It all began in 2009, when I founded a plucky small company named Levar's Photography. Which was built upon a consumer centric philosophy. Specializing in portraiture, Wedding and event photography. While financially viable, it was not my passion. I love art, making art, and the expression that comes with it. Fine art photography gave me a way to make art, while using a medium of expression that I was adept in.
On January 26, 2010, I refocused Levar's Photography from a photography company to a fine art and fine art photography company. Accompanying the shift in focus, Levar's Photography was re-branded Visual Renaissance to exemplify the focus on fine art. Being consumer centric remained a primary pillar of the newly formed Visual Renaissance. I took the customer centric philosophy further with art commissioned for each individual. The client could pick the piece of art, then choose a size and finish, customizing the piece of art exactly the way they want it.
The first pieces of art were printed on paper with three choices of gloss, lustre, and matte finishes. There were five galleries; Art, New York, Paris, And London totaling over 500 pieces of art. Selling art in the United States of America, United Kingdom and select european countries including France and Germany. Accepting three currencies, The US Dollar, The British Pound Sterling and The Euro.
Simplistically, in an art gallery what is there, is what the customer has to purchase. Essentially a take it or leave it situation. That situation directly contradicts the consumer centric philosophy I fostered from the very beginning of my entrepreneurial career. A gallery does serve another purpose. It allows art to be displayed and customers to get a chance to see and even feel the art. Something that a strictly online experience lacked.
The first approach to mitigating the issues of running a gallery-less art company was putting art in stores owned by other small business owners. Providing art to small businesses at low cost and sometimes free of charge. Having my art in stores gave those small businesses a boost in foot traffic while providing a place for art in different and localized venues.
A concern soon arose with a venue focused art strategy. Visual Renaissance is a small company with a multinational reach. Selling art in several different countries on several different continents, Clients in far away places may not have access to a venue carrying art. A novel idea struck me while having a conversation with a close friend. What if I could have a mobile gallery, while being tangible at the same time. The website was mobile and viewable from anywhere in the world , but it wasn’t tangible. The client couldn’t touch and feel the quality that goes into every aspect of Visual Renaissance. A lookbook solved that problem. It provided a mobile and tangible gallery for clients that didn’t have access to a venue that carried art. August 2010 I launched the first Lookbook. Featuring a 20 page, 7x7 inch, soft cover bound book with pieces of art from all of the galleries.
It was a major milestone for Visual Renaissance and it was a enormous learning experience for me. Learning the various paper stock, layouts, covers and book binding was challenging, but myself and Visual Renaissance would never grow and improve without facing challenges and overcoming them. It took a staggering amount of work-hours to get the lookbook completed. Meeting with printers, paper suppliers, and design consultants was almost overwhelming. It was all worth it when the first copies reached the public’s hands.
In 2010 Visual Renaissance had a total of 31,732 visitors on the website. From the introduction of the lookbook in August 2010 until the end of 2010 the number of visitors was 30,704. That’s a marked improvement over the first seven months of 2010. While it is hard to directly quantify the number of visitors and clients that the first lookbook brought in. Objectively, the first lookbook sold over 8,000 books, which can account for at least 8,000 visitors to visualrenaissance.com. The purpose of the lookbook from conception was never to gain a new revenue stream. The books are always sold at cost. It was to garner new clients and it was successful.
Following the successful launch of the first lookbook, was the winter lookbook in December 2010. Which marked the beginning of seasonal releases of lookbooks for Visual Renaissance. The winter lookbook grew to 40 pages compared to the previous smaller 20 page lookbook.