Over the last few years we have seen a steady increase of brands creating their own unique content. From opinion pieces to videos, podcasts and more, an avalanche of content is being created, leaving our timelines more crowded than ever. But while a lot of new initiatives just add to the noise, WeTransfer’s platform WePresent has brought a refreshing take on creativity, celebrating unexpected stories from across the globe.
Heading the platform is Editor-in-chief Holly Fraser, who splits her time between Amsterdam and London and has over a decade’s experience covering music, fashion, arts and politics. Born in the UK but raised in rural Ireland, a career in the creative industry wasn’t always on the books. Not succumbing to local expectations of becoming a nurse, lawyer or teacher instead, however, she decided to enroll in a journalism degree. Shortly after she started to work for numerous titles across London, including editing the world renowned biannual publication Hunger. Inspired by the monumental impact creativity has on our lives, Holly found her own niche and started to document it.
Fast forward and Holly is now determining the editorial vision for WePresent, WeTransfer’s editorial platform that has covered artists from 101 different countries and counting. Her ambition is clearcut: to become the leading platform championing global creativity, and to produce pieces that spark meaningful conversations. Here she sheds light on how she aims to capture the artistic zeitgeist, and the importance of being authentic within today’s media landscape.
Finding yet to be discovered artists is quite a challenge. How do you go about it?
As you know, WePresent is part of WeTransfer, and we are really delving into the areas that our users work within, or that they are inspired by. We believe that more voices equals better ideas so we try to locate some of the more marginalized voices, whether in terms of gender, race, sexuality or geography, and really aim to bring those to the fore. Our offices are located in Amsterdam and Los Angeles, however, so we have to be wary that we don’t just tell stories through a Westernized lens. We do that by really looking for those stories that say something about where these artists come from and what has impacted their creativity – telling tales of both identity and belonging. In that quest we really try to be as authentic as possible, and we shy away from ‘trendy’ work, or artists that are jumping on a certain bandwagon.
“Derrick is extraordinarily talented with a natural eye. I think that’s what makes him special, it’s something he was born with, not something that can always be taught. His work has such energy to it and his compositions feel very intimate; his subjects almost feel like they are speaking directly to you.”
‘Authenticity’ has become a bit of a buzzword over the last couple of years. What does it mean to you?
A lot of it has to do with how you tell a story, and how consistent you have been doing it. For instance, when the Black Lives Matter protests happened across the summer and publications and brands were called on to do better, it was easy to tell those who had been doing it for a long time from those that quickly scampered to put together a statement. Such cases are really emblematic of the industry we work in – where issues can be very trend-sensitive – showcasing that a lot of progress still needs to happen. We as editors have a responsibility to make sure true equality and representation is a key condition to the work we put out. At WePresent, when we tell someone’s story we constantly ask ourselves: who is going to tell, photograph or film this story in the most authentic way possible? I believe it is as important to question how you feature someone, as to whom you feature.
Should we be skeptical of those publications that are now championing diversity with no prior record of doing so, or should we see it as a much needed departure point?
I do think there should be some level of empathy towards each other, in the way that we can’t always get it right the first time around. There has to be some level of acceptance of mistakes and learnings. Where we go from here, however, is going to be very telling: is it just the one time a minority artist will be featured on the cover, or will it become something more structural?
Recently WePresent featured The Long Goodbye, a short film by Riz Ahmed exposing the emotional reality for many people who feel they are not welcome in the country they call home. How important is it that WePresent creates content that has political or societal merit?
We have definitely seen a steady increase of politically engaging content over the last six months, and there is a reason for that. WePresent has always been a platform that strives for creative freedom, and in order to do that authentically you have to really listen to what the artists have to say – what is inspiring them, and what is impacting them. This year obviously has been nuts, so we are seeing that reflected in the work they are putting out. It would be simply naive to think that these moments of radical change are not trickling down into art.
Riz’ film speaks to those of us feeling unheard and disillusioned in post-Brexit Britain – but it resonates with global audiences too. There are currently so many people that don’t feel welcome in the countries they live in – the US is but an example. In such cases, art can be a vehicle to open up a dialogue, and in turn affect change. I truly believe that adversity leads to new ways of creative thinking.
“Looking at Hayley’s images I catch myself fantasizing about open roads and bygone eras, that dreamy quality and the sun dappled colors of an Americana. But while this dreamy quality exists, there is also a sense of foreboding to some of Hayley’s imagery that’s captivating. As an artist I think being able to build an engaged audience and Hayley seems to do it effortlessly”
As the Editor-in-Chief you determine the overall direction of the platform. To what extent does your personal taste come into play?
There is no doubt one’s professional vision is tinged by personal taste – the same applies to me. At WePresent, however, it really is a team effort, and everybody comes in with their ideas and individual aesthetic. That has been working rather harmoniously. We do have long debates and conversations about the smallest things but that ultimately makes the difference: you end up finding stories that are really pushing boundaries.
So what is your future ambition within this role?
Well first of all we would like to become the number one representative creative platform in the world. So far we have covered artists from 101 countries but we won’t rest till we have covered all of them. Additionally we want to continue creating content that has impact. Riz’s film definitely is setting the tone for the direction we want to go in.
This year has been challenging for many creatives, and while they continue to make beautiful work, we cannot forget that a lot of them are struggling. I think we as a platform need to be as supportive as we can – like commissioning illustrators and photographers wherever we can. Being an artist tends to have a bit of a romantic air about it, but they still need to be able to pay their rent.
txt: Rolien Zonneveld
imgs: Gabby Laurent