Mobile photography app Hipstamatic has launched Cause Beautiful, a philanthropic foundation that aims to help inner-city kids use photography to document their own communities.
Led by Luanne Dietz, an Emmy-winning photographer and former staff member at the San Francisco Chronicle, the foundation will act as an extension of the “We Hear You” project, an initiative Dietz launched in 2011. Under her auspices, students are encouraged to partner with local media organizations to tell stories of significance in their own lives.
Dietz’s decision to join Hipstamatic came after she partnered with the San Francisco-based company last fall on one of her W.H.Y. projects. “I thought Hipstamatic would be a very cool way to engage students,” Dietz explains. “I approached them about it and we ended up doing a project together. It worked so well that it just seemed a perfect fit to have me come on board and lead Hipstamatic’s foundation.”
Cause Beautiful’s first projects will take place at the Life Learning Academy in San Francisco and the KDOL’s Media Enterprise Alliance in Oakland, where students will spend one semester using mobile photography to document issues of importance to them and their communities. “There is an emerging generation looking for a way to express itself and get out of the vicious cycle of unattainable dreams in low-income neighborhoods,” Dietz explains. “Their eyes have become their voice, and their voice needs to be heard.”
Initial plans for a foundation were first laid out years before Dietz joined Hipstamatic, when, in late 2011, the app developer was working on the development of a photojournalism-themed pack of digital lenses and films as an in-app purchase, as revealed by the British Journal of Photography (BJP). The idea emerged after Hipstamatic started “noticing all these photographers using [the app] to document things,” said the app’s co-founder, Lucas Allen Buick, three years ago.
Originally, the Foundation’s goal was to educate and support “the next generation of photographic storytellers using smartphones with Hipstamatic to tell and broadcast their tales,” as explained on the company’s Facebook page. But, faced with increased competition from other image-making and image-sharing platforms such as Instagram, Hipstamatic was forced to scrap its plans in August 2012, when it ran into financial troubles and laid off part of its staff. In recent months, however, Hipstamatic has launched two new apps—Oggl and Cinamatic—and revived its plans, albeit in a different form, for its foundation.
“Hipstamatic created a foundation a few years ago, but they never had anyone to run it,” says Dietz. “It’s always been [part of their mission] to be able to offer grants to photographers. So when I came in with a vision and [a successful] project that had an impact on students, they asked me to run the foundation.”
After its initial roll-out, Dietz is planning to raise funds to fulfill one of Hipstamatic’s original goals: to finance the work of professional photographers. “Because I was a freelancer and a staff photographer, I know that sometimes the funds aren’t there to be able to finish long-term projects,” she tells TIME. “My goal will be to provide some long-term story grants and mobile grants that will enable photographers to finish those kinds of stories.”
While Dietz can’t say when these grants will be available to photographers, she confirms that they won’t be limited to Hipstamatic users. “The goal is to empower photography. Period. Our goal is to see what [photographers’] needs are, see what they are missing and how they could benefit from us. We want to empower them to tell stories that can bring change.”
Photographers interested in applying for a future Cause Beautiful grant will be able to register their interest on the foundation's website.