Offering creatives the chance to source ongoing finance rather than backing for one-off projects, Drip has already found a fan in Nottingham's The Photo Parlour
Kickstarter has arguably revolutionised photography, allowing image-makers to source crowdfunding for big projects, and therefore help bring trends such as self-publishing to life. Despite only launching in 2009, it’s now commonplace for photographers to announce that they are making a book and starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund printing it, for example – Arnold van Bruggen and Rob Hornstra were very early adopters when they used it to fund the first book in The Sochi Project (which was published in early 2010).
Now Kickstarter has announced a new initiative allowing artists, collectives, and communities to seek funding on a more ongoing, subscription-like basis, rather than for one-off projects. Called Drip, it was soft-launched on 15 November and, so far, is only open to creatives invited by the platform – though of course anyone who wants to fund a project is now welcome. Drip is scheduled to open up to more creatives at the start of 2018.
The Photo Parlour Nottingham is one of the projects already invited on board. Owned by Dan Wheeler, who runs it with his business partner Jake Howe, The Photo Parlour was an unremarkable enough local lab when Wheeler took it over in 2014 – albeit one that had been running for 23 years, and that boasted black-and-white and colour darkrooms and a dip’n’dunk processor. But falling in love with its Georgian architecture and “gorgeous natural light”, Wheeler saw the potential for the space to achieve much more.
“It was dead!” he says. “But I had to take it on when the opportunity presented itself. Now there’s nowhere like it. There’s nothing like a community darkroom with a strong membership anywhere else in The Midlands. We have a gallery, a studio, an amazing photo book library full of first editions, and a library of cameras. If you randomly grab in any direction in here you’ll find something interesting. All this amazing stuff in one little unit in Nottingham!”
Wheeler and Howe want to do still more though – both in practical terms, by adding a film scanner to their equipment offering, and, more ambitiously, by helping educate photographers. “The whole idea with this place is to focus on education,” says Wheeler. “Not technical support about how to use cameras, I mean support in making people think about how they make photographs.
“For example, instead of thinking about photography as a single image, it’s more about thinking of it as a body of work or sequence. That sort of education is missing unless you’re at university level. We want to support young people in their photographic education.
“We had been thinking of doing a Kickstarter anyway because the one thing we don’t have here is a scanning facility, we don’t have a means of digitising negatives,” Wheeler adds. “We wanted to raise funds for that. After talking to the people from Kickstarter though, they said we’d be better to do it this way.”
The Photo Parlour has now launched a subscription service via Drip, in which supporters can pay £4/month to get access to a podcast featuring interviews with established and emerging photographers who are “local and interesting, and non-local and…still interesting”.
There are also plans to operate a tier system, as is often used on Kickstarter fundraisers, with different bonuses and rewards for supporters who donate different amounts. Videos will give insight into the inner workings of The Photo Parlour, affiliate photographers will give gallery tours of their work, and there will be “either quarterly or monthly” showcases of projects that come through the lab; donors will also be able to be sent copies of their favourite prints through the service.
Unlike Kickstarter, funding campaigns on Drip don’t have a set time limit, but , to encourage people to subscribe, creators can chose certain time frames in which supporters can become founding members. Signing up within that time, gives them special perks.
It’s an experiment of sorts for The Photo Parlour, given that Drip has just launched – but given the success of other ongoing crowd-funders such as Patreon, it certainly has the potential to become as instrumental to photography as its Kickstarter parent. For Wheeler, it’s given The Photo Parlour “a chance to really share what we do here with more people” – and it’s also allowing him to do so independently, one of the things that inspired him to get involved with the darkroom in the first place.
“I’ve always been into punk and DIY stuff,” he says. “And the reason punk was punk was because people didn’t agree with the way the industry was run, so they did it themselves instead. Back in the 1990s and 2000s I didn’t want anything to do with the male oriented, closed-off, photography industry. I want this place to combat that.”