AFAC participated in a panel discussion of the MEPPI Symposium, May 3-5, 2017 organized by Sursock Museum in Beirut. The first day of the symposium reflected on the photographic legacy of the Middle East and North Africa and prioirities for sustainability. AFAC contributed to the discussion on supporting and funding cultural heritage preservation.
As a grant-maker AFAC cultivates and supports photography and its preservation through three artistic categories: Visual Arts, Research/Training/Regional events (RTR) and Arab Documentary Photography Program. AFAC provides critically needed support for emerging artists under the visual arts category, who are not yet part of the art world as well as to established artists whose work would not be produced by other market-based sources. The Research/Training/Regional Events (RTR) grant program supports projects in all fields of cultural production for capacity-building workshops, residencies, artistic and cultural research, training projects, as well as regional events like festivals, competitions and cross-cultural collaborations.
In addition to giving open grants, AFAC responds to the need for cultivating and supporting under-developed areas of artistic and cultural practices through special programs such as the Arab Documentary Photography Program (ADPP). It supports compelling non-stereotypical and unconventional visual documentation of important social issues and narratives relevant to the Arab region, in recognition of the image’s power to document, educate and advocate. In partnership with the Prince Claus Fund and the Magnum Foundation, ADPP was launched for a period of three years 2014-2016 with the objectives to raise the level of creative documentary photography in the Arab region; to train photographers and expand their approaches to visual storytelling; to share strong visual narratives from the Arab region regionally and internationally; and to explore wider access to documentary photography and a more active engagement with its audiences. Photographers propose to work in a range of non-fiction narrative styles, from classic documentary photography to more experimental visual storytelling, and can include audio and video elements. ADPP encompasses not only a grant but also training and one-on-one mentorship to accompany the photographers in articulating their photo story.
The importance of this initiative in the long-term is to develop a network of authentic and diverse local photographers and to stimulate dialogue with photographers from outside the region who are engaged and working on the region. The annual mentorship program over three years (2014-2016) will become a regular grant program, due to the great interest it generates from artists, partners and donors.
In terms of outreach, AFAC with its partners (Prince Claus Fund and Magnum Foundation) improve access to the visual storytelling developed by grantees through exposure in regional and international foras, and exploring opportunities for engaging in wider viewership and visibility. ADPP 2015 projects were all completed and are available on www.arabdocphotography.org. which is an archival gallery.
As an advocate for cultural philanthropy, AFAC has to date made over 980 grants totaling approximately $13.6 million, spent almost $3 million on professional training and workshops, reached millions of audiences, processed over 9000 applications and worked with around 200 jurors since making its first grant in 2007. The ADPP is one of the special programs which encompasses grants and accompanying training and mentorship with an average annual budget of $221,000. In addition, open grants under visual arts and research/training/regional events, are on average $25’000 per project.
Photography cultivation and preservation remain a strong focus under AFAC’s grants and mentorship program. AFAC aspires to accompany a generation of photographic practitioners and make their creations more accessible to a wider public in the region and internationally, while ensuring alternative and consistent sources of funding.