Gibson Kochanek

Ten years ago, Barbara Gibson and Marta Kochanek arrived in Birmingham not knowing a single person in the city. A decade on, they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, and their creative studio is thriving says Shelley Carter

In the debate about whether to settle in London or Birmingham, our great city won and it’s all the richer for having Barbara and Marta in it. The creative output from Gibson Kochanek Studio has been extraordinary in terms of both creativity and the volume of work. I met Barbara and Marta a decade ago in their tiny Jewellery Quarter studio when they were introducing themselves to the city and building up contacts.

Originally from Poland, their obvious talent, energy and commitment was refreshing and exciting. Marta says: “We landed in Birmingham to fulfil our dreams blindly believing in our inner strength and determination. It wasn’t an easy start – but all the ups and downs only made us stronger.”

They reckon it took around two years to build trust within the community working hard to put their portfolio in front of potential clients over ‘endless cups of coffee’, events and meetings. They have a charming quality which means you never feel you’re being networked – they’re warm and enthusiastic but never salesy. I’ve ended up championing them at every turn. Whenever anyone mentions Gibson Kochanek my immediate reaction is, ‘oh Barbara and Marta, what lovely talented people.’ That’s what they instil, always raising a smile.


At the time of launching in Birmingham, photography was their focus and Marta had taken a series of striking atmospheric portraits of some of the dancers at Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) which you may have seen. One of which – a shot of BRB legend Cesar Morales – gained an honourable mention in the International Color Awards portrait category. Out of 7,500 entries just five were given a special mention. Marta has also been recognised in the Portrait of Britain competition named in the top 100 portraits for another of her shots pictured.

Marta was open to sharing her experience and professional expertise which led to a role at Birmingham City University as a visiting lecturer in commercial photography. While photography is still a staple of their work, the pair had to adapt significantly once the pandemic hit. All photography work was cancelled, and the dynamic duo started to develop digital content they could create at home.

Marta says: “While being creatively flexible and open to adapt to changes we started mastering photomontage/collage work, which soon started keeping us busy. We entered a new market providing work for magazines like the New Statement, the Guardian, the Economist, Evening Standard, Forbes and then the Rolling Stone, Billboard, Vanity Fair, Hollywood Reporter, Harvard Business, Politico and many more.” She adds: “Lockdown allowed us to take a step back and dedicate even more time to development, learning new skills and discovering new fields. We learned how to animate the content we produced.”


There have been advertising campaigns for HSBC, Mailbox, Birmingham Royal Ballet, National Express, Birmingham LGBT Centre, Black Country Living Museum, B:Music, Birmingham Hippodrome, JQ Bid, Colmore Bid, Chamber of Commerce and many more. Barbara and Marta also designed six posters for the Commonwealth Games in 2022 followed by a series of campaigns for UK Sport and England Rugby.

Marta says: “It’s been wonderful to see our work on billboards and across the city centre including New Street station’s media eye advertising screen.” Designing a cover for an AppleTV+ series and a main title sequence for HULU released last month is a particular highlight.


The uncertainty and occasional frustration of a creative life are tempered with much joy and satisfaction. Marta says: “It’s part of the game. It is what all freelancers and small businesses face and must accept. All we can do is never to compromise on the quality of our work. We still learn, we still develop, and we still aim to work better, harder and more effectively.”

Grateful to Birmingham for the opportunities it’s thrown up, Barbara and Marta are looking back over the last decade in a celebratory mood. “It’s been an amazing time, now that we look at it from a perspective of a decade here. Birmingham has provided us with many opportunities to grow, becoming better and more professional, meeting people we are still in touch with today, many of whom have become returning clients, and some have become our long-term friends.”

Barbara and Marta’s glass half full spirit is infectious – they’ve found their groove, created a niche and are running with it producing work they’re proud of, that shines creatively and is commercially successful. Here’s to another 10 years!

CREATIVE POWERHOUSE: Check out Gibson Kochanek Studio on Instagram @gibsonkochanekstudio and online at and