Magnum Foundation

Magnum Foundation

An intensive lab for the On Religion pilot intiative

“We’re moving in a direction where we’re really thinking about what it means to tell a multi-layered and textured story, and I’m really excited that Magnum Foundation is funding work like this that allows people to think about the boundaries of genres and the ways that pushing against those boundaries can allow us to tell better stories.” — Kameelah Rasheed, photographer/artist

The On Religion pilot initiative is a first for Magnum Foundation — it’s the first time that we’ve given a thematic or topical grant and it’s the first time that our grantmaking has been structured specifically for collaborative teams.

Kicking off production, we produced an intensive co-lab at the The Brown Institute for Media Innovation for the photographers and their interdisciplinary collaborators. This two-day laboratory brought together the teams with experts from academia, technology and other various fields, and highly skilled facilitators, who led comprehensive feedback sessions.

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Photos by Mengwen Cao

“You have been reflecting and thinking about your project for a long time, trying to make it as solid as possible. Then you come here with a kind of soft but powerful sledgehammer to deconstruct it, to break it into pieces, to analyze each piece again and find a better way to rebuild it,” photographer Oscar Castillo expressed of the process. The co-lab included facilitated discussions with experts, as well as generative exercises for developing narrative structures and prototyping project concepts. “Often in journalism you have these very confrontational meetings around the table, but to have all of this done in such a fluid and constructive way — feeding on the expertise and the inspiration of the different photographers and their collaborators, that’s another way to approach editing - another way to do journalism,” said writer and co-lab participant Dimi Reider.

Nearly 300 proposals from around the world were submitted through the open call, signaling to us just how needed and wanted such opportunities are for digging into new models. Moreover, the dialogue spurred through the co-lab’s working sessions and the ongoing feedback loops since are challenging us, at the Magnum Foundation, to be flexible and responsive to these emerging creative processes. With our partners, we’re working to most effectively bolster these rigorous explorations with diverse and expert support.

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Photos by Alex Scott (left) and Sumeja Tulic (right)

We are grateful to all of the participants, grantees, mentors, and facilitators alike, for so openly and thoughtfully sharing with each other and enriching this new initiative in unanticipated ways. We look forward to the next stages of production and to continuing to evaluate the value and the challenges of this kind of collaboration.