The editorial photo essay is suffering. Shortage of time and money mean stories aren’t being told, or the truth of situations is interpreted in whistle-stop visits. In this landscape it is the grant system that is funding personally motivated assignments.
Photojournalist David Burnett, Cofounder of Contact Press Images and a grant’s panel judge, says, “When magazine assignments are fewer, and for far shorter times, it is great to see outside groups stepping up to help keep personal work alive. Two or three decades ago it was much easier to get a magazine to support a long-term assignment, but those days have pretty much gone away.”
Since 1991 David Holloway has been working on and off with his project documenting white nationalism in the US. In 2005 he was awarded a $20,000 grant to continue the project.
“The people I’m dealing with, it takes a long time to get them comfortable dealing with you. And it takes so long to know the story,” says Holloway. “And it’s expensive to work like that, but you hope you pull it together.
“Since I got the grant, the amount I’ve traveled is equal to the travel I’d done in the last three years.”
Kristen Ashburn received her $20,000 grant in February 2006 to fund her project communicating the plight of HIV/AIDS sufferers in Zimbabwe. “I wish I’d been able to complete this project three years ago,” she says. “I’ve only been able to work on it for three weeks at a time. I’ve made four trips in total, living on $5 a day, staying in youth hostels, living off mangoes – I can’t tell you how many of those I ate. I would have found a way, but the grant has enabled me to continue it.
“I meet people struggling with the virus, facing the reality of their death and they ask, ‘Can you let them know what’s happening to us?’ I don’t think I encapsulate one percent of one percent of it. It’s so overwhelming, but I hope I reflect some of it.
“Grants support the cause of photojournalism. I feel really lucky”
Getty Images awards five photojournalists individual grants of $20,000 each. More on winning projects and applications for future grants are at gettyimages.com/editorial-grants.
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