Emphas.is is a new platform for photojournalism that hopes to find a business model to sustain the profession, by creating "a unique bond between photojournalists and their audience." Due to launch in early 2011, its website went live at the end of August.
It would work via crowd funding, "with a difference," the website says. The incentive to contribute would be "exclusive access to top photojournalists." This will work, says the site, because there are many photojournalism enthusiasts out there who would be interested in providing support, many amateur photographers who would be eager for contact with professionals, as well as many people who care about the different issues that photojournalists can address.
The project is an idea of Tina Ahrens, an independent photo editor and photography consultant, and freelance journalist Karim Ben Khelifa. Three others are listed as involved in the initiative: Fanual Dewever, Gert Van Langendonck, and Gunter Boutsen.
The site boasts an impressive list of endorsements for Emphas.is from top photographers around the Western world. "Emphas.is has a potential to become the leading production platform for photojournalism of the 21st century," said Magdalena Herrara, director of photography at GEO France. Dominic Nahr of Magnum Photos is quoted as saying, "through Emphas.is I get to meet my audience and share the journey with them in a way that was never before possible."
Photojournalism has seen some radical changes in recent years. The arrival of online news has meant that many more photos can be displayed to the public than before, in the form of slideshows, rather than just having one photo accompanying a print article. The New York Times' Lens Blog is a good example of how photography can be showcased online. And of course digital photography makes processing photos far easier. But the craft has also seen a significant challenge from the increasing ubiquity of cameras and camera-equipped mobile phones among members of the public. Their photos might not be such good quality, but if they can capture an event, the photo might be worth a news organisation using.
As Le Monde notes, photojournalists (who more often than not work freelance) are encountering more and more difficulties in financing projects. Allowing readers to fund journalists' pitches is a strategy that seems to be working for California-based Spot.us - will it be prove possible to crowd fund photojournalism?