Has Kickstarter Lost Sight of Who They Are, or Are We the Problem?

Has Kickstarter Lost Sight of Who They Are, or Are We the Problem?

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. 

-Kickstarter FAQ

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.

-Kickstarter FAQ

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?

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31 Comments

John Sheehan's picture

You've put to words a lot of what I've been thinking about crowd funding as of late. I'm working hard to save for my next camera. By doing the work I'm becoming a better photographer, so when I do step up to that next camera I would have grown as an artist. What this guy is doing does, as you say, seem like panhandling.

A wedding photographer a while back did a crowd funding for a new camera, but the difference there was he was offering his services as a wedding photographer as the reward for donating. That one I wasn't as down on because he was actually giving something of value for donating. Also, I suspect it was a way to get him some press and get his name out there.

My fear is, with all these "fund my potato salad" projects, along with famous sitcom actors asking for money to fund their movies and William Shatner wanting people fund his super expensive watch, that people will get fatigued and just stop donating. I can see that happening already. A filmmaker friend told me it's getting hard to get money for their movies, when just a year ago they had no problem crowd funding.

Well I'm a little irritated with Kickstarter lately with all the ridiculous stuff going up. People who this once worked well for and really do have something good are getting lost in the sea of crazy. What was once a good way for people in impoverished countries to raise $500 to start a business that would support their family has turned into nonsense.

The guy isn't without a decent eye, but come on. I need new gear and I'm getting it the old fashioned way... sitting at work every day, cutting back on expenses, throwing $20 in a cigar box here and there, and buying used gear (since I need a whole new system). I'd be way too embarrassed to go on there asking for money for a new camera.

Jason Ranalli's picture

It's not even about embarrassement, it's about general lack of shame with people like this...for anything.

Ralph Berrett's picture

My guess this goes under it slipped through the cracks category. There are several things about Lukasz Wysocki's post that is trouble some. The camera does not make the photographer. From what he is asking for and the way he is asking says it is a wasted effort.

He needs skills, technique and a goal not just a camera. And as we all know a camera is not a camera system. It comes off as someone begging for change to buy a cocktail instead of food.

I don't get why people make arguments against the guy.. If you don't want to fund him/her don't support their kickstarter... plain and simple. As far as projects go, I'm sure Kickstarter is not looking at their site every 1.2 seconds to see people post shit like this. If the guy can find a loop in the terms and conditions more power to him... but like i said before, just don't fund him. It's pretty sad if people get mad at this guy if he is successful cause If you could do the same you would. I don't get mad at contest winners for liking a post on facebook and winning a camera.. why is this any different.

Jason Ranalli's picture

If I could do the same I would? Don't think so...not in a million years. This is completely different than a contest where you win a free camera. I can't imagine you would compare the two.

David Vaughn's picture

But he didn't find a loop. He just blatantly disregarded the TOS.

Henry Louey's picture

Here is my concern with posting articles like this.

While we may all agree that this guy should be saving for a camera "the old fashioned" way. It was kickstarter that allowed this project to go live

For right or wrong reasons Lukasz Wysock will now be the butt of all jokes on the online photo communities when it was kickstarter that should be the one ridiculed

Yes the article criticizes kickstarter but its the "guy from Canada" that everyone will be talking about

Gjergji Bullari's picture

I don't see that as a bad thing. Maybe he gets some work through this free publicity. Well it he doesn't and gets ridiculed instead of good feedback from this whole thing well that's the danger of putting yourself out there especially on the internet. If you accept the good shouldn't you be ready for same backlash also. I'm tired every time people start crying and acting like babies after some criticism. c'mon grow a back bone. If he or whoever who supports his en devour had the gut to get out there and beg for money well be a man and grow a thick skin.

I have no problems with kickstarter "projects" like this because I know it's not going anywhere.

What bugs me about kickstarter is when people like Spike Lee uses it to fund his projects.
"I have money ... but let me use yours so I can make more".

"I want to buy a camera capable of taking professional pictures for major magazines to fulfill my dream of being a photographer."

So this guy thinks after getting the camera he will be taking "professional" pictures for a magazine automatically? come on! what we see here is someone who want to skip a whole process focusing only in the gear instead of learning the profession. It would be different if he asked for funds to support his learning. We don't know his backgrounds and he doesn't give a solid description of his "project". Online panhandling, that's a good description.

You can't really blame kickstarter as some people tend to abuse every single system out there for maximizing their own private gain. Between this and the Canadian Post stealing stuff from LensRentals story, it's a sad day. :(

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

No big deal, not that hard to ignore the crazies..

Rob Timko's picture

I don't see it as being much different or 'insulting' than a wedding/baby/housewarming registry. "here are things I want, buy them for me and you'll get some chicken/fish or vegetarian dish, I don't trust you enough to pick out a gift, so this is specifically what I want. I can't be bothered to return duplicates, or things I don't need or like, so, I really want you to get me what I need"

There are no obligations to support someone. You look at what they have to offer, and you decide for yourself. No one is forcing you to contribute.

Rebecca Britt's picture

I agree with you about online registries. I'm definitely not a fan of them. I never bother using them and I know that when I get married I won't force people to use them at all. Gifts should come from the person giving out of their own kindness and should be appreciated never demanded. If you get a double, no big deal just return it or save it in case the other one breaks, how hard is that?

Registries aren't demands, they're recommendations. If you don't want to buy a gift, don't have the money to buy a gift, or would like to purchase something different, then you're more than welcome to do that. As someone just married, some of our favorite gifts didn't come from the registry, and were either made, found out of the country, or purchased elsewhere. It's nothing more than a way for people to find out what you actually want. If you want to use it, fine, if not.... no sweat.

The difference between this and a registry is that people aren't buying him a gift for celebrating a "milestone" in life. He's panhandling, and looking for an easy way out. He didn't just turn to the internet to purchase a DSLR, he turned to the internet to purchase a freaking 6D. Why not start off with a T3i and earn your way from there?

i don't have a problem him asking for money, i have a problem with people giving him money. he thinks if he gets this canon that the magazines will come calling ? he has a warped view on the world. he doesn't even own any camera, none, nada, zip, not even a crappy 15 years old one, none, none. did i mention he doesn't own a camera ? once he gets this fancy camera is he gonna do another project for glass ? cards ? LR ? Mac ? batteries ? bag ? he seems a bit nutty in his video anyway.
i have an idea that i'm gonna sign up to get funded, its like a stick. you can use it to hold up heavy lens so you can shoot great pics. i got the idea when my tripod was too big for a thing i was doing, i thought what if it only had one leg on my tripod ? that would allow me to get in small areas and still support. the "one leg tripod" is too long of a name. i gotta think of a snappy name for it now.

Matt Owen's picture

Call it the tri-2pod. Pronounced "tri-less-two-pod." Or the BuehrlePod, that has a nice ring to it.

Last year, my ex-wife attempted to get custody of our children (which I've had for 7 years) and used an online crowdsourcing platform to try and fund her legal fees. Beat that.

Rebecca Britt's picture

Wow that sucks. I take it she didn't succeed?

No, she didn't. I keep pretty good tabs on her and found the link within a couple days. I sent a complaint email to the fundraising company because she lied about her circumstances and they took it down within a few hours. She also lost in court. :)

I can see my ex-husband doing something like that.

Adrian J Nyaoi's picture

I call this near abuse of privilege; bending the rules of the site. I checked and he has just one backer and $5. as for this moment.

Shayne Thomas's picture

If he happened to create a solid portfolio of images from just using his phone, or atleast, show the potential... maybe..just maybe its not such a bad thing. but he comes off as some guy too lazy to get down to work and save up for the equipment like 99% of us have. Ive seen some amazing photos taken with just a phone, and some that were specifically shot to proove that phone cameras can do quite a good job (obviously nothing in the range of DSLR's and Medium Formats). If he had shown his work, it would be more convincing.

"ill give you free pictures..." yeah..but what if i dont want your pictures? if your pictures are kuk?

Pablo Hill's picture

What a ass. Has he never heard the term... WORK!!!

Scott Spellman's picture

Yes-- its really up to Kickstarter to maintain the standards that keep it viable in our quickly changing Internet Age. Many good Internet concepts with public posting fail to maintain the quality that keeps their service valuable. A search of Photographer on a jobs website such as Monster will usually show a few real jobs at solid companies mixed with hundreds of job postings for each Lifetouch studio-a totally useless result.

Brian Reese's picture

Guess I'm pulling my Red Dragon project down then. Darn... I really wanted it too.

Daniel Pryce's picture

I've noticed a lot of it on Kickstarter. I always like seeing some of the new things people come up with like cardboard MF film cameras, or an iphone digital back, etc. Its a piss off that people are using it to raise money to get started in the field. I get if its an established photographer (artist) who had their gear stolen while working on a project and is now going to cut you in on it once they get their equipment back.

I don;t want to harp on the guy since I have the option to not fund him, but the fact these styles of requests are clogging up a once great website sucks ass.

Kristi Woody's picture

I would be so embarrassed to do something like this. Like you said, Kickstarter is great for funding innovative projects where the backers get awesome benefits, but just asking for money for personal gain is ridiculous. I had a family member do something like this, and I just felt bad for him (especially since he actually makes more money than I do...where it goes, I don't know).

Jorge Pastrana's picture

what is wrong with these guy!? asking for money to buy a full frame camera so he can get published by magazines, first things first, the camera does not make the photographer
and second why does not he gets a job and pay for the camera im sure credit it easy on canada, these is funny

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