Verbatim Photo agency founder Aidan Sullivan's top photographers to watch

Man sat at a table holding a bright red negroni

The New York-based Soho Works member and founder of Verbatim Photo agency discusses five of his favourite photographers

‘I’ve been working in the media industry since I was 16 when I got a summer job at a local newspaper in the UK. I was a “copy boy”, which basically meant I made a lot of tea and ran around as a “gopher”, but that allowed me to see pretty much every aspect of the newspaper. And the moment I stepped into that newsroom I knew I had found my future. 

‘Since then, I’ve worked as a photojournalist covering conflict, as the director of photography at The Sunday Times in London, the vice president of Photo Assignments for Getty Images, and I now run my own business, Verbatim Photo. It’s a new and unique company that works with some of the world’s leading documentary film-makers and photojournalists.

‘Together, we consult, create and produce authentic and compelling visual content – both film and stills – working with brands and nonprofit organisations who want authenticity; real stories about real people.

‘I’ve been an “every House” member since 2006. And, as I live in FiDi, I have easy access to all three New York Houses. Before COVID-19, I travelled a lot and spent time in the LA and London Houses, too. 

‘Below, I’ve highlighted five of my favourite photographers right now and what makes their work special.’

Lynsey Addario

‘I’ve worked with Lynsey for a long time. Although I represent her, it’s more of a friendship than anything else. She is truly remarkable. She’s been covering conflicts around the globe for years, has been kidnapped twice, and won a Pulitzer and a MacArthur “Genius Grant”. Lynsey continues to dedicate herself to documenting important issues for the world’s most influential media, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and many others. She has spent more than a decade documenting maternal health issues and her work on the subject is outstanding.

‘The work here is from a recent video project for Stella McCartney. The two met socially and Lynsey explained what she’d like to create – Stella loved it and commissioned the project.’ 

Gillian Laub

‘Again, this is a friendship rather than an agent/ artist relationship. Gillian is highly sought after for her unique approach and is known for her documentary portraits of families, friends, and strangers. She describes it as a “search for a deeper understanding of family and tribe in all its forms”. 

‘Gillian, who works regularly for Vogue and Vanity Fair, is intrigued by people and relationships. This thirst to observe and document people makes her an outstanding film-maker, as well as a photojournalist. She has directed a highly applauded HBO documentary with John Legend called Southern Rites, which began as a project about segregated proms in the South.’

Véronique de Viguerie

‘Like Lynsey, Vero is badass. We first met when she was facing enormous criticism at home in France for her project documenting a Taliban group who had attacked and killed some French soldiers. I immediately asked if I could represent her. Since then, she has been the first person to photograph the Somalian pirates and the Nigerian oil pirates, and has won numerous awards for her work. She is fearless and driven. This recent piece of work, illustrating the devastating effects of COVID-19 from Paris and Brazil, shows the dedication and personal risks she will take in order to document a story.

‘I rarely speak about photographers I don’t know well, but the next two deserve attention.

‘Our industry, like so many, lacks any real diversity. It’s something we are very much aware of and eager to rectify. Change will only come from opportunity and recognition of talent, and this is the case with these photographers. I sit on the board of the W Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and the advisory council of the Alexia Foundation. Both organisations awarded their annual scholarships to these incredibly talented photographers. It’s a start, and the more we acknowledge talent for talent’s sake, the quicker we can level the playing field.’


Cornell Watson 

‘He describes himself as “a dope-ass Black photographer”, is based in Durham, North Carolina, and is passionate about visualising Black stories. After several years of working in HR/ talent acquisition, Cornell became a photographer in 2018 before the birth of his daughter. He is a contributing photographer for Durham Magazine and his work has been published in The Washington Post and The New York Times, and for CNBC and Business Insider. He won the 2020 Alexia Foundation Professional Grant for his project Behind The Mask, which was published in The Washington Post. Cornell says the work is in honour of his ancestors who “smiled when they were not happy, laughed when nothing was funny, and cried when they were not sad so that he could be here today”.’


Laura El-Tantawy

‘Laura is a British-born Egyptian photographer and her work is recognised for its characteristically painterly and lyrical eye on reality.

‘She started her career as a newspaper photographer in the United States. After going freelance in 2005, Laura moved to Cairo and started what became her seminal body of work, In The Shadow Of The Pyramids. She is the first Egyptian and Arab to be awarded the prestigious W Eugene Smith Memorial Fund award, which she received for her long-term series I’ll Die For You

‘Laura prides herself on her independent identity as a visual creative. Her goal as an artist is to produce socially engaged, unique and thought-provoking work. She often collaborates with like-minded individuals, institutions and organisations who are driven to inform responsibly, contribute positive change to the world, and encourage stimulating thought and creativity.’
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