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New Magnum Fund Pays Out for Deep Photo Stories

Resource type: News

Wired | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

The Magnum Foundation has launched a new initiative called the Emergency Fund to offer support for photographers working on thoughtful, long-form stories around the world.

This new resource is a bright spot on a bleak horizon, as traditional media financing for documentary projects dries up. While the fund is not able to pick up the entire tab for a story, it promises to get fledgling projects off the ground.

“We’re not giving out cushy grants that people can live on,” says Susan Meiselas, Magnum photographer and president of the Magnum Foundation, “We’re giving a boost that can get an important project started.”

Each year, photography professionals will nominate 100 of their colleagues to submit proposals to the fund. An independent editorial board will then select between 10 and 20 projects to support, based on the importance of the issues the photographers propose to address. Completed projects will be distributed widely through traditional and new media, in collaboration with nonprofits or NGOs, and on the Emergency Fund website. Photographers retain the copyright to their work.

About 40,000 young Swazi girls take part each year in the Umhlanga Dance, a rite of passage into womanhood. The polygamous King Mswati III, who already has 13 wives, may choose one of the 40,000 virgins as a new wife.
Photo: Krisanne Johnson, from the series
I Love You Real Fast.


An early success story for the fund is Krisanne Johnson’s I Love You Real Fast. The project documents the shortened life cycles of girls with AIDS in Swaziland. With the fund’s help it raised well over its original $7,500 goal on Kickstarter, an Emergency Fund partner. Other funding partners that are helping to keep deeper photo projects off the endangered species list include Open Society and Atlantic Philanthropies.

Meiselas also hopes the fund will combat the potential conflict of interest of documentary photographers relying on NGOs and other organizations for financing. Aid groups can often influence a photographer’s project, intentionally or not, because they hold the purse strings.

“We’re in a strange time,” she says. “With the traditional media not supporting new production, there’s a gap. Some advocacy groups now give assignments directly, but that raises all sorts of complicated [journalistic] issues. We’re trying to find a way to stay balanced in this chaotic environment.”

Three years in the developing, the Emergency Fund project extends the philosophy and quality of Magnum Photos –- the oldest photo collective in the United States, beyond the work of its elite membership. The Magnum Foundation is a nonprofit with its own finances and board, operating independently of Magnum Photos. “We’re a charity, and we support the public interest,” says Meiselas. “The Magnum legacy is about supporting important work with an open heart, and passing down generations of experience.”

View the new Emergency Fund Website.
Follow the Emergency Fund on Twitter at @EmergencyFund.
Connect with the Emergency Fund on Facebook.
You can support the Magnum Foundation at

Above is one of nine photos from some of the younger, less-well-known photographers supported by the Emergency Fund.  View Original Source and more photos here >>

The Magnum Foundation is an Atlantic Grantee.