Now celebrating the first anniversary of its formation as a CIC, the photography-based Community Interest Company Majority World has seen its photo library pass the 10,000 images mark.
Majority World was formed to promote professional photographers in Asia, Africa and Latin America - which areas together represent the highest concentration of population in the world (hence its title Majority World) - to the rest of the photographic community, and in particular to the UK, Europe and USA.
Traditionally, publishers, agencies and others in the west requiring images from the developing, or majority, world regions have dispatched their own photographers rather than use the indigenous talent. Quite apart from incurring high costs, this activity deprives local, highly qualified photographers of the opportunity to market their own work. This is the trend which Majority World seeks to change.
The principle of using local talent is one to which many organisations aspire, but have hitherto not been able to utilise. “We feel we should give preference to images taken by indigenous photographers from the developing world as It fits with our mission and our values,” says Jean Long, picture researcher at NGO Practical Action, “but we have not had access to these photographers - they are invisible.”
According to Majority World, such invisibility stems from a lack of digital access, training, travel, market knowledge and contacts by local photographers - aspects of photography which most of their Western counterparts take for granted.
However, Majority World is challenging this situation by providing a platform which enables photographers, photographic agencies and image collections from the developing world to gain fairer access to global image markets.
Through its pioneering website, its advocacy work and the support which Majority World provides to local photographers, image buyers worldwide are now finding it easier to access the wealth of fresh photographic talent emerging from these often misrepresented regions Most importantly, this activity means that the photographers involved are benefiting from new opportunities being opened up to them.
Since the launch of Majority World's website in 2006, buyer registrations have risen steadily; professional and commercial image users such as Jean Long are discovering there is another option, an ethical option.
Research has confirmed there is a definite shift towards photographic depictions of real, everyday lives, and also towards ethical sourcing. These are trends which Images from the majority world, and related photographic products, all of which are authenticated by the Majority World brand and kite mark, are ideally suited to promote.
Particular target markets include businesses trading with the developing world, as well as those involved in travel, advertising, publishing, fair trade, media, ethical retailing, corporate art, development education and non-governmental and international organisations.
All these sectors are concerned with their social responsibility, and many of them recognise that the Majority World brand provides a uniquely visible symbol of commitment to furthering economic progress in the developing world.
“We have seen much progress,” says Dr Colin Hastings, director of advocacy and funding at Majority World, “yet there is so much more that needs to be done to realise the full potential.
“A key objective now is to identify a suitable venture philanthropist. Such a financial partner would share Majority World's vision and wish to contribute to the next stage of development of an exciting new global ethical venture - a chance, perhaps, for someone who has made money through photography to give back."
“Majority World is also seeking corporate sponsors who can help, for example, with identifying photographers through their overseas contacts and with digitisation and keywording of photographers' film stock. All of this support would help the peoples of the Majority World to tell their own story, through their own eyes.”