February 17th, 2012

Van Houtryve Wins at POYi, with Help from Crowd Funding

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII

Tomas van Houtryve, whose “Behind the Curtains” photo essay has won this year’s World Understanding Award at POYi, completed the eight-year project with the help of money he raised through the crowd-funding site Emphas.is. We don’t know if this is the first crowd-funded project to win a major award, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last, given the scarcity of   support for documentary photography at magazines, and the growing popularity of crowd-funding to underwrite long-term photography projects.

Van Houtryve is currently using Emphas.is again in hopes of raising enough money to turn his recent work on North Korea into a book and exhibition.

When we asked him why he turned to crowd-funding for “Behind the Curtains,” he explained that he began “Behind the Curtains” in 2004, covering Nepal’s Maoist revolution. “It was certainly a challenge to keep the project going at full force when the 2008 U.S. economic crisis hit, followed by the global media and advertising crisis in the following years,” he says. In 2010, he won POYi Photographer of the Year – Freelance award. Still, he says, “I had to keep looking for new revenue streams, switching from mainly magazines to grants and eventually to crowd-funding.

“It started to feel pretty acrobatic to have to constantly think about shifting and reinventing business models while keeping my focus on the project.”

In March 2011, he began looking for funding on his own site and on Emphas.is.  “My proposal was to finish my 21st century communism project by taking a final trip to Laos.

(more…)

August 5th, 2011

AP’s David Guttenfelder Inside North Korea

© AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

In June,  the Associated Press announced it had signed an agreement with North Korea’s state-run news agency to open an AP photo and text bureau in Pyongyang. The AP also noted that David Guttenfelder, AP’s Chief Asia Photographer, had already made several trips to North Korea this spring, photographing extensively in several parts of the country.

Guttenfelder’s photos of this secretive nation were published this week on The Atlantic web site and in The Independent, the UK paper. As the article in the British paper notes, “The pictures are among the most candid ever published in Western newspapers.”

In a country where the press is tightly controlled, Guttenfelder captured slices of daily life in a variety of settings: a university and a pool for its students, a library, an elementary school, a fast food restaurant, a subway station, a museum dedicated to the Korean war. Guttenfelder also photographed outside Kim Il Sung’s mausoleum, where tourists pose for photos. Some of his photos depict an eery quiet: an empty multi-lane highway leading to the Pyongyang airport, and a traffic cop standing in a Pyongyang street where there seems to be no traffic. His photos are often beautiful, capturing landscapes of color and sometimes startling clarity: as The Independent notes, the lack of industry means there’s little smog.