Documentary work is difficult to publish

From the series “The Downtown East Side” © Claire Martin, 2010.

Emerging photographer Claire Martin talks to BJP about her Inge Morath Award win and on making it in documentary photography at a time when funding is rare Claire Martin won, last week, the prestigious Inge Morath Award, which rewards a woman photographer with $5000 to continue a photographic project. Martin won for her ongoing documentation of marginalised communities within prosperous nations.

Martin used to be a social worker before turning to photography in 2007. She answers BJP’s news editor’s questions on her win and the difficulty of making a name for yourself in a field that is dominated, deservedly, she says, by top level photographers.

BJP: Do you feel such grants are a prerequisite for photographers who want to spend time and resources to go in-depth into a story? How have you been financing your work so far?
Claire Martin: I absolutely agree. If you want to make it financially sustainable it appears to be a must. As I have said there is a very limited market that actually pays for documentary photography and it’s dominated by the top level photographers (deservedly). I think not only does it make things financially viable, but it brings a level of awareness to your work and helps your reputation as a photographer.
The work I submitted for the grant was mostly self financed. I photographed in the Downtown East Side in my spare time while working as a Chef in Vancouver. I incorporated a stay in Slab City into a road trip through Canada and the States before I came home to Australia, of course squatting is fairly cheep living, so neither of the projects cost an arm and a leg. The popularity of these personal projects has spurred documentary and editorial work in a professional capacity, so I feel I came to it through the back door in a way. I didn’t start these projects to make money, I photographed in this way to create meaning in my life.

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