(EDIT: added a little project description to this post)
Since the first time I’ve posted about my hunting project I’ve not been able to satisfy my curiosity about the subject. On the contrary, attending a couple more hunting days, reading magazines and books and talking to many people, have only sparked my curiosity even more. For a couple of years I’ve been dreaming of doing a long term documentary project and I’ve finally found a subject that fascinates me and could use the delicate personal approach that only a long term book project can offer.
The prospect of really doing this project excites me big time but when I took a good look at the planning, time, budget and scale of such a project I got a bit scared. I fought the urge to scale the project down because if I’d do that, the project would loose the subtlety it needs. I just need to figure out a way to make it possible but I’ll need your help and ideas on how to overcome the practical hurdles.
Read on to learn a bit more about how I see the project and how you can help me.
“Hunting in Belgium” is the working title of a photo documentary project in which I use my camera to tell the nuanced story of the complex and often misunderstood ecosystem of hunting in Belgium.
As a modern internet age city boy I never thought much of hunting. If pushed to state an opinion, I would have probably categorized it as an unecessary barbaric tradition that has no place in our modern Belgian society. It was only after a long conversation with one of my best friends, who is a hunter, that I realised how little I knew about something that’s way more complex than I could have imagined. I started to research the subject of hunting and found out that there is very little information available. The hunting community is very discreet and closed, probably under the pressure of the general public opinion.
I decided to use my camera and an open-minded curiosity as my passport to dig deeper into the hunting world in a long term photographic personal project. My goal is to offer an honest unbiased view on hunting. I’m not after changing people’s minds, I just hope to offer a broader view on the nuances of what hunting is about so the reader can form it’s own well informed opinion.
The book will cover the most common forms of hunting in Belgium, wildlife, the traditions and it’s relation to the natural habitat. The chapters will be supplemented with a series of portraits (in pictures and words) of people who have a relation to hunting: hunter, game keeper, chef, taxidermist, gunsmith, … These small personal stories will give the reader a better understanding of the big picture.
The final result of this project will be an exhibition and a coffee table book that combines artistic imagery with text. Covering the subtleties of the subject will require a lot of time and research. So I don’t expect to finish the book before mid 2014.
Let’s make it clear for the start: I don’t have a hidden commercial agenda with this project. It’s all about a complicated story that I want to discover and then translate into a book. It’s also a creative dream challenge for someone who has always seen documentary photography as the most relevant form of photography. To turn the dream into a real book, I’ll have to be realistic: This project is going to take a shitload of time and a considerable financial investment. This will put a lot of pressure on both my business and my family and to be brutally honest, I’m not sure if I can currently afford this project.
I’m perfectly fine with investing the time in this project. It will make me grow as a photographer and that’s all the reward I need. I’m also fine spending some money on it but I’m not sure if I have enough of it to tackle the project the way I want.
I’ll probably be able to recuperate part of the production cost of this project once it’s finished. The problem is that I figure it will only be finished at earliest around mid 2014. In (my) reality that means either slowing down the project in order to fund it with my own means or finding external funding.
You might be thinking: “What costs?”. After all, I already have camera gear, a car, … And that’s exactly what I was thinking … until I did the math on what I’ve spent already on the project and what I expect to spend on it over the next 18 months. It’s not about any big costs, but it’s about a whole lot of small expenses:
- A raincover for your camera? That’ll be 50 EUR please.
- Oh you want a protection filter for your lens too? That’s only 30 EUR.
- The stunning scenery of the Flemish Ardennes offers great photographic backgrounds but driving up and back costs me around 30 EUR in gas per outing.
- So last time you could hardly keep up with the trackers because your feet, were wet and numb from the cold, just get yourself a pair of 150 EUR boots and 25 EUR socks and you’ll be all set.
- Yes the hunting world is very closed but if you can make it to the after hunt diner, you’ll get to meet some people that might be very interesting for your project. But these dinners are a bit more expensive than a Big Mac menu.
- To really understand what hunting is all about, it may be a good idea to follow the official hunting course, 250 EUR is a steal considering you’ll get to spend every Wednesday night for five months learning about it.
I’m only scratching the surface here but I’m sure you get my point.
I’m not going to whine about all the costs, I’m going to do this project anyway. But I am going to try to get some funding for it. I’ll slow it down if I need to but I prefer to try to cover at least the day-to-day expenses by searching for funding. Looking for funding is completely new to me. I have some ideas but no clue if they will work or how to implement them. And I hope you guys might help me out with your opinions on my ideas or even your own ideas. Let me outline the options that I currently see.
Finding (a) Book Publisher(s): The most important end result for the project is a book, a real book. I guess it would make sense to try to find a publisher for it although I’m not sure if I want to go with a traditional book publisher. First of all, I doubt I’ll find a publisher who is willing to pay an advance on the book to cover my expenses. I also want to publish the book in Dutch, French and English which might complicate things for traditional publishers (who are often geographically restricted). And then there’s the question of control, how much of it will I have to give up? But this is all speculation of my part as I’ve never published a book. If any of you has experience publishing a book or works in the publishing business (or knows people in it), I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.
Fine Art Prints for the People in my Pictures: I got very good reactions from the people I shot during my hunting outings so far. Maybe I should try to sell them fine art prints of themselves and their dogs doing what they are so passionate about. There’s a bit of an ethical thing here. These people not only allow me into their world, they are going to extremes to inform me and help me make better pictures even if that means lowering their hunting chances. Giving them the pictures feels like the right thing to do to thank them for their coöperation. On the other hand media coverage about hunting usually doesn’t have space for subtlety or the big picture. And these guys seem to appreciate that someone is willing to invest in telling a more balanced story. I might give them the digital files as a thank-you and offer fine-art prints to the ones who wish to support the project. What do you think, appropriate or not?
Sponsoring: A lot of my expenses are gear related. I might need to rent some specialized gear to capture some images of the game itself. I hope I can count on my friends within the photo industry to help me out with photo gear. I will also need camo gear, better clothing and lots of small bits and pieces in order to work close to the hunters. If you happen to know someone in the hunting gear industry who would like to help, please let me know. Sponsoring will be very helpful but can only happen on one condition: a sponsor has no editorial influence on the project whatsoever. But of course they’ll get exposure and I’d be happy to work with them to create added value for their customers. If you are working for a company that might want to support the project, let’s talk.
Articles and Essays for Other Media: While the project is ongoing, I’ll be gathering content that might be used in articles for magazines. I could do a reportage for a hunting magazine or maybe some kind of “diary of a personal project” for a photography mag. Some of the content could also fit into general magazines or a newspaper’s weekend edition. If you have better ideas or if you could pitch this to an editor, I’d really appreciate it.
Crowd Sourcing: Being a social media minded guy, crowd sourcing might be a viable option. Sites like emphas.is offer a platform to get photo journalism projects funded by anyone who would like to see the project materialize. Funders could be rewarded with prints, pre-order of the book or access to a behind-the-scenes blog. What would it take to make you back this project?
Other Crazy Ideas: I’m sure you guys have other ideas like fundraising pancake dinners or autographed pigeon feathers. Let me know!
I’d really appreciate it if you could think about it and let me know your ideas and thoughts on how I can make this project happen. If you don’t know how you can help yourself, maybe you know someone who can. Hit the comments!