Samstag, 1. Juni 2013

Emphas.is Q&A



Karim Ben Khelifa


"Emphas.is is based on the premise that the audience is still interested in photography - despite what editors might think," we wrote in early 2011, as the crowd-funding platform for photojournalists was about to launch. At the time, the premise was simple, as co-founder Karim Ben Khelifa told us: "Photographers are storytellers and our audience wants to hear those stories."

The concept behind Emphas.is has always been simple: a photographer pitches a story, presents a budget, and if he receives the necessary funds, he keeps in touch with his backers with exclusive updates and access to the work. "Photographers will become a channel," said Khelifa at the time. "They will meet their audience and engage with it."
Now, after raising more than $500,000 for photographers, the platform is appealing for funds to survive. We speak with co-founders Ben Khelifa and Tina Ahrens, and ask them why it's now seeking help. 

Olivier Laurent: Emphas.is was launched in early 2011. What has been achieved in these two years?

Karim Ben Khelifa/Tina Ahrens: Emphas.is and the concept that the public would be willing to pay for the production of high-quality visual storytelling was just a theory when we launched the platform two years ago. We saw the social media trend take off and with it the possibilities for us, the visual storytellers, to create communities around the subjects we were experts on.


Tina Ahrens


With this new global reach online thanks to the social networks, journalists can now find people on any continent who share the same values and concerns about the issues the journalists are covering. Crowd-funding the way we set it up offers complete freedom to the creator in the creative process. No editorial line is imposed, no single person has a say over what the project should be or become. We have raised more than $500,000 for photojournalism, multimedia and film projects and have send more than 60 photographers back on the road to cover an important subject. We have published five photography books with Emphas.is with two more being published shortly. We have provided grass roots funding for independent storytelling projects and have created a new communication channel for journalists and their audiences.

The questions for freelancers on Emphas.is is no longer how long can I stay on the ground or how deep can I dive in this story but rather who are the people who care about this issue, who want to see it covered, and how can I engage them and create a meaningful connection with them. Many of the photographers on Emphas.is have thought deeply about the angle of their work and how they can effect change by reaching out directly to their audiences to become partners in their journalistic undertakings.

Today, crowd-funding has become part of the tool people think of when it comes to the funding of personal projects. This is a new phenomenon of the last two years and it has become a new pillar of support alongside grants money and what remains of the funding coming from legacy media.

Olivier Laurent: How has the industry reacted to Emphas.is? And what impact, do you believe, the site has had on the photojournalism market?

Karim Ben Khelifa/Tina Ahrens: We are a lab that concentrates on experimenting with how to create a dialogue with audiences and how to create shared values. As such many in the industry were a bit skeptical at first, I think, how such an experiment could work out. Reactions have been mixed from incredible support even before we launched and since our launch, and people going about their own business unconcerned with how we can all create tools that helps us as a profession to thrive. We set Emphas.is up to help a community and we realised that serving a community is not everybody's cup of tea, especially in a highly individualistic profession such as photography.

But back in 2009, when we started thinking of Emphas.is, it was clear to us that we had to do something in the face of the pounding media crisis. We saw plenty of freelancers struggling to work on their projects and some of them were on the verge of quitting journalism, just because they could not make ends meet. Yet, we saw their talent and the importance of their stories, so it was not a reflection of their ability or commitment. We thought that a complete re-invention of the relationship between journalists and their audience was needed, and that's what we built with Emphas.is, a platform and the tools to engage and solicit financial support. More information 


Crowdfund Emphas.is

 
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