by the Unsigned artists will be shown in an exhibition at BBH’s London offices (available to view by appointment) and also in an online showcase on Instagram. The point of the project is two-fold: both to gain attention for new talent, but also to encourage those in the advertising industry and marketing world to look beyond just the established names when commissioning work.
“The Unsigned showcase is useful for BBH because it connects us to an entirely different emerging creative network and the possibility of future collaborations for our clients’ productions, but the motivation for staging this event is also to give a voice to a diverse range of talent that are not represented yet by our established network of production partners,” says Stephen Ledger-Lomas, Head of Production and Partner at BBH, who has co-curated this year’s Unsigned list alongside BBH Assistant Producer Tom Burns.
“It is BBH investing in the photographers, directors and illustrators of the future and becoming part of their story. It is easy to forget the resources, effort and determination it takes for artists to establish themselves in this industry and this event hopefully provides a platform for them and a new audience for their work.”
In terms of sourcing the talent for this year’s showcase, Burns explains that the platforms they have used have been a “real mixed bag”. “We found a lot of the featured artists through Instagram, as I find it to be the most useful in finding up-and-coming creatives,” he says. “It’s an open space for people to post their work, and taps into that generation of young artists that are often starting up and trying to establish themselves in the industry.
“However, I’ve always had a strong appreciation for traditional print, which is why going to exhibitions has been integral to the process. Attending various shows – be it degree or brand collaborations with artists – has introduced me to some of the most exciting creatives that lead the Unsigned roster this year.”
Included in the showcase is photographer and filmmaker Nwaka Okparaeke, who despite saying she is in the “very early stages of my career” has already created work for the BBC, MTV and Voxi and is clearly clued up about the different process that comes with working with commercial clients compared to making personal projects.
“The process of working with commercial companies compared to working on my own projects can feel quite slow, but I have no problem with it as I understand that every detail has to be checked by several different people in different departments,” she says. “The most challenging part of working with commercial clients is that I really like to think outside of the box and go for unique ideas that I haven’t seen been done before.
“Commercial companies, on the other hand, often like to follow what is already out in the mainstream media, e.g casting and narratives. Despite this they always love the outcomes of the work I do with them because my push to create something a little bit more unique has always turned out to be beneficial to the aim of their projects.”
Photographer Daniele Fummo has similarly found that one of the most challenging aspects of commercial work is finding the right compromise between a personal and a client vision for the work, though says this has been a positive experience so far.
“Each of my work experiences has been in their own way challenging and therefore surprising,” he says. “I often collaborate with a producer that is also one of my good friends, Caterina Maiolini. Her advice is always to challenge myself in new experiences that would make me step out of my comfort zone…. Personally I think the most challenging ones were the ones when I had to work on a concept for a client that at first would seem far from my vision and to adapt that vision to mine, find the right compromise and make it work for all.”
Several in the Unsigned showcase have no commercial experience, though are excited about what the exposure from the project may bring. “I was massively pleased to be picked for Unsigned,” says photographer and filmmaker Starkie Reay, who has recently graduated from the LCC in London. “With so many graduate students and such a high calibre year it is especially pleasing to have an opportunity to show my most recent projects. Looking forward to hearing of any opportunities that there may be, I’m not fixed on what may happen next so it’s just exciting to be part of it and to meet people in the industry I would love to be part of.”
Despite the opportunities that may come to them independently now, all of the artists and creatives we spoke to still very much see the value of having an agent to help develop their careers. “Completely doing all my work myself can be quite intense at times,” says Okparaeke. “I would like to have an agent because I think this would relieve me of some of the work, this way I have more time to focus on the creative side of my job.”
“I believe that having an agent nowadays is still very relevant and important,” agrees Fummo. “I strongly believe in team work and with the right agent I’m sure we can achieve greater results.”
Unsigned launches at BBH London on September 26 (viewing by appointment); instagram.com/_unsigned__