Career Insight - Gem Atkinson - Picture Editor

gem atkinson EMEA picture editor for Bloomberg Photo Service. Bio
Currently I'm a Photo Editor on the EMEA desk at Bloomberg News. On a macro level I look after my territories, are Switzerland, Austria & Hungary. This basically involves following the business and financial news within these regions and assigning jobs based on that, in order to service our Terminal, (Terminal is Bloomberg's online system for real-time financial information and trading), clients and also provide content for syndication, also of course, for use on Prior to this I spent a fair few years at Getty Images, working both in the field and as a Senior Editor on the London photo desk, being fortunate enough to work on some of the biggest events in the world Ė two Olympic games, world cups for soccer and rugby, several visits to France for Le Tour and events like Wimbledon.
Outside of work, well Iím bit of an obsessive cycling geek! My weeks are mainly filled with training and racing this year, so Iím fortunate that our hours are of a fairly normal structure, enabling me to fit lots of time in on the bike around my role on the desk. Itís a brilliant work/life balance. Last year I was taking parts in lots of stupidly long cycle events, such as the Bryan Chapman audax, a 385k non-stop ride in the hinterland of rural Wales. Obviously this can lead to a few dozy moments, so thankfully Iím a bit more alert since giving the long distance stuff the shoulder.

Whatís your photography education?
I studied Contemporary Media Practise at Westminster University, specialising in the second year within photography specifically. As soon as I graduated I headed into the industry, working a variety of roles at junior level I think I painted a ridiculous amount of coves in studios in the early days! (For those that don't know, coves are those big white curves they use in fashion and product studios, I used to be barefoot and rollering with fresh white paint at 1am in my youth). Slowly working my way to where I wanted to be, which is certainly on the desk side of things.

Are you a photographer too?
I enjoy taking a happy snap or two when travelling or at a bike race, but apart from that, sadly I've not got the patience to get those stellar shots or the technical know how!

Was there anything that made you stand out as a prospective editor when you interviewed for your job?
When I interviewed here I was keen to convey my thirst for news and politics and actually I've become incredibly interested in the world of business. Itís taught me so much in a relatively short space of time. You begin to learn so much and some of the narratives within the financial world are fascinating! Essentially the best you can bring is a thirst to learn and I think being flexible in your approach. Try and cover a few different bases, so should there be a shortfall in the team somewhere you can plug that hole, making yourself an asset to a team with a wide range of responsibilities.

Whatís a typical working day for you?
Iíll cycle into the London office, where after grabbing some breakfast Iíll head to my desk, usually logging into my terminal around 7:30am. I'll read my emails then check out the headlines for the Europe regions. We collate any headlines of particular interest and at 8:30am we head into a planning meeting to not only run through the upcoming diary, but also discuss any stories we feel we need to react to. Itís a great forum to throw around ideas and it sets everyone up for their day ahead. Then after that I'll be handling my edits that are filed and working on access/planning coverage for the future weeks in the downtime I have. Should it be required our department will assist the web editors with keeping updates with fresh imagery, attaching images to Terminal based stories.

Bloomberg is a large media organisation specialising in business. How does your imaging section fit in to the structure?
Bloomberg Visual Media plays a huge role in servicing our internal departments, namely the web, TV channels, social and of course, the Terminal. As well as this, we syndicate our images so that news outlets globally can licence our footage and stills to use in their publications.

What are the key skills for editing on a specialist business picture desk?
Primarily, taking a keen interest in business, politics and news and of course having excellent communication skills, as often youíll be speaking with journalists, producers and PRís to secure access or accreditation. Be flexible and malleable and try to bring ideas to the table.

Do you ever get involved in the photography too?
With each job I'll brief the photographer with different ideas, how we can make our edit unique if it's already been shot before, or perhaps trying something different to really set the file apart. Other than kicking ideas around, once itís down to the execution, thatís in the hands of our talented shooters!

Are there editing trends that you have to follow or maybe even not follow?
No, not so much. Within the Bloomberg photo desk itís about how a photo assignment can Ďadd valueí so we consider how we can shoot an event differently to other agencies, or about looking for unique angle to cover a news theme. Often we will collectively discuss and brainstorm ideas about how we can provide content that stands up in its own right, away from the crowd.

How do you keep your editing approach fresh and where do you look for editing inspiration?
I like to look at a plethora of stuff on the Internet. There are some amazing photo features out there to glean inspiration from and so many interesting stories and events to help create ideas to eventually generate assignments from. Sites like Roads & Kingdoms, Medium, Lensculture and Digital Trends are regular destinations where I like to lose myself for a couple of hours.

How does your own photography taste influence your editing?
I'm a big fan of architectural and landscape photography, I do love a clean sharp line! I personally really enjoy the work of photographers like Axel Hutte, Candida HŲfer and Thomas Ruff. One of my Swiss photographers had a lot of really nice architecture on his personal portfolio website and that definitely influenced my decision to try him out. As it turns out, he has a great eye, and often in situations like a traditionally slightly sterile Swiss banking news conference, he will file something nice and a bit different, as well as the usual heads needed for coverage packages. So I guess in that way im influenced by my personal preference for that

gem at the winter olympics 2014 Do you have to work to a corporate standard or can you have creative freedom?
We definitely have a style here at Bloomberg, but we have freedom in looking to be bold with what we produce.

What are the highs and lows of the picture desk?
The highs are undoubtedly the buzz and excitement of working on live unfolding events, whether thatís actually based in the field or on the picture desk coordinating coverage. It's high-pressure and fast paced, but so incredibly rewarding. In recent memory, a recent highlight was heading out to the DAVOS World Economic Forum to edit, we had two roving guys covering the major panels, also a dedicated studio photographer doing on-set portraits of dignitaries. We moved thousands of pictures over the week and the coverage and pick-up was superb. Thatís the real high, seeing those images used and having a cracking picture to accompany developing stories is such a buzz! The lows are the occasional miss of a photo opportunity and when outlets choose to go with a really average picture. It can be a bit disheartening when you've got a stellar shot and done everything in your power to get it out there promptly, but an ed will choose something somewhat underwhelming.

Do you have career ambitions beyond the picture desk?
I donít think I do in the respect that I really enjoy what I do. Despite moments of high pressure, essentially I think Iím very lucky to be in a position where Iím working with incredibly talented photographers and editors to produce engaging and enduring pictures.

What was the best business advice you were ever given?
My father has always said, ďYou have to kiss a lot of frogsĒ so I always remember that when things donít work out as expected.

What advice would you give to someone wanting a career on a picture desk?
Skill up on the technical side, look at available and upcoming technology and consider how you can utilise it. Are you familiar with WFT, (camera Wireless File Transfer) and solutions to enable getting those images out quicker to clients? Are you abreast of software developments and tools that can help in all stages of the workflow? Outside of that, just go out there and get experience, whether its internships, speaking to people or attending workshops and talks. Bring all that and a positive attitude and the ability to fit into a team and youíre already well on the way!

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