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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Open-i and emphas.is: A new funding model?

It was fascinating to go on the Open-i webinar and hear the discussion of emphas.is and their crowdsourcing for photojournalism and documentary projects.

The most interesting question was asked by Paul Lowe who wondered if there wasn't another way to judge the success of photographs other than in pure numerical terms. It's lovely having lots of people see one's pictures in a newspaper or magazine, but given the almost inevitable nature of the owners of most magazines and their editorial stances, it's not so wonderful really is it. Does having a massive spread in Time or Newsweek or The Sunday Times really help anybody outside the photographic rhetoric of making a difference and bearing witness? I don't know if it does.

So what can we have for a new measure of success? This was the question posed by Paul Lowe. Another listener to the webinar asked if emphas.is would be funding local, community based projects or be more focussed on the kinds of expensive overseas projects that magazines might once have funded. In other words, would emphas.is be doing anything new rather than simply act as a replacement for crumbling old models. Would the funding be going on flights and transport, or would it be focus on more locally based photographers, with all the local involvement and knowledge that this might entail. And if it would fund those projects, wouldn't that make for a new measure of what success might be, something more akin to the outcomes that NGOs are involved with, something more tangible that the number crunching of how many people have seen the pictures or how many copies have been sold.

I'm not quite sure how you could measure the effectiveness of a project, but it sounds like a wonderful idea for finding a new model of how photography works, a model that could help build new involved audiences,  and so move photojournlism away from the preaching to the converted stance it so often takes at present.

I'm not sure if this is what the guys at emphas.is have in mind, but if it is, it would make the project a truly exciting, innovative and international platform for new work, one that would direct funds across a broad  spectrum and reach places that photography does not go to at present, providing knowledge, experience and insights into corners of the world in the most cost-effective way.

It would be a renewal in other words. And photography needs that.

And does anyone have an answer to that question - How can we judge the success of a photographic project.

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