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In recent years, crowdfunding has become somewhat of a fad in the photography industry. The combined democratization of the Internet – and the ease it affords both creators and contributors – and long history of patron-artist relationship has made the crowdfunding platform a success for many photographers.
Of course, it’s rarely as easy as it looks. While platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are expanding (thanks in part to a broad audience), photojournalism-centric Emphas.is is working to keep its head above water.
Emphas.is was founded with the ambitious goal of creating a new financial model for photojournalism in the 21st century. After seeing the success of other crowdfunding platforms, Emphas.is founders sought to develop their own, exclusively for visual storytellers. Every project submitted is reviewed by a board of experts in the photojournalism world, including Jamie Wellford (former Senior Photo Editor at Newsweek), Michael Nichols (Editor-at-large for National Geographic), and Stanley Greene (co-founder of NOOR).
“The effects of a decade of newsroom cutbacks are real – and the public is taking notice. Most of the innovation in journalism today concentrates on aggregating content that is getting flatter and flatter, instead of finding new ways to sustain in-depth reporting. In order to become sustainable and grow our coverage, we need your help. ” – Emphas.is
Since 2011, 6,000+ backers have helped fund 50 in-depth stories by 60 journalists in over 60 countries. The goal is to increase that number ten-fold.
Aaron had been documenting the Lakota tribe at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for the past six years. He was looking for an effective way to give a voice to the social injustice and forgotten history of the Lakotas, and empower them to fight for their recognition in society. But he was hitting a wall with traditional print media, so Aaron turned to Emphas.is to help raise awareness.
The project ended up getting 265 backers and raising $26,431 – surpassing his goal by almost $10,000. “Emphas.is helped us get the word out and raise funds to promote this cause, and now we’ve transitioned to do expansive guerrilla-style marketing,” says Aaron.
“Crowdfunding is not something to dabble around with,” advises Aaron. “You have to commit and understand what your project’s benefit is to the community and how you’re going to convince people to donate.”
We talked with seven other photographers to learn from their own crowdfunding successes and failures. Discover actionable fundraising tactics in Crowdfunding Your Photography Project and consider supporting Emphas.is mission to support in-depth storytelling.