Ways of Seeing: Direct to Audience

3 minute read

Whether through digital channels, print or on exhibit, the impact, influence and reach of the still image has never been greater. But with so many images fighting for our attention, how do photographers make work that most effectively stands out and connects with an audience. In this seven-part series, TIME looks back over the past 12 months to identify some of the ways of seeing—whether conceptually, aesthetically or through dissemination—that have grabbed our attention and been influential in maintaining photography’s relevance in an ever shifting environment, media landscape, and culture now ruled by images.

Direct to Audience

2014 saw an increase in independent photographers cutting out the middle man and going direct to audience. Facebook, Twitter and particularly Instagram have been instrumental in building online communities and growing audiences for photographers for some time. But this year saw the monetization of these platforms through various print sale initiatives by photo agencies—Magnum and VII—and individual photographers including Aaron Huey who as well as his own project also worked with Grayson Shaffer, a Senior Editor at Outside magazinefor a good cause, the Sherpas Fund—raising close to $500,000 for the families of the Sherpa guides killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest in April. These time-limited campaigns, advertised through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, identified a demand for affordable un-editioned prints.

This year also saw an unprecedented growth in high-quality independent book publishing, with some of the year’s best titles coming in short runs from independent sources. Without the cost margins and restrictions imposed by major publishers, photographers producing their own photobooks not only had more control over the finished product but could also sell their high quality books at a lower price point. Highlights included Peter van Agtmael‘s Disco Nights Sept. 11 (independently published by Redhook editions) which was singled out for a special mention in TIME’s Best Photobooks of the Year selection.

Raising awareness was a consideration for going direct to audience in 2014 for Dysturb a French photo collective. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities for photojournalists to get their work out effectively through established media channels, Dysturb turned to the street—wheat pasting large format prints by both emerging and established documentary photographers on disused city walls. The participant network quickly grew from the first postings in Paris with work soon appearing on the streets of Sarajevo and New York. The group’s goal now is to develop a network of like-minded photographers and photography enthusiasts that will allow, in the future, to mount worldwide pasting campaigns on short notice. And judging from the enthusiastic New York crowd, the need for an alternative way to show news images is shared by many more people than Dysturb’s founders imagined when they launched the collective in early 2014.

And while the naysayers will continue to lament today’s changing business practices, we can expect to see a lot more photographers adopt the direct-to-audience model in 2015.

Read Part 2 – Documentary Still Life.

Read Part 3 – The Portrait Series.

Read Part 4 – The Contemporary Photo Essay.

Read Part 5 – From Stills to Motion.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

Instagram print sales VII Photo offered seven pictures over seven days at $100 each, including this image of young children waiting out the rain during the annual rodeo in Carbondale, Colo. on Aug. 23, 2012.Ed Kashi—VII
Instagram print sales The SherpasFund Print Sale raised money to support the Sherpa community that lost loved ones on Mount Everest in 2014. The sale included this photograph of Taboche Peak.Aaron Huey
CONGO. Goma. December 14, 2012. Abandoned planes are a common site at airports in Africa. At Goma Airport, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, planes left due to wars and volcanic eruptions over the past two decades have become a playground for street children, some of whom sell the parts which are made into stoves and other items to be sold on the streets of Goma. One is generally prohibited from photographing this airport but in mid-December, 2012, after the M23 rebel force which occupied Goma left and before the FARDC (military of the D.R.C.) returned to the city, a security vacuum meant that nobody was guarding this section of the airport. Children guided me through the planes, which were later discussed by my Congolese fixer:“In January of 2002, the volcano (Nyiragongo, just outside Goma) exploded and the lava blocked the planes. I helped move this plane after I and many of my friends living near the airport lost our homes to lava, on the first day of the eruption. On the second day, we saw the lava moving towards the planes. I and others were just watching the lava flow getting closer to the planes and we decided to move one of them, this newer one. There were at least a hundred people there pushing the plane for about 300 meters. A friend mine, who was there and whose house was also destroyed, had a childhood dream to be a pilot. But his parents were too poor and all the schools were expensive, so he could not hold onto that dream. He forgot about it, but then on that day, when we needed to move the plane, he told me to help him inside so he might steer it! We all pushed the plane as my friend waved his arm out the window, in the cockpit. We then climbed in the plane and saw the lava flowing down the volcano and into town.”
Instagram print sales To celebrate its 67th Annual General Meeting Magnum Photos also offered a print sale of Instagram images, including this photograph of abandoned planes at Goma Airport, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Michael Christopher Brown—Magnum
Independent publishing Peter van Agtmael's Disco Night Sept. 11, published by Red Hook Editions.Peter van Agtmael—Magnum/Red Hook Editions
Independent publishing Disco Night Sept. 11 is a redesigned and expanded version of van Agtmael's first book 2nd Tour Hope I Don't Die.Peter van Agtmael—Magnum/Red Hook Editions
Independent publishing By self publishing Disco Night Sept. 11, van Agtmael was able to have more control in the design process and produce a high quality book at a lower price point.Peter van Agtmael—Magnum/Red Hook Editions
Dysturb pasting photographs on walls
Dysturb Paris, 75003, France. June 24th, 2014. Fabio Buccciarelli's picture from Juba, South Sudan is seen on a wall in Paris, France.Capucine Granier-deferre
Dysturb pasting photographs on walls
Dysturb The team is seen pasting a picture by Rafael Sanchez Fabre that he took in Brazil during the football World Cup.Capucine Bailly
Dysturb pasting photographs on walls
Dysturb Children passing by a picture by Bryan Denton from Northern Iraq on a wall in Paris, France. Benjamin Girette

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