Fifth Year Review

Nine of the ten fototazo microgrant recipients who went to the USA in the summer of 2015 at the airport in Medellín, June 2015

On January 26th, fototazo celebrated its fifth anniversary, giving us our annual opportunity to take a look back at the past year and ahead at plans for 2016.

This is also the "yearly report" required as part of fototazo's 501(c)3 non-profit private operating foundation status.

The balance of fototazo continues to shift from the "virtual world" to "real world" work with these young photographers. This post will begin by looking at the work of the organization in the real world, then it will discuss the online content.


The site's primary mission continues to be the development of an integrated program of support for young, emerging Colombian photographers. All content on the site works to create viewership to fund the site's primary mission.

I made major changes in the structure of the support program for site grant recipients in 2015. For several years it had consisted of four parts: microgrants for equipment purchases; the mentorship program to give the photographers guidance, feedback on their work and connections to an international team of mentors drawn from across the spectrum of the photography world; the equipment delivery program to give photographers access to United States market prices; and, finally, private classes in Medellín that I teach for those involved with the microgrant and mentorship programs.

In 2015, the microgrant program raised $8,068. By comparison, in 2014 the microgrant program raised $2,640. Thank you to those who have contributed – this site continues because of your contributions!

In December 2014, fototazo launched its most ambitious microgrant yet in support of the Mono Colectivo, a group of nine former microgrant recipients who came together as a collective to support their continued education and development. The members are Alba Bran, Andrés Sánchez, Angélica María Restrepo, Aura Lambertinez, Edwin Ochoa Vélez, Juliana Henao Alcaraz, Margarita Valdivieso, Mónica Lorenza Taborda and Natalia Lopera.

The grant proposed a three-week stay in the United States for the collective to attend a photography intensive workshop at the University of Iowa with Jeff Rich, Zora Murff and Matt Williams; visit museums, galleries and the studios of Alec Soth and Beth Dow in the Twin Cities; meet with Andy Adams of Flak Photo in Madison and hold an exhibit of their work in Iowa City. The grant raised $9,393 between the end of 2014 and June 2015 and the collective raised approximately $1,500 for themselves through various fundraising activities in Medellín.

In June and July 2015 we completed the trip. The trip to the United States was a success from beginning to end, beyond one student misplacing her passport and some hit-and-miss experiences with new foods. It had a number of positive consequences such as a partnership with Kristine Muñoz, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Iowa, who we met at the opening of their exhibition in Iowa City. She worked with four members of the collective on a photo and audio recording field project in Medellín in early 2016 for use in her classes at the university.

A second grant at the end of the year in support of Eric Robledo was also completed in 2015.

Mono Colectivo meeting with Andy Adams in Madison, Wisconsin, June 2015

In 2015, I ended the mentorship program completely. I felt that the program was an exciting way to connect students with professionals across a strong geographic divide between South America and other areas of the world photography community. Due to a language barrier, however, between most of the mentors and mentees communications both ways were funneled through me which made the program time intensive, giving me less ability to work with other parts of the site and creating an impersonal dynamic between participants. In 2016 I will look to relaunch the program with mentors who speak Spanish so that all involved can communicate directly and develop more satisfying and personal relationships between each other.

I continue to offer the equipment delivery program to microgrant recipients in case it proves helpful to have access to the US market, but over time I imagine that this part of the microgrant program will be phased out as delivery from the US to Colombia by sites like Amazon continues to get better.

Private classes continue for the mentees that live in Medellín on a once-a-month basis.

Importantly, but perhaps unexciting-ly for readers of this report, fototazo became a corporación sin ánimo de lucro, that is to say, a non-profit corporation, in Colombia in 2015 which helped with fundraising for the USA trip and will continue to pay benefits in the future.

In 2016, the major "real world" plan is to duplicate the 2015 USA workshop experience in Colombia by inviting one international photographer and two or three national photographers to Medellín to offer the group a workshop. This will cost approximately 10% of last year's project to take the grant photographers to the USA, while giving the students a chance to continue to professionalize by working alongside photographers of the highest standard. Details on this project are being worked on currently.

Manhandling Alec Soth test prints, June 2015


I would like to extend a thank you to all of the 2015 contributors of images and words for their help in providing a level of content that has attracted a broad readership.

In previous years I have cited site visits relative to previous years, but this year it's impossible to give a reasonable report on that because a free Google Ad Word campaign budget given to fototazo by Google to support its USA trip microgrant distorts those click numbers, making them about 50% higher than previous years, while I'm absolutely sure that actual readership is lower.

The reason I'm sure of that is that I continue to produce fewer and fewer posts as I dedicate more time to the real world organizational projects. I made 72 posts in 2015, versus 103 in 2014 and 152 in 2013.

In 2016 I plan to make even fewer posts, but hope that these posts will be longer and more in depth essay style pieces. Interviews will also continue as well as short series on topics such as editing or developing projects. I also plan to continue to feature more and more work from Latin America this coming year and am actively working to use the site to serve as a bridge between Latin American photographers and an international audience, presenting work made in Latin America on an English language platform. One highlight of 2015 in terms of posts was the Argentina Notebook series developed with Jaime Permuth and Eleonora Ronconi which shows this future direction of site content.

I have been researching the possibility of making fototazo an online magazine-style publication to be published perhaps quarterly and that is something I will continue to consider.

la red fototazo was a Spanish-language photography forum side project on Facebook that I ended in 2015. I felt conversation levels weren't sufficient to warrant monitoring the page. In 2015, I continued to post occasionally to fototazo's Tumblr page, fototazo etc., and to maintain its Facebook and Twitter pages.

I made slight site redesigns in 2015 and plan to make a major overhaul in 2016 away from the blog style scroll format to something more dynamic.

I would like to extend a thank you to the fototazo Board of Directors composed of business leaders Yaron Ben-Zvi and Raphael Crawford and photographer Amani Willett and also to the fototazo Advisory Board, which includes photographers Nicholas NixonLaura McPhee, and Gabriel Mario Vélez for another year of service in their roles.

Finally, thank YOU for following the site and choosing to spend your time reading what we publish from among all of the many quality photography sites that exist. We look forward to taking another step in 2016.

All the best,
Tom Griggs