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Friday, June 30, 2006

Stryker Johnston?

All this talk in the news of Warren Buffet giving billions of dollars to Bill Gates (what's up with that, anyway? Do they belong to, like, the same club?) has reminded me again of one of my perennial fantasies: I want to be Roy Stryker.

Seriously. I've wanted to be Roy Stryker before I knew who Roy Stryker was, and I'm not kidding about that. I want to be the director of a project that sends photographers out into the world to document real life in ways most people seldom see or think about.

Roy Stryker, for those of you for whom the name doesn't ring a bell (and who have web browsers but for some reason have never heard of Google or Wikipedia(g) ), was the director of the Farm Security Administration Photodocumentary project during the great depression. He selected and managed a fractious but talented group of photographers who did field work in the American heartland during the 1930s.

I'd include the whole world within the project's purview, and recruit a few dozen photographers, picture editors, and caption writers to work on a rotating basis documenting interesting aspects of life in the world that are different than the ones that attract news photographers and hobbyists. We'd publish the results in two tiers, in a large database on the web and a smaller selection published in book form.

Wouldn't you think Warren or Bill could pinch off a few million to fund such a deserving project? Oh, well, a guy can dream.

Posted by: MIKE (a.k.a. "STRYKER") JOHNSTON


Blogger maiken said...

Why not do it? The cost of a web startup is approaching zero these days; if you laid out a way for contributors to participate in any eventual financial gain (even if modest), you would probably be deluged with applicants.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Severian said...

Re: Bill Gates / Warren Buffet - "belong to the same club". Yes, in a sense they do. They are long time friends and have played bridge together for years. Warren has long been of the position to make charitable donations after his death. Bill was pushing to do so before. Looks like Bill talked Warren into taking action. Bill's often been good at that ...

2:05 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

That would be an exciting prospect, Mike. But I suspect that American government will never again be as broad-mindedly generous to launch arts support programs like those of the FSA or WPA. (Of course, as we're learning, we've already wasted orders of magnitude more public monies through FEMA's mindless administration, but that's a subject for another blog.)

In case anyone's interested in seeing some of what Mike has in mind the Library of Congress maintains a large (and growing) online collection of FSA-OWI photography. (Caution: Before you click that link, make sure you have a clear schedule for at least a couple of hours.) These images are also largely in the public domain. So if you want to try your hand at printing, say, a Walker Evans for your own enjoyment have at it!

6:48 PM  
Blogger Adrian Malloch said...

I heard recently about a UN project doing exactly that. Seems some agency there has cherry picked a whole bunch of brilliant young (but relatively unknown) photographers from around the world and is letting them loose for two years to follow their photojournalistic dreams. Some are staying in specific locations/countries/regions and a select few have a complete roaming brief.
I heard this from a well placed reliable photographer but haven't seen or heard about it elsewhere.
Anyone able to corroborate?
Kofi maybe?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Joshwa said...

The Open Society Institute has announced $950,000 in grants for journalists covering issues of racism and inequality related to Hurricane Katrina.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Sean Winslow said...

Wouldn't that be a lot like the work that has been and is done by National Geographic Magazine?

5:53 PM  
Blogger jamie lang said...

Sign me up when you get those few millions!

1:57 PM  

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