Image consciousness and the one-stop shop

Would you buy more art if it was easy? If it was easy to find something you like, easy to specify the size and frame, easy to hang it? That’s the idea behind  a customised photo-print service called inkopia which launched in Dubai last October.

The mission statement isn’t quite as bald but it is straightforward: “Make photography accessible, affordable and aspirational to all, while improving everyday environments through captivating imagery”. The inkopia customer gets a slickly designed and smoothly operating website where images can be selected and specified for price (AED 211 up), size, medium, and framing (and they’ll give you a quote if you want something other than the onsite specs).

But there are already several places where you can buy photo prints. So we asked Jenny Moore, one of the founding directors, what inkopia brings to the party that isn’t already available.

Maybe we could have put it with a bit more subtlety than “does the world really need another online shop for photo prints”, but we were happy to be put in our place: “inkopia is not just ‘another online shop for photo prints’. Many offer ready-made art or photo prints that you can order direct. The difference is that inkopia offers the customer much more choice – each and every end product is completely bespoke, based on customer selections for the photo (ours or their own), size, format (luxury paper, canvas, acrylic, aluminium) and frame type and colour.

“inkopia also offers the full end-to-end service, from web to wall; there is currently no other online shop that offers amazing photography, printing, framing, delivery and an installation service all in a couple of mouse clicks.”

And it seems to be working – “we have had a great response from individual customers and across residential communities and online interior groups”. The one-stop-shop message clearly has a lot of appeal: “Now customers do not need to find a printer, source a framer and then also hire a handyman to hang the wall art. We are helping to cut down on sourcing, travel time and back and forth to three or four other different vendors”.

But it’s the quality and range of the images available that matters at least as much as convenience. So we asked Jenny where they came from.

“The first group of photographers – inkopians – who were on the website when we launched were from our own network in the UAE and early adopters who responded to our first outreach across the local photographer community. As word spreads, more photographers are getting in touch directly.

“Our photographers range from exceptional amateurs and hobbyists to award-winners.”

And how about the images themselves? We were interested to find out what criteria inkopia uses in selecting work. Pragmatism rules here – “we must be able to imagine someone printing a photo to hang on their wall” (and indeed the website shows you how each image would look on a wall) – but otherwise the photograph itself is key: “our one stipulation is that the images should be awe-inspiring. Photographers send us their shortlist selections, the best of their best, and we select from these. Sometimes we can imagine all of them looking great on someone’s wall; sometimes, although they are great images in their own right, they are too editorial or too commercial.”

Nick Arundel: Feeding flock

The inkopia team isn’t overly committed to the notion of photography as art. “Our collections may be considered as ‘art photography’, ‘fine art prints’ or ‘wall décor’ – different terms for different people, it really depends on your perspective. We prefer to be inclusive as our customers are individuals from all communities and cultural backgrounds.” The portfolio does include some certificated Limited Editions, though, and we were told there would be more of these offerings in the future.

And the images in the catalogue aren’t necessarily exclusive to inkopia, though the majority are. But the one-stop-shop convenience is: “though you may be able to find a few of the photographs elsewhere, you will not be able to buy them, have them printed, select your frame preference and have it delivered direct to your door, ready for hanging”.

It’s early days yet for inkopia, so the immediate plan is more of the same – more photographers, more choice across genres and styles, more curated selections, themes, and inspiration pages. There’s some talk about collaborations, events and partnerships to showcase local photography in the future; and when the borders are fully open inkopia aims to provide a service beyond Dubai.

“Importantly, however, first we need to bed in our current offering, ensure our operations are running smoothly from web to wall with our primary market, as promised to our customers and to ourselves, so that this is a smooth and efficient system locally before we run in other markets.”

And how about a physical gallery? Probably not. “Never say never, but this is not in our strategy – our USP has each product being bespoke based on customer selections”.

Lynn Emery: Lion pose

Lynn Emery is an amateur photographer with highly distinctive style, a passion for nature and wildlife, and an impressive clutch of awards – including a 2016 HIPA wildlife award, Siena International Photography (SIPA) commendations in 2018 and 2019, and Budapest Foto Awards (BIFA) Silver and Bronze in 2019. She responded to a shout-out on a local Facebook page and soon after met up with inkopia co-founder Richard Sanders for an introduction to inkopia. She currently has over a hundred of her characteristically evocative images in the inkopia collections, with starting prices from just over AED 1000 to AED 1810 for limited editions.

Nick Arundel: The Pointe from platform

Nick Arundel, one of inkopia’s originals, has more than 140 of his dramatic city images and UAE landscapes in the inkopia collection at prices from AED 211. He knows co-founder Richard Sanders personally; “we spoke a couple of years ago about this project and he asked if I would be keen to join”. Having moved to the UAE in 2018 to start a new business, it seemed good synergy to Nick. He also likes doing business with inkopia: “Jenny and Richard are super nice and are always keen to support the photographers … I like the full package in that you can pick your favourite photo, get it delivered and then have it installed. Perfect for the UAE market.”

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