Image © Kumi Oguro, Belgium, Young Photographers United.
“The Young Photographers’ Alliance is a non-profit, educational foundation dedicated to rallying the resources of the creative community and general public in support of young talent,” says Deborah Free, one of the founders. It was launched last April after Free and her friend, Jerry Tavin, realised the challenges facing young photographers. “We felt it was essential to nurture young talent to support the future of the industry.
“Our mission is to rally the resources of the creative community in support of young talent, and to inspire and empower the next generation of image-makers by offering the real-world knowledge, insight, and experience they need to build sustainable careers as photography professionals.” To this end, YPA organises mentoring programs, educational outreach, networking opportunities and events, as well as scholarships and bursaries.
Last October, YPA presented three scholarship awards – worth up to $3000 – to three young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The scholarships are aimed at helping them “realise their artistic dreams and give back to their communities”, and to grant them, YPA relies on support from contributors such as Photolibrary, Image Source and Alamy, which has been one of the earliest sponsors.
The American Society of Media Photographers is the latest organisation to weigh in, with a $50,000 donation. The money will fund two scholarships this coming October, and help develop two mentoring and internship programmes. In return for such support, these companies “gain access to the next generation of emerging talent”, says Free.
First launched in the US, YPA is coming to the UK soon, where Free hopes it will provide the internships and scholarships, currently limited to US photographers. The organisation also plans to arrange folio reviews that will “help emerging photographers make vital connections with picture editors, art buyers, and picture library editors,” says Free. Furthermore, YPA wants to become an educational resource for young photographers, providing them with “guidelines to help them understand the industry, how to deal with model releases and property releases, what to expect from stock libraries, information on copyright, templates for quotes, how to approach buyers and commissioners, and so on”.
To help establish the organisation in the UK, Chris Coe, a landscape photographer and founder of the Travel Photographer of the Year competition, is putting some of his resources in play. “We’re at an early stage right now,” he tells BJP. “But we want to mentor a small number of young photographers.” To find these potential emerging artists, Coe has changed the rules and categories of his Travel Photographer of the Year competition, introducing a New Talent category that will call on photographers aged 15 to 18 to participate – photographers under 14 will still be able to enter the competition in their own category. Judges looking through the New Talent and under-14 categories will then select the Young Travel Photographer of the Year, as well as other potential runners-up, which will become candidates for the mentorship programme YPA is launching in the UK. “The objectives are to support people that are thinking about going into photography or are just entering university,” says Coe.
Young photographers don’t need to pay to apply for YPA support – they can submit their proposals for a scholarship opportunity directly from the organisation’s site – but to receive advance notification of any YPA event, they must pay $50 and become members.
Young Photographers United takes a different approach. The nine-year-old organisation, which doesn’t charge photographers to join, has a rolling roster of 150 members. “Each year, we select 50 photographers, who stay with us for three years. It means that we have, at all times, 150 photographers represented by YPU,” says Wendy Lee, a project manager with the Belgium-based organisation.
YPU was launched in 2001. “We noticed that a lot of photographers fresh out of university still had a lot of questions about the industry,” she says. “A lot of them don’t necessarily know how they can become professional photographers, so we decided to help them.”
It works like a collective, providing expertise, management skills and a wide network of contacts to support photographers through this difficult period. Membership is open to all photographers because YPU defines “young photographers” as shooters new to the industry. Nonetheless, only the most talented are selected. Each year more than 2000 applications are received for the 50 available spots, says Lee. “We work with an international jury of editors, photographers and experts to make our selection.”
Once a member, the young photographers receive a wide range of support from YPU – the organisation has recommended members to Nivea, Fortis and Adidas for ad campaigns, says Lee. She provides the references and, in return, members only have to make themselves available when needed. “Everything is free. We’re a non-profit organisation,” Lee tells BJP. “All we ask is that they try to participate as much as possible.”
It seems to be working. YPU members have been recognised in many awards, including at World Press Photo, Prix de la Photography Paris, Photography.Book.Now, Regeneration and the Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography. However, YPU acknowledges that its small size imposes limits on its aspirations.
But that’s about to change. This summer it’s launching a social network, dedicated to young photographers. “When someone applies for membership, they will automatically gain access to this new social network. We’ll continue to select the best photographers each year for membership, but all of the others will gain access to some of the resources we offer – how to negotiate a contract, what is copyright, and so on.”
Social network members will also get a free, personalised website and be part of an extended search engine for use by companies looking for photographers. Plus the network will offer online graduate shows and access to photo agencies and galleries. “We want to help as many young photographers as possible,” says Lee.
It might indeed. At a New York Photo Festival seminar last May, three emerging photographers were invited to discuss how they had made it in the professional photography world. Their responses were identical: meeting as many people as possible and applying for scholarships, grants and awards. Organisations such as YPA and YPU could help with that.
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