Publishing Your Photography Projects
Publishing Your Photography Projects
In the April edition of Lenscraft in Focus I shared an exciting new Photography website. The website is Photography Chronicle and is the inspiration of Paul Mortlock of the Loop Images stock photography agency. I’ve been so inspired by what Paul is building that I caught up with him to find out more about his vision for the project.
If you are a photographer seeking to share your work, or perhaps wanting to give something back to photography, what Paul has to share may be of unique interest to you.
Could you explain in a few sentences what Photography Chronicle is?
Photography Chronicle is a place to discover photo essays, personal work, and passion projects from the worldwide photographic community. The genres covered include documentary, fine art, portraiture, street photography and more to be added – in broad terms, contemporary narrative photography.
The stories featured reflect young and emerging talent, with voices that are yet to be heard, alongside more established photographers looking for a platform for their work. The website itself is free to access for both viewer and photographer, enabling the work to be enjoyed by a wide audience of photography lovers, and those interested in the visual arts.
When and how did you get the idea for Photography Chronicle?
I’ve always been interested in the way that cameras can be used to tell stories; putting great images and words together around a strong theme can reveal truths, inform, or delight in such an elegant way. During the early months of lockdown, I spent (too much!) time online. I became a huge fan of Magnum, Lensculture, Aperture, The Photographic Journal and similar. I love what The Guardian does with their photo stories online – check out this zinger.
I wanted to create a platform that would be a centre of excellence for photo stories and photojournalism and give me, and perhaps others, the opportunity to curate eclectic work from around the world, to entertain and inform an audience who value great content. The site would also act as a place to discover new photographers and their work.
Why did you decide to start with a website and not some other medium like a print magazine or PDF magazine?
The Photography Chronicle website is built on WordPress. It’s easily updateable and doesn’t demand a huge technical knowledge to use effectively. It’s also accessible on desktop, tablet and more importantly now, mobile platforms. Due to new content being added weekly, print lacks immediacy and is also hugely expensive in comparison. A PDF magazine is one other way but is clumsy to update in comparison with WP and doesn’t have a static ‘home’, in the way that a website does.
Launching something like Photography Chronicle will seem overwhelming to a lot of people. How did you approach the project and how long did it take?
Photography Chronicle is a side hustle for me. In 2005, I founded the boutique stock photography agency Loop Images with 300+ photographers, licensing their commercial work to a global client base. As well as my client-facing duties, my role is talking to photographers, so it wasn’t a big step for me to ‘sell in’ the idea of Photography Chronicle and gather up interesting personal projects from this pool of talent, plus attract creative people from elsewhere.
The gestation period for Photography Chronicle was probably a year in total, with the bulk of the work done during weekends and evenings. The hardest bit was coming up with the look and feel for the site, and then trying to convey this succinctly to the web developer. The build ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will! The launch date was February 18th this year, so it really is still baby steps, although I have been hugely encouraged by the reaction from photographers, and feedback from site visitors.
I notice there are new projects appearing on the Photography Chronicle website regularly. How do you find new material for the site and what’s your selection process?
My day job brings me into contact with photographers and I’m always interested to hear who is shooting what project for themselves. In terms of actively finding work from outside my network, I’ve not actually started to ‘cold call’ people about their projects, preferring to contact people who have followed the embryonic Photography Chronicle Instagram account, figuring if they’ve shown interest enough to follow, maybe they would have some work to feature.
The projects that I am drawn to have strong themes, great photography, a compelling narrative, or a combination of all three. I love stories that have a quirky element, or they may have a social message or resonate emotionally. I am also keen to have equal representation of female photographers, minority groups and voices that don’t get heard enough against the babble of conventional mass visual media. There is so much creativity out there, so much resourcefulness, so many ways of conveying social, political and cultural identity. African photographers are starting to find an audience, Eastern Europe and Asia have a wealth of talented people that have fantastic stories to tell. You don’t have to look too far on social platforms to find amazing, talented people.
I think for a photographer, shooting personal projects must become a little bit of an obsession, and for me, people who are completely immersed in a subject and can convey that visually, deserve my interest and attention. I always live in hope that what I curate for people has a universal appeal, and that is always in the back of my mind when choosing work to feature on the site.
Do you have any long-term vision for Photography Chronicle, or do you prefer to see how it evolves?
I see myself as an anonymous DJ of other people’s work, where the projects are the music. I want to say to people: ‘hey, have you seen this, I think you might like it?’ or ‘look what somebody has done with this idea or concept’. I want to inspire, delight, and inform in equal measure, and give a platform to photography AND photographers that perhaps people were unaware of.
My long-term vision for Photography Chronicle is to create a centre of excellence for photo-stories, personal photographic work, and passion projects from a broad church of creative sources. I would love to create enough interest so that other people might want to get involved, and Photography Chronicle can blossom into something that reflects a community built through photography.
If you have a long-term vision, is there any part you can share with Lenscraft readers?
I would love to have 200 projects online and feature 100 photographers this year: 500 projects next year. I have grand dreams to create podcasts, develop an online magazine, publish photo-books, subscription art boxes, offer courses, provide bursaries, create photographer films, fine art prints, support charitable causes etc., etc.
The thing is, if none of the above happens, I am completely content to noodle away on Instagram in my spare time, finding great work, great people, and giving them a space so that their projects can be seen. Truly. It’s all about the work.
From the position of having now launched the Photography Chronicle site, are there any key lessons or learnings you would share with others?
It is fair to say, for people to visit the site and feel it worthwhile, the content must be regularly updated. Conversely, for photographers to want their work featured they must feel it will be seen by a wide audience and stand alongside work that complements theirs, both in terms of quality and relevance. This confection takes time, effort, and resource.
When I first started thinking about the idea for Photography Chronicle, I thought finding content would be the challenge. Now I’m into month 3, I can say that the bigger challenge is administrating the projects once they have been found. Photography Chronicle is a non-commercial site so photographers who are initially delighted to have their work seen on such a platform, invariably put gathering the elements of their work for publishing low down on their professional to-do list. Work and life always seem to get in the way of getting that project to me ready to go online. I spend my (spare) time chasing bio pictures, or images the correct size or format, or getting the words signed off. It can be exasperating!
Social media is another frontier that can be challenging, simply because one must be consistent in posting, both in terms of time and appropriate content. There are also the time differences – arranging Zoom calls with somebody to discuss a project in New Zealand around two sets of schedules can be a test. Responding to web and email inquiries can be time consuming, and there are always technical glitches with content when sent through. That said, it mostly works. Mostly.
The thing is, I really don’t care if there is a bit of hassle in getting work online. It’s such a joy to communicate with creative people, from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds, and get to talk to them about something we both love – photography.
What I would love for Photography Chronicle is for it to become a community of people who value photography as the great 21st century medium for communicating stories and ideas, want to curate great projects, guest write posts, or help spread the word on social media. Who knows where that might end up? There is no money available, but there is certainly opportunity.
Please feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected] if you are interested in becoming involved.
If someone reading this has an idea for a project of their own, what advice you would give them?
My feeling is that the primary reason to shoot personal photography projects, whether you are a professional or amateur, is that it brings back the enjoyment and the love that we all first had for photography, when we picked up a camera all those years ago. It’s a way to keep yourself inspired, to feel challenged and to grow. It’s also a great way to keep your portfolio fresh, try out new ideas, and grow your vision as a photographer.
Shooting the same sort of things all the time in pro work can lead to getting into a bit of a rut. Shooting personal projects allows photographers to start experimenting with other genres of photography that they don’t normally work in. It allows us to try out new techniques and lighting, without the risk of keeping a client waiting whilst we get things how we want them.
By shooting personal projects, we can come out of our comfort zone and start working in areas that we might not normally feel as comfortable in. Part of the joy of photography is experimentation – to see what works and what doesn’t. Perhaps as a studio photographer, you work primarily with studio lighting and one of the nice things about undertaking personal projects is that you can either experiment with new lighting techniques or dispense with lights altogether!
There are tons of ideas for projects out there on the internet, but I think the first step is just having a camera in your pocket and starting to shoot. Hopefully, by starting to shoot for personal reasons, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of your camera!
The thing is, nobody is judging you and your work, you can shoot what you want. This can be so liberating – try it, you’ll see! Then give me a call ;O).
Usually, I finish my articles with a summary but this time I’ll leave you with a question to answer instead. How would you like to be involved with the Photography Chronicle initiative?
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