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Friday, June 1, 2007

Photojournalism In The Age Of YouTube

For freelance photojournalists, these are chaotic times. But in chaos there's opportunity if you have the daring to go for it.

Learning To Multitask

Ed Kashi has had several projects published on MediaStorm—The Sandwich Generation, Iraqi Kurdistan and Friends for Life. All of them are multimedia and incorporate video and still images, with the exception of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is all still photos backed by traditional music of the region. Kashi said at this point in his career, he generates the lion's share of his work, but he still gets assignments. With the exception of The New York Times, he only does magazine work.

“I might have a very large personal project going and a freelance Geographic project going, then things in between,” says Kashi. “Right now, I'm waiting to go to Nashville for a shoot for the Ford Foundation. At the same time, I'm preparing for a project in India, and I'm also working on a documentary film about the healthcare crisis in America. A couple of days ago, I did a piece for The New York Times. So it's a mixture of things.

“And my archive sales are incredibly important at this point,” Kashi adds. “I make a significant amount of my income from the resale of my work. From 10 years ago, even just five years ago, there has been a significant drop in the number of magazine assignments that are available, especially to freelancers.”

Assignments still come in to Kashi, just not as many. And when he's working with National Geographic, he's pitching his own ideas most of the time.

“A photographer like myself, who's very well established and all that, I have a lot more ability to propose ideas and get them heard seriously,” says Kashi. “Once I have a proposal accepted, we create a budget, and then I take it from there and produce the work.”

MediaStorm: A New Model

At his production studio in New York, Brian Storm discussed how it works with his cutting-edge Website, MediaStorm (www.mediastorm.org): Does he ever put up the money for projects, and how do freelancers like Ed Kashi get paid for their content?

“For our publication, we pay a licensing fee to the artist when we publish a project,” says Storm. “We also then partner with them on a go-forward basis. Every financial opportunity we create for them, we share the revenue fifty-fifty.

“For example, if we can syndicate one of our multimedia projects—which we've been able to do several times with PBS, AARP, MSNBC, Slate—we've had great success syndicating those projects. I think we might actually be the first totally focused multimedia agency.”

Storm says his company will produce a project to a point where it's ready for broadcast, then encode it for the Web. MediaStorm also has done some innovative things with online auctions.

Says Storm, “We had an Ed Kashi project called Iraqi Kurdistan that we published to our site in a password-protected place, and we had 25 clients from around the world log in and bid for the right to premier that project on an exclusive basis. It's so simple, but I don't think anyone had used an online auction to make an exclusive sale before. It's actually an idea that I had before I got to Corbis. I worked for Corbis a little bit and tried to get that implemented there. But there were too many other issues to get addressed at that company. We built that in a weekend here at MediaStorm. That's one of the beauties of being small and nimble. We have ideas we want to execute, and we just go do it. There's no corporate nonsense involved in that. We just get it done.”

The auction was a big success, and Storm thinks it's a good model to syndicate high-end, exclusive content. The key is to be able to produce exceptional material that people want to see.


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