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
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