Sunday, January 30, 2011

New ways to fund photojournalism and documentary photography

Portrait of best selling author Harlan Coben. I am working on a project photographing the creative people I admire. The question is: how to fund it?

New ways to fund photojournalists, documentary photographers and writers are emerging.

The Internet has changed the way we can communicate. It's given us a direct link – a platform and a way of interacting with audiences. It also means we can look at new ways to make money from our creative endevours.

The mainstream market and fees continues to shrink. The days of self-funding a documentary or photojournalism project, and knowing that if it was good you stood a reasonable chance of selling your work, are gone.

The way people consume information has also changed. People don't passively just read and view stories. They want to comment, to get involved with the story and to find out more if they are interested. There's a huge appetite for information and the growth of new channels (mobile and pad), make it ever easier to consume stories, view images and interact wherever you are.

So how do you go about raising funds directly from your audience. In short, you find a way to reach as many people as possible and then you offer your patrons something exclusive in exchange for their support. This basic crowd funding model can be adapted and enhanced.

One brand new example just launching for photojournalists is On their website they explain how it will work:
'Crowd funding has already proven successful in other areas, and we believe photojournalism has a large and enthusiastic following that would be willing to contribute financially when given the right incentive. offers this incentive in the form of exclusive access to top photojournalists carefully selected by a board of reviewers composed of industry professionals.'
Other examples of successful crowd sourcing used by photographers can be found on Kickstarter. On their website they say:
'Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every month, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.' 
Other photographers continue to self fund their projects while sending out feelers to the wider creative community for support and to increase awareness. That's how I discovered Brandon Stanton. He sent me an email and asked me to watch his youtube video about his project Humans of New York.

There is no doubt that certain projects will eventually generate interest but to make it commercially viable, cover costs and earn a living you need to get people involved and explore new ways to fund your work.

You never know how connections are going to be made and who knows who. For example I photographed Harlan Coben and some time later in Spain I gave our web address to a lady we had met. The next day she said, "I really like your picture of Harlan. He's a friend. We've known each other for many years. We met in our youth and we've always stayed in touch."

If you have an interesting project you would like to share with me please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Till soon,

Monday, January 03, 2011

Behind the scenes shooting a photo story

Colourful fishing nets in Fuengirola harbour.

What goes on in the mind of a photographer shooting a photo story? I thought some readers may be interested in a 'behind the scenes' insight into my latest story, "Catch of the day".

You can see my full photo story here and a shorter version here on the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers website.

Travelling with fellow professional photographer, Magda Indigo, to Andalusia in Spain, we had a number of ideas and shooting opportunities lined up. Photographing the fishermen in Fuengirola was not fixed but as we're always drawn to harbours and fishing we knew we would head down there.

The fishing quay is not open to the public but we managed to gain access. The fishermen were mostly friendly and open. A few were suspicious of us and one was fairly threatening. People are people and you just have to adapt and deal with each situation.

Communication consisted mainly of hand signals, facial expressions and I had learnt one or two phrases to ask someone to pose for a portrait. Magda speaks a bit of Spanish so she faired much better than I did. Some of the fishermen, from North Africa, spoke French and she could converse fluently with them. She managed to get on the right side of everyone with her inimitable charm. By the last day of the shoot she was receiving marriage proposals! The fact that we are married was waved away with humour as minor obstacle.

When we work we go off in our own directions, although we do keep an eye out for each other.

Yours truly on the hunt for images. Photo by Magda Indigo.

The photography

The first day we scouted the scene quietly and discreetly, not taking many images, and we made contact with some of the local fishermen.

Equipment decisions for the second day of the shoot were fairly straight forward. I didn't want to come in with all guns blazing so I stuck to a single DSLR with a 50mm lens. On subsequent trips I went in with my full kit (see pic above). By then we'd got to know a few fishermen and they recognised us, so we were more easily accepted.

By the time we left Fuengirola fishermen were hailing us in the street with a friendly wave, "Ahhh los fotógrafos!"

Spending time on the quay opened up the possibilities with scenes unfolding throughout the afternoon. The light was another consideration but when you're shooting stuff that happens, as it happens, you cannot wait for light, just hope it is good and look for compositions that maximise the beauty of the available light.

To construct the photo story and have it make sense I had to show wider scenes, details, the various activities (mooring, sorting the catch, replenishing supplies, fixing nets, cleaning, repairs and sorting out equipment to ready the boat for the next day etc). I also wanted to show the character of the fishermen and the general atmosphere.

The quayside cats provided a nice little thread in the story, symbolising the generosity and kindness of the fishermen, through showing their interaction with the animals (feeding and petting).

When we returned home I had a lot of material to sort through. Editing the images down to the essentials is a key process in creating the photo story. You need to look for the right balance and make sure that the images work together. Some visually strong images didn't make the final selection for this reason.

I think about the colour palette and style of the images to ensure consistency as well as balanced content. I dislike heavy photoshop manipulation. It has no place in the way I see the world and is at odds with a photo journalistic approach.

After the edit I was satisfied that I'd got my "Catch of the day". Yes, I know, awful pun.

The words

In the case of this photo story I had not done any research before. The story kind of happened. So when I got back I wanted to find out more about the Spanish fishing industry. Spent many hours researching and checking my information, so that I could, in words, provide the social and political context in which these fishermen work.

Decisions in the EU affect their daily lives. Politicians are often so distant from the real people.

At the end of the day, these fishermen are, like you and me, just trying to make a living. I wanted to show our common humanity.

One last thing I feel I should add. When we were photographing we promised some of the fisherman a print. Before we left Fuengirola we found a small photo lab and had prints made which we gave to the fisherman. I feel it is extremely important to honour any promises you make to people.

As always your comments are most welcome.

Till soon,