Photographer Walter Astrada is one of this year's recipients of the Getty Images' Grants for Editorial. Image © Walter Astrada, courtesy of Getty Images.
For the past six years, Getty Images has organised its Grants for Editorial, which benefits five photographers, each year, for the production of a body of work. Each photographer receives $20,000.
This year, the grants went to photojournalists Stanley Greene, Walter Astrada, Liz Hingley, Joan Bardeletti and Alva Ybarra Zavala. BJP's news and online editor Olivier Laurent speaks with Getty Images' vice president Aidan Sullivan about the role these grants have had in photojournalism.
BJP: How did you first get involved with the Getty Images Grants for Editorial?
Aidan Sullivan: I took over the Grants programme in Year 2 or Year 3. What I was trying to do, and what I had spoken to CEO Jonathan Klein about, was our standing in photojournalism and how we wanted to show support for that. Obviously, we were shaping the grants to help other photojournalists that couldn't fund their own projects. We saw that the market was shrinking and that traditional methods of financing projects were disappearing fast. Our goal was to be able to support the community. Basically, anyone can enter - that was the criteria. It's been going on for six years now.
BJP: Why did you want to be involved with Grants?
Aidan Sullivan: I think probably because I had been a photojournalist since I was 16. It's something I've done and loved all my life. Somebody pointed out to me, the other day, that I don't actually have any friends outside of this industry - I have one actually from school - but, you know, it becomes so much part of your life. When you see really talented photographers not being able to fund projects - purely because the market can no longer afford it - that's not good. These documents are the archives of our times for the future. Also, at the time, I was working on launching Reportage by Getty Images.
BJP: What happens, in terms of their relationship with Getty Images, when the grant winners receive the funds?
Aidan Sullivan: It depends on what they want to happen. If it's Alex Majoli or Paollo Pellegrin - not very much. We might meet or email each other to see how things are going, but they are established photographers. We don't see any problem with that, even though they are from another agency. That's not a problem, we don't see any barriers there. The grants have nothing to do with which agency you belong to; it's about financing projects. But, other photographers will ask for our help. They will ask for logistical help, we sit down with them and try to help them any way we can - because not everything always goes to plan. Sometimes the project they wanted to do becomes very difficult - we're here to help them.
BJP: Each year you receive only around 300 to 400 proposals for the Grants...
Aidan Sullivan: Thank the Lord!
BJP: ...Why so few?
Aidan Sullivan: Yes, it doesn't sound like a lot of entrants, considering the amount of money and the number of people that are saying: "I need help, I need help." I think, to be honest, there are two factors that come into play. First, the quality of the work that comes through, and also the quality of the work that wins. When you see that Eugene Richards, Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin are winning these grants, you might think twice about entering your work. You wonder: "Am I at that stage yet?" I think it acts as a natural filter. We do get some people that apply every year, sometimes even with the same project.
BJP: This year, you've stopped handing out student grants. Why? [In previous years, Getty Images would award two student photographers with a $5000 grant each]
Aidan Sullivan: We just didn't get enough entries. As you know, I've been running the Ian Parry Scholarship for 22 years, to get students to enter competitions is difficult. When the Ian Parry started to get fewer entries, I couldn't understand why. I started going around the country's colleges, talked with the course leaders and get them to enter students. It's a lot of legwork. Last year, we didn't get many entries, which is a shame. So, we discussed it and, to be honest, I think there are quite a number of student awards out there and what Getty can bring is a great award for established photojournalists. Tom Stoddart always told me that it's great to have these student awards, but where are the ones for 50-year-old photographers?
Now, I've put together something called Emerging Talent at Reportage. We're still running a competition, but it's not a monetary prize. My editors select photographers to become part of our Emerging Talent division.
BJP: Do you represent the Emerging Talent photographers?
Aidan Sullivan: No. The idea was to solve that Catch 22 issue. They are out of college and trying to get recognise. They don't know how to do it, so we come in saying: "These are the young photographers that we think you should be looking at, as a community." We don't represent them and we don't syndicate them. It could happen. The relationship could grow, but that was not the primary reason.
BJP: Coming back to the Grants, obviously, these bring some good publicity for Getty...
Aidan Sullivan: Sure. Absolutely.
BJP: Does that play a part in the reason why Getty is organising these grants?
Aidan Sullivan: I think there's a part of that. When I came on board, Jonathan asked me what I wanted to do and I told him that I wanted to create an award for photojournalists. He said: "Go ahead." I think that what I was trying to do, and what everyone is trying to do at Getty, is raise our profile in that side of the business. To be honest, in the four or five years we've been doing it, I think we've become well respected. We've helped create great work. It's a really tight community, and we've been trying to support this small group of people. This community has suffered some financial setbacks recently. The market is changing.
BJP: Isn't it a sad statement on the actual condition of the statement to see that a photographer such as Stanley Greene needs a grant to produce great work?
Aidan Sullivan: Absolutely. I think that's why these grants have become even more important. It's a lifeline for some photographers. When the judges select the winners, we always call them up right away and a lot of them cry. One photographer was stuck in Chicago and couldn't get home because he didn't have enough money. One guy was about to sell his apartment to pay his debts. It's very moving. You suddenly realise how important this is for a lot of photographers.
For more information about the Grants for Editorial, visit the Getty Images website.
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