Tag Archives: Magnum Photography

Magnum Photography – Financing Personal Projects – Nicola Shipley

Nicola Shipley Director, GRAIN Projects, Curator

Nicola Shipley works as a Producer, Curator, Project Manager, Mentor and Consultant, specialising in photography. She is Director of GRAIN Projects, based in Birmingham UK, delivering a range of projects, commissions and exhibitions in collaboration with photographers. She trained as an art historian, has an MA in History of Art, and a background in the visual arts, including in commissioning, exhibitions, collections, public art, artists education and professional development.

Nicola works with organisations looking to apply for funding from organisations such as the arts council. Her talk was aimed to provide the group with guidance on sources of funding plus advise on the funding process itself.

Nicola initially walked through the different sources of funding that include Arts Council, Trusts, Companies and other bodies. She explained that certain types of funding are not open to individuals yet if you establish a relationship with an organisation, they can apply on your behalf.

Many grants stipulate or expect a level of matched funding that can be as low as 10% of the funding requested. Though the matched funding does not need to be money and in kind support. Big corporations are setting up funding schemes as part of their corporate social responsibility agenda.

Alongside the Arts Council there is Heritage Lottery funding that is less difficult to secure than Arts Council funding. When applying they are looking for information on the audience for the work and how you intend to engage with that audience. There are grants available for developing your practice if you can justify why certain skills need to be acquired as part of your project.

Only 10% of grant applications are successful. Project applications are more successful if they do not last longer than 12 months and the project can not start prior to the grant being awarded. Though some level of research is likely to be required to document the project and its objectives.

Applications for the Arts Council and a number of other funding applications take place on Grantium. Registration on the system can take up to 3 weeks therefore it is important to allow sufficient time for that step of the process. Once you have established a track record you are more likely to be successful with subsequent applications. To apply as a collective you need to have a written governing document and a bank account.

Nicola suggested that the Arts Council funding template is a good starting point for any application as most funding bodies will be looking for similar information. Given the importance of audiences in arts outcomes Nicola suggested that it is important to look at research into audience development that in many cases can be found on the funding organisations website.

Evaluation of funding applications are a mix of quantitive and qualitative assessments. Many applications fail because things like budgets do not balance or sections of the application have not been completed. Budgets are expected to include payment for the artist. The budget should include estimates for time provided by consultants/experts even if their time is provided in kind rather than expensed. Funding applications should not include capital items as the benefit should relate to the specific project. For UK applications it takes about 6 weeks to get a response to your application within a funding round. Applications can be resubmitted but should be adjusted before being resubmitted. Some funding sources have a limit on the number of time that you can submit a specific funding application.

Nicola suggested partnering with someone who has experience of successfully securing funding to avoid making simple errors that can cause an application to get rejected plus it helps establish credibility. Other tips include making sure you do not start the project before funding is awarded and structuring the project into phases if it is going to last longer than 12 months. It is also advisable to request smaller levels of funding until your track record is established.

Magnum Photography – Financing Personal Projects – Fiona Rogers

Fiona Rogers Global Director Business Development, Magnum Photos, Founder, Firecracker

Fiona Rogers has worked at Magnum Photos since 2005 and is currently the Global Business Development Manager. Her responsibilities include Magnum’s strategic partnerships, brand exposure and new revenue streams. Prior to this she was the Cultural & Education Manager, founding Magnum’s educational department in 2007. She established Firecraker in 2011, a platform to support women in photography through online features, events and grants. Prior to Magnum, Fiona was employed at a popular London gallery and studied BA Arts Media at the University for the Creative Arts in Surrey. She holds a postgraduate certificate from the London College of Communication in Creative Enterprise Management.

The traditional economic model of photography has changed with the reduction in commissions paid for documentary photography which as core the Magnum’s financial model. This has required Magnum to shift its economic model with the introduction of a new platform. Magnum publish different stories and at the end of the story provide links to purchase items related to the story. The strategy relies on a content first strategy and then a conversion process that generates revenue based on the story. Magnum have a strong social media following and use that amplify the awareness of stories via their social media channels.

Be a thought Leader

To stand out in the photographic community it is important to become a thought leader however there are people who do thought leadership badly and other who do it well. Fiona suggested that though Joe McNally portrays himself as a thought leader in reality he editorial work is more about self-publicity. In contrast she suggest Danielle Zalcman and her Women Photography site was a good example of an individual who is promoting women photographers more generally and therefore is acting as a thought leader.

Safety in Numbers

We traditionally view photography as a very solitary activity yet Fiona suggested that by banding together photographers can become stronger and as a result amplify their message. An example of this is the project Postcards from America (2012) where Alec Soth and a number of other photographers brought a camper an a toured America arranging local shows and they funded the project by people purchasing postcards that photographers would send to the individuals funding their project.

 Do something interesting

If you want your personal projects to get noticed then a novel or interesting way of promoting your work can help get your project funded. Fiona gave Naomi Harris’ project EUSA as an example of innovative funding. The project explored America themed placed in Europe and European themed places in the USA. Naomi then dressed up in different outfits to promote her project via a successful kickstarter campaign. Using social media to help promote your campaign can drive a following however people now expect high quality campaigns so it requires a plan with strong execution.

Fiona spent some time to explore some other photographers. The first example was the work of Anastasia Lynd which was an original take on the conflict in Ukraine. Her project was funded by sending a postcard from a person killed in the Ukrainian Conflict to fund her project into the subject. Chris (Magnum Photographer) undertook a project on diversity as it is said that London has representatives of every nationality.

Get a second job

Having a second job can help fund your personal projects as getting funding is not easy to secure. Alice Tomlinson is an example of photographer who works as a wedding photographer which helps fund personal projects.


Collaborate with friends who have other skills such as if you are not a creative writer collaborate with a writer.

Create a call to action share a teaser of your work to get people interested in seeing the show.

Applying to open calls and grants can be a great way to gain visibility especially if the people judging the open call are people you respect.

Fiona recommended Instagram as the best social platform for photographers to share work as there are organisations commissioning work directly from Instagram. Fiona did share a note of caution with Kickstarter as she felt the platform has evolved and people expect to receive a physical product as a result of their funding your project.


Fiona’s key message is

  • Be patient
  • Be dedicated
  • Be committed

Magnum Photography – Financing Personal Projects – Antoine d’Agata

Antoine d’Agata MAGNUM Photographer

Born in Marseille, Antoine d’Agata left France in 1983 and remained overseas for the next ten years. Finding himself in New York in 1990, he pursued an interest in photography by taking courses at the International Center of Photography, where his teachers included Larry Clark and Nan Goldin. For his first books of photographs, De Mala Muerte and Male Noche, d’Agata travelled the world to document characters of the night’s further edges: prostitutes, addicts, war-torn communities and homeless. The books were published in 1998. In 2001, he published Hometown and won the Niépce Prize for young photographers. Compiling intimate and provocative images, the book focused on his travels in France and personal journey. Traveling around the world, documenting his personal experiences and encounters, d’Agata continued to publish regularly: Vortex and Insomnia appeared in 2003, accompanying his exhibition 1001 Nuits, which opened in Paris in September. His latest book, CODEX, Mexico 1986 – 2016 was published in 2017 by Editorial RM.

Antoine d’Agata is a Magnum Photographer who explores the world of drugs, sex, fear and addiction. For many people his work is controversial partly due to the subject matter and the fact many might perceive that he is exploiting vulnerable people on the fringe. Antoine explains it differently that he is photographing people that he has got to know from the world of night and he is opening a door on this world with the agreement of all participants. This is a world where Antoine frees himself from thinking entering a state of flow. In many cases he is no longer the photographer instead asking others to take photographs of himself and the women in his life.

Antoine created a short video of the images which he shows. There is a continuous beat to the music it reminds me of a heart beat that is raised drawing us into the visual experience. Image of sex and drugs are interleaved. Sometimes single images other times there are 60 or 100 images as strips on a page.

Antoine talks about his work in terms of night and day. He has a desire not to contaminate his work with the experience. He immerses himself into the world of night when making work. He describes the creation of books as a way for moving forward. (Reflection: I feel this is a short of unloading of experiences, to free his mind to allow  immerse himself into a new set of experiences where he pushes himself to the boundary and maybe sometimes beyond.)

He reflects that photography helps define your position in life. Photography is exciting due to the development of new techniques yet it is dangerous  because of the ways it is used. The night world is free of controls while the day is more frightening because of the way images are being controlled similar to the way people have been controlled by religion or politics or economy.

He recognises that he has become associated with blurred images as result of the techniques and strategies used to capture the images. Now he is looking to transform his image making to react again those old strategies, developing new strategies that allow him to capture the intensity of the dark side of the world.

He views his work is a challenge to society and the overall system:

  • Girls are speaking about their life of sex, drugs, violence, self harm.
  • The work has helped some of the girls to step out of the night world
  • He has published 45 books yet each book has been published with different publishers.
  • He exhibits concern that others in the industry, publishers, agents, editors are exploiting photographers.
  • He says that photographers should look to use the system and not get used by the system. Generally he feels we give up too much to get into the system.

Magnum Photography – Financing Personal Projects – Harry Hardie

Lecturer, London College of Communication & University of Westminster, Co-Founder & Director, Herepress

Harry Hardie is a Lecturer in photography at LCC and the University of Westminster. He co-founded and is Director of Here Press – an award-winning book publisher dedicated to exploring new and unconventional forms of documentary photography in book form. Previously Harry was director of HOST Gallery, a London-based photojournalism and documentary photography gallery exhibiting everything from classical black and white reportage to contemporary mixed media. Harry also worked at the Times for a number of years, starting as the assistant to the Director of Photography before becoming Photo Editor for The Times LUXX lifestyle magazine.

Harry provided his perspective on publication of work and started his talk by using a number of quotes to illustrate his point of view.

Robert Capa “If you pictures are not good enough you are not close enough”

Todd “If your pictures are not good enough you are not reading enough”

He felt that what these two quotes are trying to say is that you have not invested enough in your project either emotionally or through research.

Harry proceeded to explain how a quote from Life Magazine was his initial view on the reasons behind Herepress’ mission however more recently he feels that a quote by Nicolas Rothwell better describes what he and his partner are looking to achieve.

He explained in his opinion Photography and Design are bedfellows where bad design can ruin a photographic concept however great design can help support a weaker set of images. Photography is the language while design in the accent used.

There are four pillars to a well executed project:

  • Content
  • Concept
  • Design
  • Dissemination

Harry proceeded to illustrate his point by examining a number of photographers and their projects.

  • Natasha Caruara was the first photographer he discussed looking at a number of different projects. The first was a project related to people selling their wedding dresses on eBay. They had used images from their wedding to illustrate how the dress looked while using different techniques to hide the face of the bride or in many cases the couple. The project asks many questions about how much those people valued their wedding day. Natasha had worked with Harry on a second project where she had dated married men from a website while secretly filming and recording the events that took place on the date. Harry felt their was a common theme running through Natasha’s work that relates to relationships however there is an element of deceit in these two projects. Harry asked Natasha about the sources for her projects. Many of the ideas for her projects come from the short 1in by 1in stories that are published in the Metro and Evening Standard. In fact she has a folder of clipping each of which could be the idea for a project after conducting further research into the subject.
  • Ben Roberts was the second photographer and Harry highlighted Ben’s project based on the Occupy Movement which was a reaction to an article in the Daily Mail that suggested the occupy movement was initiated by middle class people who had pitched the tents yet went home to their suburban beds to sleep at night. Ben got permission to photograph the inside of the tents while asking that the tents were empty when he took the photographs therefore turning the Daily Mail story on its head. The project was published as a magazine to align with the culture of the people who were part of the movement.
  • The next photographer was Edmund Clark (who I have referenced a number of times through my CRJ). Harry talked about the Control Order House project and the creation of the book. He explained that Control Orders were a form of detention with agreed terms that if broken by the person subject to the Control Order would result in them being charged with terrorist activities. Edmund negotiated with the Home Office to spend time working in one of the houses used for Control Orders though after a few days the Home Office informed Clark his stay at the property had been approved in error and he had to leave immediately. When the reviewed the images they realised that none of them was any good to tell the story. Through careful design they managed to combine the images with details of a control order that tells a story of these anonymous places of detention that that could any suburban house.
  • A book by Jason Lazarus was a series of images that tell the story of who introduced you to the band Nivarna. Harry explained how the book was designed to ensure that it would not just be read once and then discarded. Images from different people were allowed to bleed across pages to knitting images together.  The images were numbered and the text was placed at the back of the book similar to the positioning of lyrics in an album. (Reflection: A clever use of design to introduced additional layers of reference to the book.)

Harry provided a few closing comments on the publication of books:

Hardback books do not mean better books instead you should decide if a hard cover fits in with the concept for the book.

When pitching a book to a publisher there are two sentences that you should have in your head.

  • What is the project about?
  • What do the pictures communicate?

In a pitch you can you use a few pretentious words that will help capture the imagination.

Harry explained that HerePress find projects that are not fully formed interesting because they represent a chance fo the publisher to contribute on the project. HerePress are moving away from pure photobooks towards that have more text. HerePress have a reputation of getting good press coverage for their books yet press coverage in a broadsheet does not necessarily translate into book sales.