For Deke Cloyd, every picture does tell a story.
Hes got a tale for each photograph that hangs from the walls of the quirky space he leases in the largely vacant Music City building in downtown Spokane. If youve got the time, hell bend your ear about those and any of the other some 300,000 pictures his company has produced over the years and now offers as stock images.
In one, four fresh-faced singers photographed beneath the Monroe Street Bridge make up an all-brother a capella group from Idaho called The Standards, which Cloyd believes someday will be a household name. Another, an outdoor scene shot for a telephone company, is plastered on telephone booths throughout California. A ubiquitous shot of a hot-air balloon is different in that its passenger is actor Tom Selleck.
Photography, however, doesnt begin to tell the story of Cloyds Spokane-based business, On the Edge Media Group. With 13 employees and four internsand an outer circle of about three-dozen freelancers around the countryOn the Edge also offers everything from corporate training videos to Web-site and logo design to wall art and sculptures to marketing.
Later this month, the eclectic venture will unveil a brick sculpture of a coiled fire hose, for the city of Spokanes firefighter training center in East Spokane. A world away, one of the businesss photographers is in Botswana, shooting safari pictures for a magazine client. On the Edge already has booked 10 weddings for next year, some of which will be held elsewhere in the country.
Weve done everything from mom-and-pop stores to multibillion-dollar corporations, says Cloyd, rubbing his slightly graying goatee.
The ventures commercial photography clients, he says, have included such names as Yamaha, Intel, Wells Fargo, Orvis, and Volkswagen. It has done editorial photography for a host of specialty magazines and book publishers, ranging from Church Business to Organic & Natural News to Conde Nast.
On the Edge Media divides its disparate offerings into five general categories: images, including commercial, wedding, and magazine photography; cinema, which includes TV ads, corporate videos, and the like; virtual media, such as Web sites and interactive CDs; graphic design, from logos to business cards; and general marketing.
So far, the bulk of its work has been photo-related, although that might change soon. Cloyd says On the Edge has landed a contract worth more than $600,000 in its first year to provide a media-related services to The Standards, the Twin Falls, Idaho, band that has been touring regionally and is the subject this month of a public-TV special. That work will include services such as CD-cover design, promotional photography, Web-site design, and cinema.
Cloyd says hes also close to landing two other broader contracts. One is with a high-tech company he cant name thats located elsewhere in the country and is expected to have On the Edge do its photography, Web-site design, graphics, and cinema. The other one would call for doing marketing for a company in Las Vegas. The Spokane venture has done work for both in the past.
If all that work materializes, On the Edge Media likely will grow dramatically this year, Cloyd says. Last year, the concern did about $900,000 in business, he says. With the expected new business, he claims that number should approach $6 million within the next year or so. That also would mean adding additional photographers and artists, Cloyd says. We could employ 30 or 40 people right away.
Anticipating the potential crush in business, Cloyd says hes looking for a new location for On the Edge, and figures hell need about 7,000 square feet of floor space. The business currently occupies a tiny office space. He says one such space he has his eye on is a few floors above, on the top vacant floor of the Music City building, at 1011 W. First.
Cloyd also recently leased a loft space with rooftop access across the alley to the south, in the building that houses the Brooklyn Deli. He says he spent about $30,000 to improve the space, and will house the businesss Web development team there.
Currently, eight of On the Edges employees work in the Spokane-Coeur dAlene area. The other four are in the Portland-Salem, Ore.; Los Angeles; Phoenix; and Albuquerque, N.M., areas.
The business, which currently is a sole proprietorship, is in the process of changing to a limited-liability company that initially will be owned by Cloyd and four current employees. They are: Scott Wolf, a marketing specialist in Salem, Ore.; Michael Mitchell, a Coeur dAlene-based cinematographer; Jim Hopson, a graphic designer here; and Rob McKenna, a Coeur dAlene-based electronic media designer.
Cloyd moved to Spokane in 1999, drawn by the reputation of its schools and the breadth of outdoor activities that can be done here. He had founded On the Edge in Albuquerque back in 1982, with two partners, Craig Brack and Daryle Cnossen, whom he later bought out, but who eventually returned to work for the venture. Brack still lives in the Albuquerque area, and Cnossen lives in the Portland area.
He says that early on, he was making good money as a photographer, doing mostly commercial and editorial work for clients around the country, but found that people increasingly were asking him if he could recommend someone to do cinema, or business cards, or, eventually, Web design. I thought, Im throwing away so much money, he says.
So he began finding peoplesometimes from conversations on airplanes or in restaurantswho he felt were experts in their fields, and convinced them to join On the Edge so he could expand its offerings.
Today, about 80 percent of On the Edges business is done outside of Spokane, sometimes around the world, Cloyd says.
He asserts that On the Edge is known for providing high-quality work at prices that are low enough he can put someone on an airplane to get a shot and still be competitive with photographers already on location. He claims hes also known for being fast, and adds that its not unusual for him to turn something around in a couple of days.
More than that, though, Cloyd says the business prospers because it has an edge to it. Cloyd and his two original partners all have experienced tragedy in their livesCloyd lost his wife to a car accident, and is raising two children.
You cant have something like that happen and not have it affect how you look at things, how you do your job, he says.
When On the Edge Media shows up to shoot a wedding, for instance, it usually brings two or three photographersnot just one. Cloyd has been known to show up at the brides home before she wakes up to get some early photos, and to stay at the reception until the last guests leave. On the Edge usually shoots 400 to 600 images at a wedding, and when its done, the customer gets all of the negativessomething highly unusual in the wedding photography industry. He charges between $1,000 and $4,000 for wedding photography packages.
When he was hired to shoot a promotional photo for Converse sneakers in Denver, he used an attractive college-age woman dressed in a tank top and shorts, and had her run with a young Labrador retriever along a pathway near a duck pond in that citys Washington Park. That would be a typical athletic-shoe shot, except Cloyd chose to put red high-top sneakers on the girland on the dog.
To shoot a photo for a California-based bank, Cloyd took a male and female model out into the country and dressed them in western wear for a cowboy shot. Once the shooting began, the male model began grabbing the female models rear end. Cloyd ended up firing the male model, and with the deadline just hours away, had to don the cowboy outfit himself and pose for the picture, which ran on billboards throughout the region.
In the office, the team is required to call each other by nicknameslike Too Tall, Sweep, Whippet, Jiho, and Hawkeyefor levity.
People come to us for something different, says Cloyd, a k a the Rain Man.
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