Rocco Basile is an expert in diverse genres of photography that include fine art photography, portrait photography, and photojournalism, among many others. Rocco, who originally hails from New York, is also the founder of Rocco Basile Photography, a studio and gallery based out of Southern California. It is through Rocco Basile Photography that the prominent photography expert showcases his most recent work, but it is always more likely that Rocco will instead devote this space in an effort to help provide exposure for one of the many new, up-and-coming photographers he has counseled over the years.
Prior to relocating to Santa Barbara and founding Rocco Basile Photography, Rocco supported himself and his art through photojournalism. As a freelancer, Rocco accepted assignments that would take him to some of Japan’s most serene locales, including a lengthy stay in Okinawa. This assignment, along with his photography of Tibet, earned Rocco the praise of his peers and ultimately enabled him to finance the studio and gallery he now operates in Southern California.
Rocco’s frequent international travels have not dimmed his affection for New York and the Northeast in general. Rocco’s youth was marked by weekend trips into the city’s museums and art galleries, which opened his eyes to the world of artistic photography and provided the initial spark that has since become an all-consuming and fiery passion for the visual arts. With his career path clearly defined, Rocco enrolled at Emerson College before going on to the California Institute of the Arts, where he earned his MFA.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
Every artist needs a patron when they first get started, and I felt that a photography studio and gallery would provide the best vehicle for supporting my own work as well as the work of other area artists.
How do you make money?
My gallery regularly hosts events in which donations are accepted from attendees. The gallery also sells some of my photography as well as the photography of others, and I still accept the occasional freelance assignment as long as it piques my interest.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
When I first founded Rocco Basile Photography, I wasn’t expecting that it would be profitable enough to be my only source of income; I actually expected it to be quite some time before it became a profitable business. Instead, my lean operation turned out to be quite profitable before the company’s first anniversary.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations and only hoped the business would serve as a platform for other artists in the area. Since it exceeded expectations right from the start, there really wasn’t anything for me to worry about.
How did you get your first customer?
A friend I went to school with back east is in marketing and set up a website for the gallery before I even had a single photograph on the wall. By the time I was finished setting up the actual gallery space I already had orders that needed to be packed and shipped.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
I don’t handle much of the marketing side of the business, but I’ve found it most effective to employ strategies that help create a personal connection between the buyer and the artist, preferably in person.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Organizing the wall space is typically the toughest responsibility I have, especially since there is rarely enough room to showcase all the incredible work of the talented photographers in the area.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I’ve always seen things differently than most others, and a unique perspective is key to any photographer’s success.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The first time someone gave me a check for something I’d happily do for free.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about working with up-and-coming photographers and supporting the visual arts as a whole. It’s a wonderful profession, but getting past the initial instability requires the help and support of others.
What business books have inspired you?
I wish I had read “The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries before I founded my business, but the principles I learned from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” helped me thrive during those early years.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I’ve been experimenting with new visual arts technologies and recently invested in hardware and software for virtual reality.
What the best advice you ever received?
I have a close friend who loves to quote song lyrics, and one of the lines he recited turned out to be a great piece of advice for an aspiring photographer: “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”