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Before Mark Gong became a fashion photographer in New York, he was in the Army National Guard for six years — which is where he first began picking up a camera, shooting on his travels, eventually, as a photojournalist for publications including the Washington Post. “You’d have to move 20 feet away to photograph [a test bomb],” he recalled. “Shooting fashion just began as an outlet.”
Gong is just one of the new recruits at creative talent agency Kess, which reps photographers and stylists as well as hair and makeup artists. “We want to bridge the gap between what artists want to do and what they’re doing,” said founder Kimberly Steward at last month’s launch party, “and let them build whatever they want.” She added that Kess’ 10-client roster includes photographer Lindsay Adler, who is looking to do more video work.
Steward, the daughter of David L. Steward, chairman and founder of World Wide Technology, is one half of the Kess equation. Her partner is former WWD editor Court Williams. In fact, the two first met four years ago when Steward interned at WWD. “I made a joke about starting a business and he took me seriously,” she remembered. Williams, for his part, was attracted to Steward’s idea of launching an agency that “was more transparent [than the rest],” he said, noting that her father, who authored “Doing Business by the Good Book,” was a major influence. As for the name Kess, it stems from Steward’s initials — Elizabeth is her middle name. “I told her to add an extra S,” said Williams. “And then we were meeting with a photographer who told us that was actually a German word.” The translation? Saucy, in a playful, flirtatious way.