A good photograph evokes an emotional response—happiness, sadness, laughter, anger. Yet for documentary photographers who are most often covering difficult subjects such as AIDS, human trafficking, teenage prostitution, political unrest, and social and economic change, there is little financial backing and even fewer public platforms in which to share their photographs with the world. Thus the opportunity to move us is vastly limited.
FiftyCrows Foundation, a non-profit, documentary photography organization, and the All Roads Project at National Geographic are two highly visible outlets dedicated to providing a stage for indigenous documentary photographers to continue to explore—and share—social issues from around the world through their photography.
Since the inception of the All Roads Project in 2004, FiftyCrows has partnered with All Roads to offer indigenous photographers greater access to programs and opportunities to build their business as photographers. This wasn’t difficult to do, considering both organizations see photography as an instrument for social change. The All Roads Project operates under the guidance of world-renowned National Geographic and documentary photographer Chris Rainier. Andy Patrick, founder and executive director of FiftyCrows, works in collaboration with All Roads to nominate many of the talented indigenous photographers whose work they see through their international grants competition.
In the entries, we see a growing use of portraiture as a viable means for storytelling. Indigenous photographers are using this technique to capture the essence of a people, whether it is Bedouins in the Negev Desert or club kids in a South African disco. The environmental portrait, in particular, puts the subject in context, allowing us to better understand living conditions and circumstances. It’s exciting to put photographers in front of All Roads as another opportunity for exposure.
Rainier, who is best known for his up close and personal portraits of indigenous people around the world, explains, “Basically the world is losing one language each week and the total number of cultures around the world is shrinking rapidly. Our goal is to preserve these cultures by giving indigenous photographers a chance to tell their own stories and build their careers.”
National Geographic’s All Roads Project was created to recognize and support talented indigenous storytellers who are documenting their own cultures. The program provides a forum for these image makers to showcase their work to a global audience and to share their visions through exhibitions, panel discussions, and workshops.
“While supporting photographers with grants to continue working is extremely important,” Andy Patrick remarks, ”FiftyCrows also mentors photographers on how to market their work and themselves, and how to properly conduct research on a publication or any potential client prior to the meeting.”
Together, FiftyCrows Foundation and All Roads Project will conduct a number of marketing and sales workshops for the winners of this year’s All Roads photography competition, including a workshop with liveBooks, the Web-based portfolio solution for photographers. The workshop will teach documentary photographers how to edit their work and create essays for a portfolio they will be ready to present to any prospective client or magazine.
“This is a business, regardless of the style of photography you do,” says Patrick, who is also president and CEO of liveBooks, Inc. “You have to sell and market yourself. This is why liveBooks was such a passion for me. I knew it would be a killer app for photographers and I could immediately see how much it would help.”
Images from this year’s All Road’s Project will be available for viewing in September at www.nationalgeographic.com/allroads. A traveling exhibit of the winning documentaries will begin in early October. For documentaries from years past visit FiftyCrows at www.fiftycrows.org.