Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, legendary author of “Le Petit Prince,” once said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” It’s exactly with this entrepreneurial sentiment that James Robinson founded AEVOE, a metaphorical “ship” manned by an international collective of photographers and videographers with a mission to help each other land work and get as much exposure as possible. Initially started by Robinson alongside his friend Cristina Napoleone during his senior year of high school, AEVOE served as a place where they could produce under a legitimate name as professional creatives. “It was a way of procrastinating from exam study, but staying focused and productive on something,” Robinson tells CH.
AEVOE has proven to be more than an exercise in focus, however; within a few months, Robinson and Napoleone landed work with some major clients, despite forgoing the traditional route of industry experience. Subsequently, the two founders decided to expand their team and go professional, with Robinson tapping his friend Dylan McDonough to head their branding. “Once we had our website, logo and business cards it all expanded pretty quickly,” Robinson says. AEVOE thus evolved into an ever-growing network of international collaborators and freelancers with the stylistic diversity necessary to serve the collective’s expanding clientele.
While AEVOE could have remained an online creative agency, Robinson’s drive to promote and expose his talented group of collaborators pushed him to think beyond the digital, most recently manifesting in the first print edition of AEVOE Magazine. “I thought something as compact and physical as a publication would be a great way to get our team noticed,” Robinson explains. AEVOE Volume 1 presents the collective in a sophisticated editorial format, weaving photographic spreads throughout 94 pages of articles, interviews, poetry and illustration. It’s a publication that could easily stand alone, which truly showcases the organization’s extraordinary dedication and talent. “It was a great opportunity to work with people we love—if it’s an interview with a filmmaker [Matt Lambert] from Berlin or local Alexander Wang intern Kara Liu,” says Robinson. As with everything else AEVOE, the magazine is a product of collaboration that has extended Robinson’s reach to fashion designers, writers and graphic designers around the world.
Beyond that, the magazine serves as a platform to show potential clients just how serious they are, which Robinson says is just not possible with a website. “With a publication, I think people understand how much more effort goes into preparing it,” he explains, “And once they physically have it in their hands they take an entirely different approach to how they judge your work.” This is especially important to Robinson who, at just 19, can relate to many of his younger compatriots who haven’t had the necessary timeline to build a professional portfolio, essentially making them invisible to the industry. Robinson says, “There were just so many young filmmakers and photographers around me that were producing amazing work and no one was seeing it. Some of our members are still in high school, and it feels great to give them opportunities and access to big clients.”
With this extra credibility, AEVOE has become a trusted source for high-quality original talent for hundreds of clients including Fashion Journal, i-D Magazine and fashion house Romance Was Born. This is due in part to Robinson’s decision to cast a wide net, giving him the comfort in knowing that he can dip into his incredibly diverse creative pool to find a match for any brand. In turn, collective members know that they have a dependable group of people they can turn to if they can’t take a job—a courtesy that is always returned. “AEVOE is all about being in a team with other creatives,” Robinson says. “And when one person works a job for us, they’re doing the whole team a favor.”
Portrait of James Robinson by Elise Arumets; all other images by James Robinson