The Documentary Project Fund
An educator and documentary photographer herself, Lynn Hoffman-Brouse is no stranger to the challenges photographers face when tackling a project. Often times generating an idea, or recognizing an issue that should be in the spotlight is the easy part. Finding the time, money and support necessary to put the rubber to the road is what causes great ideas to wither away. Enter The Documentary Project Fund (DPF), an idea brought to life by Hoffman-Brouse. In a nutshell, The DPF is a 501(c)3 organization whose sole mission is to fund documentary photography projects which place an emphasis on community. I recently had the chance to ask Lynn a few questions in order to learn more about this new organization.
Lynn, you have been an instructor for RMSP for years, and most recently taught our Documentary Photography Professional Studies course. Now I see that you are involved in an intriguing project called the Documentary Project Fund. Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of what the DPF is and what their goals are?
The Documentary Project Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded to provide project support to photographers working on photographic essays within their communities. We believe that still photography is a powerful medium that can help increase tolerance, that can educate, that can challenge assumptions and biases. We want to support photographers who are interested in exploring issues at home, issues that impact their own spaces. We also believe that photographers should not always have to do this type of work for free. Eliminating the huge costs of travel to foreign lands makes a small profit possible.
Where did the idea come from? Who was the mastermind?
I am a documentary photographer. I’ve worked for many nonprofit organizations and taken on personal projects just because I wanted to. I have seen how expensive it is to self-fund the work and I know that the organizations I have worked for have struggled to find the funding to cover photography. As a teacher, I saw so many talented students who love the form but are unable to fund their own projects. I spent a couple of years thinking about starting an organization that could move more of those talented students to continue in documentary. Last spring, I decided to stop thinking about doing it and actually begin. I guess that makes me the mastermind…. I wish there had been more organizations like The DPF available to me when I was starting out.
I see that there are five people on the board. What role does each person play?
We all wear a number of hats. All of us are photographers, either amateur or professional; all of us are educators. I wanted to include business professionals as well as artists and I wanted a variety of experiences in areas such as fundraising, accounting and the grant writing process. We will work together to choose the projects that will be funded.
It looks like the DPF does not “support student projects that will be graded or used to obtain college credit.” Since RMSP is an unaccredited institution and we don’t assign grades the same way as a traditional school, would our students be able to apply for assistance through the DPF?
Yes, they can.
It looks like 100% of the money raised by the DPF gets passed onto the photographer. Where does the DPF money come from? Does each funded photographer owe anything to the DPF once their project is complete?
Except for small administrative costs, 100% of donations will go to project support. We will survive on donations from individuals, companies and foundations. The funded photographers will allow us to use the images on our website and in promotional materials but will, of course, own their images. We would love to put a mentoring program in place at some point that would pair previous and current photographers together, but that would be totally voluntary.
After a photographer’s project is approved for funding through the DPF, what sort of backup support will that photographer receive? Will the DPF do any sort of marketing for each project?
We will provide mentoring if asked. There will be photographers with a ton of experience who don’t need much but there will also be emerging photographers who are doing this for the first time. Those folks might need help with various aspects of the work, such as editing or finding a venue to show the work or putting a book together.
We do ask to be kept in the loop as the work progresses so that we can understand any issues that may arise. After the project is completed, we will work with the photographer to see that the work is able to live a long and well-seen life.
Will your website have a gallery page where the public at large can view the work of the photographers funded by the DPF?
Yes. We will definitely promote the work through our website. Since we are going to try to have two Calls-For-Entry each year, we are hopeful that we can have our own changing gallery exhibits as photographers complete projects and get them into the community.
Your first Call-For-Entries is coming up soon – on November 15 – and you will fund the first project on January 31, 2013. Although this is the first go-around for the DPF, have you been able to evaluate the buzz yet? What is your gut telling you about how this first attempt will go?
The people I have talked with all seem excited about the organization. That said, I am hoping for a large number of applicants (to go along with a hopefully large pool of donors!), but at this point I would say that the first application process will probably attract the fewest number of photographers. So, this would be a good one to get in on! If you or anyone you know has an idea for a solid, visually exciting project that is community centered, let them know about this opportunity.
The Call-For-Entry runs from November 15 to December 15 this year. We hope to fund two projects.