Eleanor Macnair

Eleanor Macnair




Press & Communications Consultant for Photography/Visual Arts

Eleanor is based in London, UK. As her twitter bio puts it, she works in photography for publishers and galleries; she also renders photographs in Play-Doh.
Website: eleanormacnair.com
Instagram: @eleanormacnair
Twitter: @EleanorMacnair
Photo © Kristina Svalgik

  • How did you get started in PR?

My journey into PR was accidental. My first job was as a photo production assistant in a fashion advertising agency in New York after studying English Literature at University. I moved to London after 2 years in New York and did a post-graduate diploma in journalism. After 2 years of working freelance and work experience placements alongside working in a shop to pay the rent I was offered a job in a PR agency, after being recommended by someone I had done work experience for. This was now many many years ago and it’s been interesting to see how PR has changed during this period. 

  • How did you find yourself where you are now?

I spent one year in the PR agency, then I was lucky enough to get a job at Michael Hoppen Gallery where I picked up a good knowledge of photography. After 4 years there I wanted a new challenge and moved on to the National Portrait Gallery where I eventually became Press Manager. After that followed shorter stretches at Media Space (the photography space at the Science Museum which is sadly no more) and White Cube Gallery and a couple of publishers. Although I knew from my time at Michael Hoppen that I wanted to specialise in photography I was aware that I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself and so picked up good grounding in the contemporary visual arts, the museum and heritage, and commercial sectors. Nearly 3 years ago I decided to go freelance. I had noticed a gap for PR help for photographic organisations, publishers and galleries and individual photographers who couldn’t afford a full-time member of staff nor for a PR agency. I don’t aim to undercut agencies at all – only provide a service where there is a gap and organisations may not have otherwise been able to afford PR. In turn this helps to get projects out there and in the long term, helps organisations/photographers to generate income and carry on creating and publishing and exhibiting exciting and important photographic work.

  • What do you specialize in and what are you currently working on? 

I specialise in photography which means that there is tremendous scope in the projects I work on. I’m currently working on a new Foundation for Photography in the UK opening in autumn, some great new books for GOST Books – I’m particularly excited about ‘The Last Testament’ by Jonas Bendiksen, a number of exhibitions for a private gallery and a couple more for Magnum Photos.

  • You are a seasoned publicist and a talented artist, how do you manage both careers? 

I never go on holiday! I’ve always enjoyed supporting artists/photographers – it’s one of the most rewarding parts of working in PR and becoming an artist has made me realise, more than ever, how much support can be missing when artists/photographers need it. Going freelance has allowed me the flexibility to do some juggling – I’m just very organised and write lots of lists.

  • What is most important in your work, both as a publicist and as an artist?

I think it’s communicating complex ideas in straight-forward language. With this I don’t mean dumbing ideas down but trying to express them concisely and creatively.

  • Where are your favorite places for business meetings or drinks with writers/clients?

I live in Peckham, London and there is a lovely coffee shop opposite my flat called Rosie’s which does the best Portuguese custard tart in London… so I often try to have my meetings there! I'm also close to Frank’s Cafe which has amazing views of London – so I persuade people there for meetings – before the after work crowds get there!

  • PR/Communications can be fast-paced and stressful, what is your favorite way of relaxing?

I often go for a run at the end of the day and weekly ballet class which I have done since I was a small child. PR can be consuming, especially when there is a busy project on and it feels like there are 24 hours a day emails. It’s so important to take time out, meet with friends and step away from the laptop. Something may seem like a disaster, but I’ve been through so many debacles in my time in PR that I know no-one will die. I take my job seriously but at the same time, maintain perspective.

  • What are you reading these days?

My treat to myself is a subscription to the New Yorker and I’m currently 2 issues behind! I love it though as the writing is just brilliant and I end up reading long form features on things I had no idea would interest me so much.

  • What are you listening on repeat these days? 

Top secret, but I’ve recently had an REM retrospective at my desk!

  • What is the next art event / exhibition you're the most looking forward in the next months?

In terms of PR think perhaps the photography foundation but I can’t say too much about this at the moment. All will be revealed! In terms of my art work, I have a few things in the pipeline but don’t want to jinx them until all is confirmed… I keep my cards close to my chest – which is part of being a PR, knowing when to do the big reveal!

Self-portrait in Play-Doh, original photo by Kristina Svalgik

Self-portrait in Play-Doh, original photo by Kristina Svalgik

Myrtille Beauvert

Ashton McLeod