Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reckoning at the Frontier Interview

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by photographer Eros Hoagland whose Kickstarter project “Reckoning at the Frontier” has recently kicked off.  Thank you for joining us today Eros.  

Thank you for having me

With such a powerful subject, one that regularly makes headlines across the nation, why do you need Kickstarter to fund it?  It seems a regular publisher would be chomping at the bit to get at this project.  

Unfortunately headlines don't equate to long-term interest. It is always an uphill battle to get photographs of serious issues published at all, let alone in book form. I imagine that book publishers just don't believe in the economic success of heavy imagery. In fact I had one executive of a very large book publishing company tell me he couldn't sell the idea unless every page of my book depicted a murder scene. That was not an option for me. Just unacceptable and he knew it. So I was told I would have to bring my own money to the table to get the thing published. Kind of like a medical co-pay. There are other publishers I will be meeting with soon, but I think I will be in a much better position to negotiate if I have some money behind me.


As someone who was born and raised just north of the border (Needles, CA) and currently resides even closer to it (Las Cruces, NM) your subject matter hits quite close to home for me.  Do you think many in America don’t believe these problems exist?  That they’re “overblown” or “exaggerated?”  

I think that the public believes Mexico’s problem with violence is worse than it actually is. When I mention that I live in Mexico, people usually react in an “are you crazy?” kind of way. They probably picture decapitated bodies around every corner, but it just isn't the case. There is no doubt that certain areas of the country are very bad, but I wanted to show how life goes on in the border areas. I wanted to offer some context.
What possessed you to keep putting yourself in the line of fire as it were?  To constantly return to northern Mexico, even going so far to moving to Tijuana.  

A need to understand the issues and players better kept me coming back. The international press usually gets it plain wrong when it comes to the “drug war,” simply because they do not spend enough time on the ground, or have no interest in facing certain facts that contradict corporate and political interests. I love Mexico, for me it was easy to keep coming back, in good times, and bad.
Have you ever worried you or your contacts would get in trouble for your work? What about after this book is made?

This is a very good and important question James. I am always very cautious about protecting my contacts. So no, I am not worried about their safety. I do my very best not to compromise the safety of the people I photograph also. I am very thoughtful about the pictures I choose to publish.
How hard is it drawing attention to a photo book like this?  How hard is it to classify as it doesn’t seem like a proper “coffee table” material?  

It’s hard in certain respects because the subject matter is very bleak. But on the other hand, my approach has been very conceptual from an artistic standpoint. Some of the pictures are hard to look at, but they are supported by many images that that could be considered fine art. I believe there is a very good balance of imagery depicted in this book.

The harsh images you’ve shown in the video are quite striking especially to a desert rat like myself.  Did you grow up in the desert or have you just come to appreciate the stark beauty that exists here?

I've grown up all over California, including eastern San Diego and the Mojave desert. I've been working and playing in this land for years. I understand the desert very well.
For my fellow cameraphiles what kind of rig did you use?  Film or Digital?

For this project I used all digital cameras. Just a Canon 5D and a 28mm lens most of the time. Although towards the end, I couldn't help but not play around with the iphone.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to help things along?

I have not received any media attention regarding this book yet. But I have had a great deal of attention because of an HBO documentary series called "Witness" that I was involved with. The first episode dealt with Ciudad Juarez and aired just last week. So I'm getting lots of cross pollination from that as far as attention and profile. I am spreading the word about the book via facebook, twitter and emails. I'm not especially versed in social media, but I have some help from a certain long haired beauty named Erin Siegal.

Did you do any kind of research on Kickstarter before posting your project?  Did you talk to any other authors or photographers before jumping in?  

Yes, I spoke to a few photographer friends of mine who were successful with their campaigns, but I pretty much just jumped right in after reviewing the basic guidelines and responsibilities .

One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation.  How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

Nothing planned, I'm making it up as I go. So let me know if you have any great ideas! I suspect that people are giving to support the book, and little gifts and such are a bonus. Speaking of little gifts, I will be rewarding people with the book itself and some very beautiful archival prints.

Your lowest backer level is $25 and it’s only for a “Great big Thank you.”  Don’t you think lower levels could help those who want to help but don’t have an extra $25 to toss around a chance to pitch in?  

No, not really. I think if people are in a position to give they will give a larger amount. I'm not flipping pancakes here. Those who cannot afford $50 will help me by passing along the word. And THAT, is very valuable.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Yes, have a great project and make a really good email list prior to starting out.

Thank you for spending your time with us Eros!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Just this, the Kickstarter model is a great equalizer. I am a super proponent of it now. Its so awesome. If you can give, you give, if you can't, you can be helpful by spreading the word. I definitely see myself giving money to cool projects in the future now that I realize how empowering the whole crowd funding model can be. Its really cool. It makes me feel loved. I've had lots of donations by people I don't know, and I think thats really special.
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thank you. Oh....do you want to pledge any money? I’ll send you a beautiful book......