Every Month PelotonLabs founder Liz Trice interviews a Peloton member for the West End News. This month Liz caught up with Karl Schatz, who runs Aurora Photos and (with his wife) Ten Apple Farm, his family’s homestead and agritourism business in Gray.
Tell me about Aurora Photos first.
Aurora Photos is a stock photo agency focused on outdoor adventure and outdoor lifestyle. Originally based in Lovell and Bridgton, it’s been in Portland since 1998, which is when I started working there.
Maine has an outdoor lifestyle as a brand – is that why this agency is here?
It’s sort of coincidence. The company started as an outlet for a handful of National Geographic Photographers in 1993. Then it grew into more of a traditional stock agency. We work with a lot of textbook companies, and all the top national magazines use us including Time, National Geographic, Outside, Backpacker. Did you see Free Solo? People see these amazing shots of extreme sports, but they forget that the photographers are doing the same thing, but with an additional fifty pounds of gear.
Tell me how the business works.
We license images to businesses for commercial and editorial uses. The stock photo business has changed dramatically over the past fifteen years. It used to be dominated by professional photographers, now the prices and accessibility to the market is geared more to the amateur or hobbyist photographer. We still primarily work with professionals, but also represent highly skilled amateurs as well.
Most people understand now that it’s not legal to just take an image from the internet unless it’s in the public domain. It used to be that there was no enforcement, and photographers lost millions of dollars to people copying online images and not paying for them. Now there are options to license images cheaply, so more people paying for photos, but the drop in price has forced many professionals out of the business, or they use it for supplemental income only.
How many photographers do you work with?
We have contracts with over 800 photographers from all over the world. We have about 600,000 photographs at any given time. The big stock companies – Getty and Shutterstock – can have tens of millions of photos, and charge significantly less than what we might charge. We’re kind of like a mom and pop hardware store when Home Depot just moved in next door.
We differentiate ourselves with quality, curation, and customer service. We connect with our photographers and clients in personal ways, and our clients know they’re supporting artists and small creative businesses.
And you’re also a goat farmer?
We think of ourselves as agricultural ambassadors. I grew up in Hallowell but was in New York working for Time Magazine until 2003. My wife and I were at the very beginning of the second wave of “Back-to-the-Landers,” people who were feeling disillusioned by urban life.
In 2003 we had this idea of being goat farmers and making goat cheese. We decided to use the skills we did have – documentary photography and writing – and visited goat farms and goat businesses around the country. We talked to the goat trainers at the circus, went to goat shows and goat conventions, went to the largest goat auction in the country, a commercial goat slaughterhouse, and went goat packing in Wyoming. If it had goat in it, we did it!
At the end of that year we came back to Portland, and Margaret worked on her book, “The Year of the Goat,” and we bought our farm, Ten Apple Farm in Gray, and we’ve slowly been building an agri-tourism business.
We’re not a commercial farm – we don’t raise goats for income. We have a rental property for people to do farm stays, and most notably, take people for “Goat Hikes” – basically taking people for walks in the woods with our small herd of dairy goats.
How did you end up at Peloton?
The photo agency had an office in Portland until last year, but now everyone works remotely. I came to Peloton because I was driving my daughters to school in Portland every day anyway, so it made sense to keep a work space in Portland. It’s nice because I can have meetings here, and it’s a great community of people doing interesting things.
PelotonLabs is a coworking space in Bramhall Square in the West End of Portland, with a mission to connect and encourage people to improve their lives and contribute to the world around them. The current Winter Special gives unlimited access for your first 3 months for $90/month: www.pelotonlabs.com.