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New Cannabis Photo Service Dispenses with the Stereotypes

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Some of the best ideas happen in the shower. That’s where L.A. photography guru Ophelia Chong came up with Stock Pot Images, a catalog of marijuana imagery that goes beyond the typical weed pics and brings in a decidedly human element.   

“What I want to do is present the real face of cannabis,” says Chong. “Right now all you have is the stereotypical stoner or the glow-in-the-dark pot leaf. We are going to be ‘anti-stock’ and real.”

Chong, 55, teaches marketing for photography at the Arts Center College of Design in Pasadena. A number of her students are submitting work and joining the stable. “I want to spread the love and help them pay off their college debt. We’re a collective.”

All contributors will get 50% of the proceeds, which is a bit more generous than what other stock photo agencies pay. On those returns a good image in a well-positioned outlet can score an artist $1200 or more. “I have about 40 photographers lined up so far and we’ve been signing one or two a day. I’m going to keep it small because I want everyone to sell.”

Chong is clearly excited about the new trails being blazed in the nascent cannabis industry. “It has rules, but it has no rules – we are building the foundation now. We’re swimming upstream rather than running with the herd,” she enthuses, perhaps pushing the metaphor, but her point is taken. Today’s ganjapreneurs are pioneers.

Chong is a member of Women Grow, a networking group developed by and for women getting in on the burgeoning marijuana economy. “It's wonderful,” she says. “I've met so many great women in there. It's like the Rotary Club only with weed.”

The day I spoke with Chong she had tweeted: “Women are entering the #cannabis industry because its a plant that offers healing and 2nd/3rd chances at new careers.”

That sounded like the voice of experience, so I asked her about it. “For me this is my seventh or eighth chance,” she says, ticking off the various positions she’s held in the photography-marketing-branding world.

As for clients, Stock Pot already has a packaging company and a cable network lined up, and there are some art buyers very interested. “What we want to do is give them access to real people with real images. A mother, a grandparent, the growers….”

An upcoming project will feature portraits of the Seven Sisters Collective, a new women’s marijuana club in San Luis Obispo. “They intend to deliver only to women, for safety issues. Many of their clients are also women and they are older, mostly medicinal patients. Having a Sister show up at the door is better than some guy in a hoodie.”

Stock Pot Images will officially launch, fittingly, on April 20. Chong is going to inaugurate her business from a high-profile and equally fitting venue, if we do say so ourselves: the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Denver. If she’s out to find real people with real weed anywhere, it will be there.

(Photos: Stephen Swintek [jar]; Alicia J. Rose)

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