In October 2010, PDN EDU interviewed a couple of photographers, one of which was Jason Florio, our River Gambia Expedition 2012 photographer and co-leader.
The interview was about how photographers were looking to their friends, family and colleagues to help facilitate their personal projects – having not been able to get upfront commitment from editorial outlets (due to budgets being drastically cut over the last few years). ‘Come back to us with a finished piece’ doesn’t really help when you have (un)available funds of ’0′ in your bank account. This was the advent of ‘crowd-funding’ it seems. And, its what we did, in 2009, to help us get our ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ off the ground – although, the now-popular phrase ‘crowd-funding’ was certainly not something we were familiar with back then. But, it definitely wasn’t a new concept, as Jason explained, in the PDN EDU interview, where his inspiration originated from, :
‘Florio funded his walking expedition in the Gambia primarily through a fine art print pre-sale, a tradition he can trace at least as far back as Edward Sheriff Curtis, the famed photographer of the late 19th-century American West who funded his expeditions through pre-sales. “Instead of just asking people for straight cash,” Florio says, “we’d offer them a print in return, starting at $100 for an 8-by-10 print and then scaling the price up from there.” ‘
Florio records a young Fula tribe boy playing a traditional flute, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio 2009
‘As soon as the funds are raised, it’s time to get out and start making pictures! While the vision of any large-scale project will grow and evolve as it unfolds, with community-funded projects, the donors become materially involved. Photographers should keep their sponsors updated on the project’s progress, either through a blog or personal, individualized contact, and deliver any promised rewards in a timely manner.
That reciprocity may be the ultimate benefit of community-based fundraising: It is truly a two-way street. Florio noticed that donors seemed “excited to be involved in some way in the expedition. I think they were glad to have a role in our journey.” In the process of sourcing the community for funds, photographers have the opportunity to bolster the meaning of community itself.’ Read the whole article at PDN EDU – Oct 6th 2010
Village chief, Dadi Bah, of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia © Jason Florio
Jason Florio’s portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders, taken on their 930km walk, made the front cover of PDN
And today, we are doing the same thing…hey, if it ain’t broken… . And, it’s still a long hard slug, and a huge test of faith, self-discipline and the patience of Job, getting funding in. There’s no sitting back on our laurels in the Florio household. We wish! Particularly, when we’re still up at 1am, so that we can work with US time-zones and product sponsors (we live in New York but we’re based in London, working on getting everything ready to fly down to West Africa). Suffice to say, we work long, payless, hours. Consistently. For 6 months in advance – on getting to the target amount that we need for our budget – praying that Florio gets the odd assignment booked in between times, to make sure we can pay the bills! We live and breath the darn thing – even dreaming about how we can make this or that happen (I keep a note pad by the bed for those times that I wake in the middle of the night with a ‘bingo moment’ – and there are many – most of which really don’t make much sense, at all, reading them in the cold light of dawn). What else can we possibly do to raise this much? what can go wrong? contingency planning, planning, planning…yada, yada, yada… .
However, we’re not complaining… No siree bob. The rewards and people’s generosity continues to astound and humble us. More than anything, its the believe – as much, if not more than we have at times (after endless sleep-deprived nights) – that people have in what we are trying to achieve. And, moreover, the outcome of the work, made on such expeditions, can be breathtaking. Thankfully, Mr Florio is pretty good at producing that ‘Wow’ factor – which helps to keep both our sponsors and donors happy. No doubt, he’ll cringe with embarrassment at me for writing that.
Plus, we have amazing, indelible, experiences, and memories which come with the territory.
Speaking of Mr Florio, here is the man in question, talking about the same subject he spoke with PDN about, three years ago, in ‘A Little Help from Your Friends’ article – and now about the 2012 expedition (please click on the image to view):
Thanks to absolutely everyone who has helped us out so far. We hope to return with images worthy of gracing your wall’s in early 2013.
Big Love and respect
Helen & Florio x