The doors will close on the last show at Foto8 Gallery at the end of November – in little over a month. Soon after I will pack up the remaining stuff and move out of the building entirely. It certainly is the end of an era, one that began some 14 years ago with the creation of the Foto8 website in 1998.In this period I have been lucky to be joined by many individuals who have worked with me for Foto8, bringing their expertise and passion to producing what we saw as “stories that matter”. Stories that most often did not get their fair share of attention in other media, stories that were sometimes difficult to tell and hard to look at. There has always been an unflinching determination within Foto8 to expose the great wealth of photojournalism being produced by dedicated independent photographers and writers. The names of those that have made up the Foto8 team over the years and those that have generously contributed their photographs and projects to us are written into this website, printed in the pages of our magazines and books, and have been displayed proudly on the walls of our gallery. To all of them I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for keeping the flag flying for important and unique storytelling.
The calibre of our output has been matched by the sharpness of our readers. As the founder and publisher of Foto8 I have been constantly encouraged by the strength of interest and value that you, the readers, have placed in our work. I hope very much that opportunities will exist in future for me to work on new projects and deliver them to you in new publications and exhibitions. But sadly for now I must accept fate and acknowledge that Foto8 will no longer be the “home of photojournalism” on Honduras Street that we have come to know and treasure.
Naturally the financial position of the company has much to do with this situation. I have spent an awful amount of time and energy resisting and debunking the seismic shifts in photography around us, defending, as I would like to think, the central tenants of good journalistic practice: honesty, transparency and putting others first. How else could we ask our readers to believe in our stories, trust us and our publications? Or to see beyond the authors and engage directly with the lives of others that we printed and posted and framed in colour and black and white over the years. But running a business is a different matter entirely from simply believing in journalism and with the weight of profit-seeking always on Foto8’s back I have often been uncertain as to which is the correct way forward for the team and for the stories we wished to produce.
Add to this the shifting grounds of publishing in this modern age, the apparent devaluation in business terms of our output and the feeling of fear you get when everyone is rushing in the opposite direction to you, and suddenly things are not as easy as: shoot, edit, print and be damned. There are business models to try and invent, new technology bandwagons to jump on, new prophecies to proclaim and always the drive to be cleverer than your competition to stay ahead of the game. My ability, and perhaps Foto8’s capacity, to achieve all these things and guarantee financial security has been shown to be lacking. I take comfort however in being able to say that while we did not prosper to the degree necessary to be able to continue in the way we would have liked, Foto8 can walk on with its head held high, without deploying financial counterfeit or subterfuge to dodge any unpaid debts or palm off past creditors. For this reason whilst Foto8 is leaving it is not closing.
Foto8’s subscribers have been generous in their patience for the new issue of the magazine and I have pledged to do everything I can to see that happen, not only for their sakes but because I still believe in it and still love it for what it is. It’s not a romantic notion of print versus digital that I hold onto, it’s the challenge of being fully accountable that comes with the commitment to putting your words and images in ink and living up to something that cannot be changed or altered after the presses have rolled because the fashion of our industry has changed or worse still because we expect our readers to crowd source the facts and fill in the gaps for us. The website which was born in November 1998 on a bedside table in the days of Internet 0.1 is still doable in one form or another and the projects that photographers and writers seek my participation on keep coming in so I look forward to finding new ways to operate and working on these with them in future.
In the meantime it’s time to prepare to survive on less, to shed the unaffordable bills, fees and charges made on Foto8 through occupying a premises, consuming services and employing staff. I hope you will join me for a farewell celebration at the opening of our final exhibition on 15th November and I hope too that you will take the opportunity to help yourself to pieces of 8 in our fireside sale of the books, magazines, prints, frames, computers and all the items I sadly cannot carry on the next leg of the journey. Let this night be a time to celebrate and affirm that the values of photojournalism transcend any gains or losses in business.
Many thanks for listening and for your belief in what Foto8 has stood for and worked to achieve. I hope you will agree with me when I say your support has not been misplaced and was never taken for granted.