Crowdsourcing

Funding photojournalism though crowdsourcing - which is the new term for soliciting donations - is all very well and good and I fully support those looking to fund their work through sites such as Emphas.is and Kickstarter, and you can be sure I'll be looking to fund some of my own projects this way (at least in part) as it's no joke working with no budget and doing things on spec, especially the long form in-depth stuff many of us really want and need to do.

There are issues that have been raised in relation to accountability and integrity when basically asking the public to fund a journalists work, and there is the issue of the mainstream media seeing crowd funding as a way to avoid using their own budgets, but these problems - though important - are ones that already exist with the current/previous financial model. Corporations want to buy products, not pitches. It is a rare thing to get a cheque up front. Integrity and accountability should always be scrutinised, no matter where the money is coming from, and in some cases, especially because of where the money is coming from.

One thing that troubles me though is the audience. Where will the work be shown, and to what purpose? Does crowdfunding only stoke the fire that turns photojournalism in on itself so that we end up with a situation where work is being funded by the photojournalism community, produced by the photojournalism community and distributed amongst the photojournalism community with little regard to those outside of this little world? An analogy might be a church congregation, with the plate being passed around during a service and a pastor preaching to the choir.

Of course, we should support our colleagues and our community - the congregation in the church of journalism let's call it - but those who we really need to reach are the ones who currently spend their money on the gossip rags, the producers of entertainment and celebrity tittle tattle who call it news and the advertisers who want us to buy their products without question or even thought. If crowdfunding can bring us together, make us stronger both in terms of community and finances so that we may take on the producers of dross and distraction then I am all for it, but if I can get my project funded, only to have it displayed as thankyou prints in the homes of my backers and at a photojournalism festival, then I am doing no more good than if I had put the whole thing on my credit card myself.

Let's use these tools to spread the word and look for sources of income beyond our peers, not to turn inward and bleed ourselves dry while no one notices.


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