A few nights ago, fellow Fstoppers writer Pratik Naik posted on his Facebook about a bizarre Kickstarter project that is causing a lot of commotion within several online photographic communities. Lukasz Wysocki, a self-proclaimed Canadian-based phoneographer looking to get into professional photography, decided to use Kickstarter to fund a brand new Canon 6D. Kickstarter, an amazing platform for bringing innovation to life, now has funding choices like this which arguably skew the entire platform is a direction it shouldn't be headed.
I believe the main reason for all of the disdain that the campaign is attracting is that we photographers all started somewhere and worked hard to get where we are. We didn't magically start off with our cameras ready to go. For the majority of us, we earned them. Whether that meant saving some money from a job that we worked hard at despite hating it, or through the help of friends and family. With sites like Kickstarter, Gofundme and Indigogo, online panhandling is at an all-time high. What happened to working towards a goal and the pride knowing that through determination you have accomplished something?
The other issue people seem to be having is that unlike other fundraising sites, Kickstarter has a different set of standards to their funding that this campaign isn't really following.
Everything on Kickstarter must be a project. A project has a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it.
Becoming a professional photographer by raising money for a DSLR is not a project, it's an entry point for a career. How this particular Kickstarter campaign was approved by the people over at Kickstarter is beyond me, and in their defense I can see how things might fall through the cracks.
Backers that support a project on Kickstarter get an inside look at the creative process, and help that project come to life. They also get to choose from a variety of unique rewards offered by the project creator. Rewards vary from project to project, but often include a copy of what is being produced (CD, DVD, book, etc.) or an experience unique to the project.
Not that Mr. Wysocki has many backers, and I highly doubt this will end up being funded, but offering a print in the hopes that you'll be successful is hardly a reward for a Kickstarter backer. And that's not really the point. With campaigns like this the backer is assuming a large risk, especially if you're investing a good amount of money into the project. Kickstarter is created to ease the risk on both the project creator and the backers. The issue isn't that Mr. Wysocki started an online fund for his potential career, but the site that allowed it. I doubt this would have casue as much of a stir if this campaign had been found on Gofundme.com, but it still doesn't make it "right."
Also, it's hard to 100% blame Kickstarter here. There are plenty of oustanding ideas on Kickstarter, and the Oculus Rift is a prime example of how far a Kickstarted campaign can go. So maybe part of the problem is us. We not only allow projects like this to happen, we even allow them to get funded. Example? I'll just point to potato salad and leave it at that.
I think the answer lies somwhere in between. Though we should be smart enough to not reward these kinds of things with our money, Kickstarter should do something as well... and that's even in their best interest. Kickstarter is letting their brand get diluted to the point that it is causing major media brands to swear off it altogether. That is not ok, but for some reason Kickstarter doesn't seem fazed, and nothing has been done to help mitigate the problems.
We at Fstoppers haven't sworn off Kickstarter entirely and will continue to wade through the garbage to find the gold, but we are more hesitant. More selective. Even if an idea sounds great to begin with, we are cautious to come out and report on it. This is a direct result of that brand dillution mentioned earlier. We just don't know what to trust.
How do you feel about online campaigns to raise money for cameras and other equipment for new photographers to start their careers? Will this change they way you invest into creative projects that are featured on Kickstarter or any funding website?