Lydia Pang On Commissioning

Lydia pang image from a Messy Truth (Fletcher, 2019)

What a positive podcast! Reflecting on the interview with Lydia Pang on commissioning. She captivated me from the moment she started and presented a world and attitude that made me wish I was 40 years younger.

However, its never too late and advice like this is invaluable.

I am a “baby boomer” and started my working career where guilds were still around and your path to become a professional was through a strict programme and apprenticeship. You had to apply for work or commissions and submit your certificates/degrees and testimonials from someone in that industry did psychometric testing and had an interview before getting a job or contract that will allow you to be commissioned for work.

The world has changed and Lydia’s description of it is done in a positive way without discounting the problems of our time. She presented how creative millennial and post-millennial engage with a career and get commissions. The internet, social media and professional sites such as Linkedin, number of people trained and able to do the work has changed how all people including creatives find work or commissions or rather get found. the following is my interpretation of her podcast (Fletcher, 2019).

Almost every statement she made resulted in a mind-shift for me. And that is why I list them here for a personal record. My main takeaways from this podcast are:

  • “When starting out, do as much as you can so you can find out what you don’t like doing.” She described how she interned where she could before and after UNI to see where she fit in the visual arts space. She freed herself from being defined as a photographer only by taking on other Photographic Roles and trying things that add to her value as a visual arts specialist such as copywriting etc. It reinforces the fact that we are all individuals that can bring a variety of skills and knowledge to a creative project. We can also use each project or internship to develop other skills or play a different role within that group. This advice is still wise for a 60-year-old starting out on a new career as a full-time photographer/creative.
  • Select the companies you identify with and bring you growth. Lydia identified the companies she wanted to work for and tried to find creative ways to get into them. Even tried to get a job as an account manager at M&C Saatchi Abel which led her to get a job in the ART department. Once I decide on what I want to commit to I need to identify and engage with enterprises that will allow me to grow even as a freelancer.
  • Find your own voice in the industry. We all have something to say visually. It s finding a way to bring that forward and having you heard.
  • Visibility is attained by disrupting to get commissions in the industry where there is so much sameness and is achieved through the adaption to use the new channels and mediums we are now making for, developing your brand, curating your work, and running and show up in a meaningful way in these platforms.
  • Every Link is created equal” so put yourself out there, a good portfolio and work will be seen even if there are many photographers out there. When researching where this quote has come from I discovered a contradiction to this statement that all links are not equal (Shepard, 2019). But it does not take away from what Lydia intended to say. We all have an equal opportunity to present our work. There is sort of democratization of the ability to present your work. The difference is what you post, need to be authentic you, and if your work is relevant, interesting and your content can draw people in the agencies will find you. The contrary article really enforces that you need to know and understand the media channels, how they work and how to effectively use it to channel the potential commissioner or art director to your work.
  • You need to learn how to tell powerful stories on the internet platforms that the brands you need to do work for will use: This important statement was made by Gem Fletcher. These are no longer new platforms. Big billboards are no longer the primary advertising media. I agree with Lydia’s statement that we need to learn how to manipulate and innovate the creative use of these platforms. With reference to her mother, a photographer, she commented on how she at 50 has learned to adopt these platforms to get her presence and voice doing so through observation and seeking out research.
  • Authenticity! Add agencies are not looking for “Rock stars” anymore but authenticity creatives. They are looking for creatives that relate and show passion to the message or story they wish to convey in their projects. So you need to be clear on this in your work. It is important to present your passions, be it woman’s rights, social injustice etc. Your point of view and unique way of presenting in an image is important. It clearly transparent to them if you try and imitate or follow in the footsteps of others. There are some many images to choose from. They always seek something new. Something that shows that you have emerged into it.
  • Together we are stronger. There is a shift in identifying ourselves as creatives and collectives. as many voices with different perspectives…We are not islands anymore, more about the need to be very confident in your contribution to share it. Still, the pressure to attach credit to your work. But creativity doesn’t work that way. its a new learning curve for all of us. Initially, your impostor syndrome will be F… intense.

I discussed this podcast with my daughter that is currently in her second year studying a BA in interior design at Vega. Being a millennial and an active and knowledgeable user of the social media platforms she confirmed the statements above as being very relevant. Their course and assignment promote collaboration and the concept of a collective. They need to engage with each other and finding their voice in those interactions are extremely tough at times as many designers are competitive and want to make their mark. Initially, it went pretty well but in their last assignment, one of the designers dominated the project and in spite of advice from all the others forced her point of view on the others. It turns out that all this ignored advice was exactly what was pointed out by the lecturer as flaws in their project. The relationships are still strained and they will see if the lesson will improve and inform their work in the next collaborative assignment which is starting now.

This blog really motivated the need for me to participate in the collaborative exercise of developing a pitch to the clients as proposed in the course. Every opportunity to engage in a collective and learn to work with other creatives must be passionately pursued as the process cannot be taught but need to be experienced. I feel encouraged to participate fully.

While the context may differ, I believe the information contained in Lydia’s blog will shape how I view my client base, my portfolio and my point of view and the methods I need to use to solicit commissions in the future and I can immediately apply and test it it to my current practice as a wedding photographer and the MA course.


Fletcher, G. (2019). ‎The Messy Truth: Lydia Pang – On Commissioning on Apple Podcasts. [online] Apple Podcasts. Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].

Shepard, C. (2019). All Links are Not Created Equal: 20 New Graphics on Google’s Valuation of Links. [online] Moz. Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].