When photographer Marta Kochanek submitted some of her pictures to the curator of a photography festival in Warsaw in 2012, little did either of them know their lives were about to change.

Barbara Gibson was curating the festival as part of her after-hours passion for photography, but her full time job back then was as an accountant, something she’d been doing for 25 years. It might not have been setting her on fire, but it was safe. As her professional association with Marta grew into a friendship and then to falling in love, the idea of following her own dream began to awaken. “She had to choose between her career and her passion”, says Marta, explaining that: “When you listen to your heart, you find your way”.

With their shared love of photography, they decided to go into business together. As Marta was already an established artist with international awards and a list of contacts cultivated over 10 years living in Birmingham (not to mention being invited to spearhead a large project for none other than Annie Leibovitz), they decided the best idea was for Barbara to swap Warsaw for Birmingham. She did that in April 2014, and it was a good move. Within a couple of months she’d had an image entered and sold in the West Midland Open exhibition.

They also wasted no time in setting up the Gibson Kochanek studio: within a month of Barbara arriving the business was open. In terms of roles, Barbara looks after the office and is the more social-media savvy of the pair, while Marta takes photographs of people and is a dab hand at going out and drumming up business. Neither of them has any desire to step on the other’s toes.

The pair now creates a full spectrum of work, from commercial and video campaigns to personal portraiture (Marta’s favourite), along with graphic prints of Urban Photography taken by Barbara. They are keen to point out that they “are not a makeover studio”, instead aiming to capture a subject’s “spirituality and ego”. Nowhere is this better revealed than in their Trust Me campaign, inspired by a friend having trouble finding work. Marta photographed her, added the words ‘Trust Me’ to the picture, and it was sent “as a gift” with CVs to prospective employers. It worked, and gave Marta the idea to invite the Birmingham people she found most interesting to be photographed. “If I can trust them, I believe others can as well.”

All this hard work and innovation has now seen them approached by the Library of Birmingham’s photography archive to collaborate on a new project, one that responds to a previously unseen collection of portraits by the internationally famous Birmingham 19th century photographer – and then face of Kodak – Mrs G A Barton. For an exhibition set to profile the work of leading women photographers in Birmingham, Marta & Barbara are hoping to attract sponsors and involvement among the city’s leading businesswomen.

With their sharp focus and steely determination, we can think of no-one better to ensure maximum exposure.

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