Majority World Turns 1, Pushes "Ethical Stock"

Posted on 12/6/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Majority World, a Bangladesh-based image library that focuses on developing-world imagery, is a year-old. The agency, which provides indigenous photographers with a chance to compete in the global market, reports inventory growth and a rising number of buyers. It attributes this to "a definite shift towards photographic depictions of real, everyday lives, [as well as] ethical sourcing" of photography.

The agency's library has now surpassed 10,000 images, rivaling start-up collections with a broader subject-matter focus. Its customers include Western companies that do business in the developing world, as well as travel, advertising, media and organization that focus on international development subjects.

While it has an e-commerce Web site and all the trimmings of a stock agency, Majority World is perhaps more akin to an advocacy group. The agency was established to reveal, support, develop and promote non-Western photographers, while making it easier for image buyers and the general public to access such work. It markets itself as an "ethical alternative," starting with a name that represents the relationship between the populations of the developing regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America and the rest of the world.

Majority World also wants to change global perceptions of the developing world. It views available imagery as non-representative, even when shot locally by professionals, because Western perceptions often color the way images are conceived, shot and presented. Majority World wants to provide a more authentic alternative.

It strives to create a ethical global picture market and fairer access for third-world shooters. The business also has to be cost-effective. While imagery sourced from the developing world meets the pricing criterion, availability remains a challenge. Jean Long, picture researcher at the nonprofit Practical Action, thinks preference should be given to images taken by indigenous photographers, part of PA's mission.

Selling Stock has previously reported on the prevalence of similar views. Staffers at UN system organizations have millions at their disposal and actively want to purchase outside of the West, yet have difficulty procuring the needed imagery. Such stock photography remains a small and fragmented niche within an already small industry. Though Majority World has now reached a respectable portfolio size, 10,000 is small for a buyer used to dealing with large commercial libraries.


Majority World recognizes the need for growth. Dr. Colin Hastings, director of advocacy and funding says much needs to be done to realize the company's full potential. But it is not looking to traditional third-party representation; rather, he says Majority World is seeking a venture philanthropist to share its vision.

Hastings describes this as "a chance to contribute to the next stage of development of an exciting new global ethical venture."

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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