This week, David Alan Harvey announced the deadline for the Emerging Photographer’s Fund 2011. Having been lucky enough to be the recipient of the first grant in 2008, I wanted to jot down a thought or two about how the grant has impacted me as a photographer.
The Emerging Photographer’s Fund is an evolution from discussions on David’s old blog ‘Road Trips‘. Road Trips was David’s first foray into blogging and became and intimate community of people keen to learn from David’s experience as a professional photographer for National Geographic and Magnum.
The appearance of blogging has, I feel, been a gift to aspiring photographers as more and more established professionals have gone online to openly and candidly share their thoughts and experiences with their followers. As a young photographer starting out, one of the things I craved was learning from pro-photographers and learning how they approached their careers and their work. Road Trips was a goldmine for any young photographer looking for information and/or advice. It still is a goldmine, although Road Trips is no longer, and has evolved very successfully into Burn. As I have evolved too as a photographer, making the first forays into the beginning stages of my professional career, I still value the Road Trips/Burn community as much as before.
In the summer of 2007, David announced the idea that he was giving out a grant. He challenged the readers of his blog to find a photo-project which they would ultimately submit and he would consider for further funding. I had been sitting on the idea of photographing the issue of desertification (the gradual expansion of deserts and arid land) for some time but hadn’t found the right time to get the project going. The challenge from David was to be my impetus to start.
I packed some clothes and my camera and booked a flight from Beijing to western China to a place I knew was suffering from desertification. At that time, the trip was funded out of my own pocket and I realistically knew that my chances of being awarded a grant were very small, due to the fact I was sure many good photographers would be entering too. It didn’t really matter to me though, as it was a project that I had wanted to cover for sometime and the challenge was enough to make me want to start. My aim was to get the project started and if I was lucky, get it infront of David on a computer sometime and get a few pieces of advice. I didn’t expect anything else. It’s important when you enter competitions or grants that you don’t expect anything. Continue with your work anyway. If you get any kind of recognition, it’s a bonus. You still need the passion for the subject to continue with it, even if it doesn’t pick up and awards along the way. They should never be your goal.
On new year’s day in 2008, I turned on my computer and went to the Road Trips site checking to see if the winner’s had been updated. To my complete astonishment, there was my name listed as the recipient.
For me, the biggest impact of winning the grant at such an early stage in my career as a photographer, came in terms of confidence. Young photographers are often unsure in their work. Unsure and daunted by the sheer amount of photographic talent there is out there and how they will find a foothold in the industry. Having come from a non-photographic background, my worries about whether photography was the right place for me were completely allayed from that point.
As a result of winning the grant, I also invested in attending two of the major photo-festivals in 2008, Visa Pour L’image and Look3. Attending these festivals was very special for me, as I began to connect with many of the people who I had only known online previously. The encouragement I gained from these individuals was amazing and many of them are now good friends and people whom I regularly seek advice from.
At the end of the day though, if you are a young photographer reading this, the money that the grant awards should not be the motivation. It’s the subject that should be the motivation. If you have found a subject that you really care about, are really passionate about, then this is what is going to make you stand out. If you win the grant, then it’s a bonus. A big bonus, for sure. Edit tight. Edit to show your vision. Edit to show your feelings. Even if nothing comes from entering, this may be a great chance to really sit down with your work and try to think about it. Talk to others about it. Understand it. Move in the right direction.
There will be lots of good photographers entering, but you have to put your work in the proverbial mixer. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
I hope this has been helpful to anyone thinking of applying. Good luck!