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March 21, 2007

Our Own Media: Going Forward

Two weeks ago, I launched an effort to help bring political imagery directly into the public sphere.

The purpose of "Our Own Media" fund is to help support and subsidize the socially committed, traditionally underpaid and inherently visionary photojournalist.  The goal of the effort — in addition to bringing more political content to the site — is to establish a precedent for the grassroots, independent support of social/political photojournalism and to strengthen the progressive blogosphere as a platform and forum for this vital imagery.

I want to thank Digby for his support, as well as several progressive blogs — including Crooks and Liars, Brad Blog, Majikthise, Tattered Coat and Hughes for America  — that have donated free advertising space to promote the fund.  (If you’re interested in supporting Majikthise, by the way, which you can contribute here.)

Primarily, though, I want to thank the over 100 of you who have already donated.  So far, we have raised over $8,500 out of what I consider an achievable goal of $30,000. 

If you are part of the 90% of The BAG’s regular, daily readership that hasn’t donated yet (or just a fan), and you’re capable, I ask that you please go to the "Our Own Media" fund page and click on one of the contribution buttons (or mail in a check to the address) at the bottom of the post.   

So, what kind of impact is the fund already having on The BAG?

Besides increasing my coverage of original ("non-newswire") imagery,  I’m now working with a handful of photographers to adapt extended material for the site.  In the next six to eight months, I’m especially interested in testing how far one can push the blog format as a story-telling medium. 

Also, your help is enabling me to work more closely with existing contributers, Tim Fadek and Alan Chin, and also invite a few more regular contributers to the site. 

If you hang out at The BAG, I’m sure you remember the "Oh (Chinese) Christmas Tree" post from this past December.  That entry, dealing with how the Chinese market Christmas in Africa, featured the work of a talented young Spanish photographer named Héctor Mediavilla. 

While teaching photography in Congo several years ago, Héctor came upon a subculture of men who derive their lifestyle and sense of well-being from elegant comportment along with the import of fine French clothing.  This subculture — known as the "Sape" (which stands for the Society of Ambiance’s and Elegant People)– extends back more than four generations.  Until Héctor came upon the society, however, it was virtually unheard of outside Congo, even in France. 

Because the Sape look up to Western culture and many Sape have immigrated to France (with mixed results), their story offers a compelling and practical lens through which to view the larger issues of globalization, migration, identity and race.  Looking at the Sape historically, at present, as well as forward, into the future, I’m excited to offer this story in extended and serialized fashion along with my welcome new contributor, Héctor Mediavilla.

(Regarding the show:  This presentation was adapted from "Le Parisian Kiboba" (The Old Parisian), a video by Héctor Mediavilla.  The slide show was created by The BAG as part of an ongoing experiment into visual, blogospheric storytelling.  If you wish to comment on particular stills, you can refer to them by number.)

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