Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘funding

Got some photos exhibited up norf

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(my images are the four along the top)

I had a nice piece of news the other day when I was told by Side Gallery up in Newcastle that they had decided to include four of my photographs from my Light Data series in their current exhibition on protest photography. It’s called A Luta Continua [Trans: The Struggle Continues]. As it’s all the way up norf I haven’t actually seen my photographs in situ proper as of yet, but I will be going up in May. Presenting work by established photographers alongside citizen journalism of recent protest events (ie me & other newer photographers), the exhibition attempts to place protest photography in history and document (& question) its development as a reporting method. To quote Side Gallery’s website:

“Who documents history? Why do they record events? For whom do they risk their livelihoods or lives in doing so? These are subjects of change and evolution: it is no longer the exclusive territory of a (usually) white Western male photojournalist to tell it as it is . The making of the news, the telling of the news and the interpretation of the news, are becoming activities in which all of us are involved. This is not without its inherent problems: it is just as easy to lie, or to misinform, as it is to champion the truth through our ever inter-related techno-driven world. Then there is the question of quality, partiality and impartiality: are the representations of the professional journalist more honest, valuable or insightful than those of the citizen journalist.”


I’m thoroughly aware of the limitations of the photographs that I made of the protests against the rises in UK university fees in late 2010. My lacklustre planning and foresight meant that the only images that I took where at the protests themselves and so did not place the visuals I had made of  fire, (inevitable) chaos, and (justified) anger in context at all. As a future warning to myself I wanted to use the photos to make an essay that really demonstrates how a group of images, taken without proper consideration, can be potentially really skew one’s impression of an event and the people involved. I’ve now put those images together into an essay called ‘Light Data’. I think it compliments the angle that Side Gallery decided to take in their recent exhibition. Check it out and let me know what you think.

On another note the gallery has recently just lost all of its arts council funding which is pretty serious. It’s a really old institution (opened in 1977) and is the only gallery in the country which is fully dedicated to documentary photography. As this is obviously quite an awful thing please sign their petition to get the Arts Council to recognise that they have made an immense, immense mistake

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Some thoughts on iPad apps & coffee table audiences Pt.1

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If photojournalism is about getting people to care about the stuff that the photographer cares about then the  ideal is to make sure that as many people as possible see the photos isn’t it? The more people that see the photos, the more people who can be potentially effected, which results in a higher number of people caring (and hopefully doing whatever it is that needs to be done for the cause). This is the ideal but obviously in the real world people have things called budgets and you have to be more strategic & targeted about it.

Previously I guess that there were two main tactics in getting people to see photos, with photographers probably siding with the first because of the various barriers to distribution (do correct me if I’m wrong):

a) Getting a small group of people to understand the facts (more of a tactical approach i.e. using select locations & print titles)

b) Getting a large group of people to understand the facts (more of a broadcast approach i.e. using national newspapers, TV)

The approach that you took depended in part on funds available + what the project objectives were I guess, e.g. The Red Cross in the aftermath of an earthquake has completely different targets from a project by Martin Parr on arms fairs (no pun intended).

This is all fairly straightforward. At the root of it it’s all about making sure you are hitting as many of the right people within the budget that you have. Right?

In light of all of this it was interesting reading the interview that Chris Anderson (the Magnum photographer) gave in the British Journal of Photography, which included an exchange over his new iPad app and its price. In the interview the BJP asks rather incredulously, “Why $4.99 [for the app]?”. The photographer responds,

That seemed to be the threshold for my when I buy an app. I think it is underpriced in this case, but I did want to lean toward underpricing rather than overpricing. For me, above $5, for an app and I want it to serve me coffee in the morning.” (my bolds)

Before the digital copy publishers were able to say that it cost a fair bit to print photobooks on paper. Colour inks and nice paper are really hard to source and produce and stick together and all that. So they printed the photobooks, made them hardcover, and then wacked a nice £40 price tag on them. With the digital copy you obviously can’t really justify that kind of price tag. Which is nice for everyone who isn’t able to afford those nicely polished coffee tables to display the books on just as yet.

Whilst the traditional print industry (newspapers & magazines) gradually ceases to become the main source of funding for project documentary photography, another opportunity is opening. Anderson in the interview acknowledges that

“I imagine that the audience will be slightly different than book collectors. I do imagine photo students, for example, or this might even be a way to easily incorporate the book into an academic curriculum. I also think that the price might allow people with a passing curiosity in the subject matter…people who are not even photography fans…to purchase it.”

Whilst we haven’t reached the point where the mobile screen has become ubiquitous I would conservatively predict that a large percentage of us will have a mobile screen thing in 6/7ish years , or whenever the prices go down. NB – it’s worth pointing out here that Morgan Stanley’s tech guru Mary Meeker has predicted that sales of mobile devices will surpass that of the PC in 2013:

The potential of this kind of photo distribution is significant not only because of funding potential but because of audience size. ‘Normal’ people who don’t buy photo books will actually be a potential audience for project photography. And they will probably expect to download a photo project for about £3 whilst they wait for the bus to take them to work. Now I don’t know about you, but if the point of photojournalism is to get as many people to see the photos as possible that’s a light at the end of the tunnel which shines more brightly than someone’s nicely polished coffee table and a £40 price tag.