Change for a 10

 Suau says

A cadre of photojournalists sets out to document 21st-century America —one unseen story at a time

Ever the course of a few days in January 2009, while they were both covering President Obamainauguration, Anthony Suau and Lucian Perkins hatched an ambitious plan to revitalize photographyrole in civic life. Nearly four years later, their earnest scheming has spawned a photo collective, a vibrant website, and a future collection in the Library of Congress.

The collective they hatched is Facing Change: Documenting America, a nonprofit comprising 10 top-tier photojournalists and nine acclaimed writers with a simple yet open-ended mission: to document underreported aspects of the most urgent national issues.

Though Suau and Perkins modeled their mission on the historic photo project of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s (see page 20), rather than seek government backing, they built a budget with support from George SorosOpen Society Foundations, National Geographic, Leica Camera and PhotoShelter as well as individual donations and collaborations with media outlets such as German GEO. Their ability to raise money is partly due to the impressive group of photojournalists Suau and Perkins assembled, selected for diversity, location and, most important, quality of work.

Today FCDA includes David Burnett, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Alan Chin, Stanley Greene, Danny Wilcox Frazier, Andrew Lichtenstein, Carlos Javier Ortiz and Debbie Fleming Caffery.

The groupwebsite now features about 75 stories. Their current funding guarantees each photographer up to 70 days of paid shooting per year, and the collectivemembers have all self-funded additional stories to help keep the website current.

 Suau says

FCDA projects range from topical news stories —NATO summit protestors, Occupy Wall Street, the foreclosure crisis —to feature pieces on Memorial Day celebrations, migrant workers in Illinois and North Carolina, or inner-city boxing in Cleveland. want to be the NPR of photography,”Suau says. Perkins adds, one is going to get rich on this, but it would be great if we were funded well enough that our 10 photographers could work for it full-time.”

The site has received positive response since its launch. After a piece about it appeared on The New York Times’Lens blog, the FCDA site registered more than 4 million hits. was the moment I knew that our idea was going to work,”Suau says. had obviously tapped into an audience not being served by traditional media.”

In a pivotal moment for the collective, the Library of Congress brokered a deal to acquire the FCDA story archives and plans to publish a book in 2014. Ralph Eubanks, the LOCdirector of publishing, doesnmince words: images will be as historically valuable to future generations as the FSA images are to us.”

The historical importance of being part of the LOC archives is not lost on the photographers.

are now photographing for history, not just yesterdaynews, and that weighs on us,”Suau points out. Says Alan Chin, has changed how I think about my images and my edits. The FSA archive is so rich because photographers paid particular attention to detail. When I am shooting, I think about what people in 2042 will learn from my photographs about 2010.”

FCDA has an editorial board that reviews proposed stories with photographers and decides which ones to fund. true joy of being a photographer is to have some input in the conversation about what you cover and how it is portrayed,”says Andrew Lichtenstein. was on the scene when Iowa voted to allow gay marriage, and thatan important story —but after 4:30 p.m. on the first day there were only two of us in the country photographing. If wenot there, does the event exist? Will we have history 50 years from now if we have no images of it?”To donate to FCDA, visit facingchange.org.

Comments are closed.