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Thursday, 6 January 2011


It's fascinating how new media is influencing protest, publicity and fundraising. The three combine in
emphas.is, a kind of horribly-named kickstarter for photography projects. I especially liked this contribution on the emphas.is blog, whereAaron Huey (of Pine Ridge fame) talks about possible funding for putting his Pine Ridge pictures on giant billboards. It seems that the real new deal about funding might be that explicitly political work and models of showing the work are going to be getting funding that they never got before. The killer line is at the end though.

“I definitely hope to go beyond the model of how we get funding, but also to go beyond the model for how we share our images. To come up with a distribution plan that makes the images impossible to ignore. Simple images with simple statistics 60 feet wide on your commute to work. That is real power in the hands of a potential funder. 

“The thing with the Pine Ridge project is, at a certain point, I thought, okay, I’ve made this incredible imagery. So does this all end with a photo show where everybody just drinks wine and pats me on the back?  F**k that. It’s totally inappropriate. I also don’t want someone to pay me to go make another body of work just so it can be another magazine story or a photo exhibition where everybody congratulates me about being great at showing misery. “Now I know that my billboards are not exactly a commercial proposition. I’m actually proposing to not make any money off of this; I’m proposing to put out incredible amounts of effort for the issue. I would have no chance of recouping any life expenses from this, except maybe if it is coupled with a magazine partner. That would be ideal, of course, if someone said: Oh, love the billboard concept, I’d also like to run this as a photo essay. The truth is I do still need magazines to help spread the message.


Anonymous said...

Colin. I agree Huey's work is important and the billboards are a great novel(ish) idea

I met Huey in a coffeeshop in Seattle last month and I actually encouraged him not to use Emphas.is to do the billboards!

We were in agreement that the billboard project was very different, more expensive and more expansive than the average assignment story you'd expect on Emphas.is. Or maybe I was pigeonholing Emphas.is before it began.

We thought the billboards may be more suitable for a 'distribution-grant' (such as Soros) but I guess if you're going to try out a new funding model you should do it with a different type of project?

So far, the feedback is that billboards are brave and I think that will be enough to win Huey a large amount of funding.

The other interesting thng to this is that since the success of Huey's TED talk, he has become a go-to for people who want to contribute to the betterment of the Lakota's situation. Of course, this is a job to big for any individual and Huey is a professional photographer not a full-time single-issue advocate.

With this knowledge in mind, it would seem Huey is staying true to himself, serving the Lakota and extending the message and audience further. For a project, that ticks all the right boxes for me.

colin pantall said...

It's great he can get to choose where to apply for funding. I think I agree that there are better places for his work than billboards, but then again, the more in your face the better.

Have you seen the 38 degrees George Osborne ad -