The Next Generation of Party Photos

Posted by David Ozanich — 17 Feb 2011

farell.jpgBilly Farrell

Patrick McMullen and his staff of night-life photographers dutifully document the bright young things of New York as they flit about from soirée to benefit to premiere. His camera is ubiquitous at a certain type of event - say an exhibition opening at the Whitney Museum or a product launch at a Soho boutique. BUT ALL IS NOT WELL IN THE HIGH STAKES WORLD OF NIGHT-LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY! Last summer four of his lieutenants, led by Billy Farrell, broke away from him and formed their own rival agency. Reports a breathless New York Times:

Six months later, hurt feelings not only linger, but competition between the scrappy upstart and the former mentor has intensified. A few gatekeepers of the city's fashionable parties have migrated from Mr. McMullan, who is 55 years old, toward hiring the Billy Farrell Agency, saying that its young photographers take more creative and livelier images.


"He's evolved in the next generation of party photos," said Mazdack Rassi, a founder of Milk Studios, which hired the new agency, known as BFA, as the in-house photographer for the 37 MAC & Milk fashion shows held during this month's Fashion Week. "Lighting has always been a big problem," he added, referring to how party shots can look washed-out because of an overpowering flash. "We really liked Billy's photography because he was able to master the snap and make it richer, make it pop more."

According to the paper, commercial party photography is hotter than the Birkin bag:

Once confined to niche lifestyle magazines and weekly tabloids, the market for society and celebrity photographs has exploded with the advent of blogs, online photo albums and social media sites.


"It's the proletarian-ization of celebrity!" said David Patrick Columbia, the editor of New York Social Diary, a Web site that offers "society news and party pictures of the rich and powerful."

"Every person in the world wants to be a celebrity," he said, "so they run to stand in front of the camera."

Ask him why people like to be photographed, and he practically hoots: "It's because they're vain!"

Much, much more on the two men and their rivalry in the Thursday Styles section of the Times. Looking to hire the Billy Farrell Agency for your next shindig? Find them here.

bfa.jpgMembers of the Billy Farrell Agency: Billy Farrell, Joe Schildhorn, Neil Rasmus and David X. Prutting.

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