Archive for November, 2009

Artist as entrepreneur: the new paradigm

So where are the models for these kinds of partnerships? Whom can we look to when we want to figure out how to move forward?

Dave Eggers, to me, represents a new model for the 21st century artist: someone who makes his own work, but who also finds new and interesting ways to distribute that work.

He starts organizations. And then scales them up. And he writes. And he makes movies.  He builds the tightly-knit intellectual community that he wants to be a part of.  Dave Eggers is a man that builds communities and creates social change. And he does that by making art and by helping other people make art.

826 Valencia, his tutoring center and pirate supply store was the first of what has become a national 826-tutoring-center-empire.

Then, in addition to a few different publishing enterprises and growing list of books and articles, a few specific pieces have an overtly social purpose. Two of his recent books recount the stories of people who have been struggling to build and rebuild their lives: a Sudanese refugee in What is the What, and a man heavily impacted by hurricane Katrina in Zeitoun.

A friend of mine who works for him once told me, “Dave Eggers has his fingers in many pies.”

Which is all to say, THAT IS SO MUCH TO HAVE DONE! That is so much community building. That is so much art. That is so much social change—no matter how you measure it or how unmeasurable it is, no matter how successful, or unsuccessful, any one project is. This is an artist who engages with and shapes the world.

Now of course, everybody’s different. It’s possible that Dave Eggers is a super-human artist-entrepreneur-bot who doesn’t sleep, and he certainly has skills and opportunities I don’t have. So, at this point, it seems pretty likely that I will not become another Dave Eggers.

However, I think that artist-nonprofit partnerships are right in line with this paradigm, and are exactly the kind of exciting projects that help to build stronger communities and create social change. Each of the photographers who has submitted to PhotoPhilanthropy is also an entrepreneur. So what I am doing is informed by having examples out there like Dave Eggers, and I am grateful for and inspired by that.

November 27, 2009 at 1:30 am 1 comment

Opportunities for artists and nonprofits

Part II: GRANT AGGREGATORS AND PUBLICATION

So, as we know, actually doing projects and making partnerships takes resources. And then getting the work you’ve done out to a large audience takes even more resources. And finding those resources, publication opportunities and exhibition opportunities is a challenge. I have yet to find the definitive artist-opportunity aggregator, but I’m searching hard, and  I have found a few grant/call aggregators that I think are terrific.

Grant Aggregators

1. The best of them are all at the state level, so I suggest finding your state arts organization’s website. I’ve looked at California’s—the California Arts Council—and Arizona’s—the Arizona Commission on the Arts—and they are both terrific.

2. The New York Foundation for the Arts lists national grants and calls for work. They have a searchable database and lots of other resources on their site. This is an excellent resource.

3. Then there is Call for Entry, a site that aggregates opportunities for the Western States. It posts a lot of hyper-local opportunities that you have to wade through to find what’s relevant, but it also has a lot of content and a streamlined application system so that you can upload images only once and then use them to apply to multiple opportunities. (Hey grantosphere—we need more of this! More streamlining of applications!! How can I possibly work to support myself, and make my art, and apply for dozens of different grants with different applications all at the same time? I can’t! It makes me terribly cranky!)

4. And there is the Foundation Center, the go-to source for nonprofits that lists some arts grants as well. They have a lot of different support services, including a massive database of foundations that is accessible via the web, for a subscription fee, or for free via a “cooperating collection” (click here to find the one nearest you).

Publication Opportunities

There is also the issue of getting your work out there so that you have an audience…and also so that you can build the credibility to make you a better candidate to receive grants. I am still hunting for more of these kinds of opportunities, but a few whose tone I appreciate are below.

1. Jen Bekman is an arts entrepreneur whom I admire very much (I recommend following her on twitter; @jenbee). She has a lot of great things going on which I will mention in future posts, but one of her projects is the blog Hey, Hot Shot! which, like PhotoPhilanthropy, posts and discusses the work of many photographers who submit themselves for support. Here is a longer description of what it is and how to apply.

Kipp Wettstein via Hey, Hot Shot!

2. The Aperture Foundation has the “portfolio prize,” with the added bonus of using the grant process as a way to scout for book proposals. When you submit a portfolio, it gets looked at by the editors of Aperture books, which makes the application worth your while, even if you don’t win the prize.

3. Photo Lucida’s Critical Mass competition is similar—only this time the prize is the book publication. The organization seeks to build community at the same time by distributing the book they end up creating to all applicants (a project subsidized by the hefty entry fee of around $75). Updates for the competition are available on their blog.

4. There is also an organization called the Magenta Foundation: Publishing for the Arts, that has just launched the Flash Forward Festival to promote and exhibit emerging photographers in Canada, the U.S. and the UK. In the past they have also published books. Submissions now being accepted for 2010. Deadline: Dec 31, 2009.

5. And, of course, more and more people are jumping into the self-publishing that internet companies like Lulu and Blurb have made so popular, and that is a great way to catalogue a partnership in a way that shows off both organization and artist. These sites allow you to create a book and then order copies as you need them, which is good for both parties. Make a book. Hand it out. Achieve instant fame and glory.

So that’s a start. Please comment below if you have resources to add.

November 25, 2009 at 9:07 am 1 comment

Opportunities for artists and nonprofits

Part I. GRANTS

So, I’ve been applying to a lot of grants, prizes, competitions and exhibitions in the last few years in order to fund my work. And I’ve noticed a couple of things.

First of all, it is hard to find the information, it’s hard to organize it, and it’s hard to get the timing right, unless you just become obsessive about applying for and researching grants, which is not advised if you want to keep your personal relationships intact.

That’s one reason I wanted to start this blog and to create the grants list in the Creative Momentum section of PhotoPhilanthropy—I am always looking for good sources of information on the web. Incidentally, if you can recommend any good grant aggregators or blogs for this kind of information, please do! Comment below or send me a note at eliza@photophilanthropy.org.

But I’ve also noticed that there is an exciting trend toward promoting and funding photographic art that drives social change. A number of organizations and programs have emerged in just the last couple of years that have this specific mission, some of which explicitly require collaborations between artists and charitable organizations.

1.    There is the Shoot Q grant, whose 2009 winner, Annie O’Neill, was just announced (sign up here to be notified when they begin accepting submissions for the 2010 prize).

Annie O'Neill

2.    Getty Images added a new grant program to their existing $20,000 editorial grants (deadline: May 1st). Called “Grants for Good” the new program specifically funds collaborations between photographers and nonprofits. In their words, “Nonprofits need imagery to tell their stories effectively, which is why our Grants for Good provide two grants of $15,000 annually, to cover photographer, filmmaker and agency costs as they create compelling new imagery for the nonprofit of their choice.” Deadline: March 1st. Boo yah.

3.   Once you’ve made the work, you need to figure out how to get it to a broader audience. The Open Society Institute & Soros Foundation Network has a new Distribution Grant for artists and partner organizations to create new ways to distribute their work. Amounts from $5,000-$30,000; deadline, June 2010. Read about last year’s winners here.

4.    The Aftermath Project, another initiative of the Open Society Institute, supports projects that document the aftermath of war. Deadline: November every year.

Asim Rafiqui

5.    The Alexia Foundation gives $15,000 grants to professionals and similarly generous grants to students for projects that further their objectives of promoting peace and cultural understanding. Deadline: January 12, 2010.

In my experience, partnering with a nonprofit organization was helpful in funding my work because it dramatically expanded the breadth of funding sources the project was eligible for. With COAR–Community Outreach & Advocacy for Refugees–my most recent partner organization, I could apply for independent artist grants, artist prizes, project or collaboration-specific grants, and the project was written into general program and operations grants that the organization was submitting anyway.

Because of our collaboration, we were eligible for 4 different categories of funding, instead of one or two. We ended up receiving about 1 grant from each of those categories of funding—so I feel like that strategy served us well. And, I don’t think the project would have been able to move forward if we had disregarded any of those categories.

Last year at ASU, I attended a talk given by Subhankar Banerjee where he recounted his own experience trying to drum up financial support for his projects. If you haven’t seen his work before, you should check it out: I particularly like his landscapes because they are so geometric and organic at the same time; they show you caribou crossing vast swathes of the arctic that could also be cytoplasm drifting around a single cell—it reminds me that I don’t really know how I fit into the world or the universe, I don’t really know how large or small I am, which is unexpectedly inspiring.

Subhankar Banerjee

One of the strategies he pursued in funding his photographs about climate change in the arctic was to partner with Blue Earth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that fills the role that COAR played for me when I was looking for funding. Blue Earth Alliance is relevant in situations where artists have not found an appropriate organization to partner with. This is a very cool org, that offers a lot of different kinds of support to artists—well worth knowing about.

And they have a blog too. Here’s a post I found really useful, all about fundraising strategy.

Next up: publication opportunities and grant aggregators. Very sexy.

November 18, 2009 at 2:42 am Leave a comment

Who’s your favorite?

So, artists, executives, nonprofit organizations, who are the photographers you look at the most? Whom do you love? Who tells the best story in the most beautiful phrases?

PhotoPhilanthropy has just received an outstanding deluge of entries for the Activist Awards, and, I’d like to know, those of you who submitted and those of you who have looked at the submissions, and those of you who just like pictures, who are your favorite photographers? And why?

I am a little bit embarrassed to tell you who my favorite photographers are, because the level of idolatry I’m liable to communicate is, well, it’s unseemly. You may suddenly feel as through I’m a shrieking teenager and you are at an ‘N Sync concert circa 1999.

But I’ll start with the elephant in the room. I am a student of Emmet Gowin’s, and his way of teaching, way of being, and way of making art have had an enormous influence on me. As a result, he is my #1 favorite.

What I love about Emmet’s work is that it takes on huge, multifaceted social issues—wicked problems, as a policy wonk might say—and explores them, without losing any of their complexity, or their poignancy. His work, like the book Changing the Earth or his new moth portraits, talks about the impact human beings are having on the world, while also reveling in the world itself; in its paradoxes and its surprises.

emmet moths

Emmet Gowin, Mariposas Nocturnas, Index No. 8, Yashumi and Otenga, Ecuador, 2007

It’s a bit hard to put into words. Joel Smith, the curator of photographs at the Princeton University Art Museum, and the force behind the new  show Emmet Gowin: A Collective Portrait, says it better than I can.

In his introduction to the catalogue, he writes of the moth pictures, “Seen collectively, these portraits manifest the diversity of a natural order that is endangered on every front; seen alone, each embodies an ingenious beauty that remains available to the eye of anyone willing to become its student.”

I believe that great images a) are visually captivating; b) teach you something new; c) make you feel something; and d) tell a story.

When nonprofits communicate what they do, I think the goals are similar. You have to a) get an audience; b) teach them about the issue you work on; c) convince them that issue is important; and d) show the way forward.

That’s why I think artists and nonprofits have such great potential for collaboration. They’re often working toward the same ends, and we need both media—art and organization—to keep moving forward.

So share your favorites with us!

Comment below, tweet your response to @PhotoPhilan, or email me at eliza@photophilanthropy.org.

November 11, 2009 at 5:58 am Leave a comment

A different kind of picture

It is easy to get depressed by the news (intractable problems, inscrutable wars, a failing healthcare system). It’s also easy to escape it completely (my vices = Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men). But where do we go to understand the challenges facing the world right now, without feeling paralyzed by them?

One answer is to focus on individual stories. When you look at an issue through the lens of a single life, you get a different kind of picture. You get depth, and humor, and inspiration as well as education about the issues of our time.

There are a lot of people making incredible work like this; work that introduces us to each other. It’s the positive side of globalization. You can meet people from anywhere, just by looking around.

You’ve got On Being, from the Washington Post, which is a section of the online edition that presents poignant, nuanced interviews with all sorts of people about all sorts of human dilemmas and experiences.

on being

There is 6 Billion Others, a project created by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, which displays 5,000 interviews conducted with people all around the world. The interviews were built on forty questions like, What have you learnt from your parents? What do you want to pass on to your children? What difficult circumstances have you been through? and What does love mean to you?

6billionothers

I believe it is this kind of conversation that builds the strong communities that allow people to live better lives. So I really enjoy these projects on a lot of levels. It’s fun to hear people talk, and it’s fun to think about a lot of people all listening to each other.

PhotoPhilanthropy is doing this kind of work by focusing on one organization at a time. A lot of people are doing a lot of incredible work to create change on all different scales, from building one-on-one relationships to creating massive networks of social services. We need to hear those stories! What’s working? What isn’t? Who needs more help? What can we do for each other?

The photo essays that are available to see at www.photophilanthropy.org tell remarkable stories. From a prison arts program in California to an opera house’s outreach program in Belgium to the Global Fund for Children in Peru, people have created organizations all over the world to build stronger communities.

This is a moment when all sorts of people are reaching out to help others. Sometimes those “others” are halfway around the world, sometimes they are all the way around the corner. But it’s exciting to see all the great work being done right now. Get inspired. Take a look! And let us know your thoughts.

Comment below or email eliza@photophilanthropy.org

November 3, 2009 at 11:32 am 2 comments


"In this way his work is more powerful in its moments of creation, when real human interactions are eroding racial stereotypes, than in its exhibition. And if the work succeeds, it is not because Subotzky can use a camera like no one else, it is because his photographs embody his efforts to confront social injustice on a personal level." --Charles Schultz on Mikhael Subotzky

PhotoPhilanthropy’s blog is written by Eliza Gregory

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