5 years of crowdsourced photo projects

The last 5 years I have been working with many projects that include working methods like CrowdsourcingCo-creation and Crowdcasting in different forms. The idea with that has been kind of simple. Eg. We wanted to create a book with content from other people. The things we have done have ranged from projects where young people in different regions depict their own realities, with the aim to take back the right to interpret ones reality. Eg. The Photo Book about Sweden and Georgia Stories. Ranging to the Art Book and exhibition This Must Be The Place where young people create a project with young people’s art instead of the classic “Old Curator – Young Artist-syndrome”.

Managing and working with these projects have learnt me many things. Some things about project management in general. Some more specific. This is attempt to try to summaries my learnings.

I think it’s important to understand the process of the project. To understand the road between initial ideas and outcome. Especially working with crowdsourced projects where the vision only is a framework for the project. How do you describe a project that you know is gonna be different than you can think of? 2008, I was doing my first big project (The Photo Book about Sweden). The problem was that no pictures were sent to us. After some time of reflection we realized the problem. The BIG challenge was to tell someone to join a project, were the output decides by the input people gives. The more input (pictures), the bigger possibility to get better output (book/exhibition). The skills you have to make that process clear and understandable defines how big possibilities you will have to get people to submit to the project.


CORE PROCESSES, Eg. The Photo Book about Sweden.

1. A vision with the project incl. instructions for submissions.
2. Submissions, People sending in pictures (Crowdcasting).
3. Collected Submissions. Discussions about the pictures/themes/possibilities.
4. Creating a selection of pictures. Narrowing down.

The process are looking much like how the creative process often is described. With creation of ideas – ideation. (Phase 2). And the narrowing down process of selecting a concept or certain pictures. (Phase 3).



Let us take the Art Book: This Must Be The Place as an example. Trough the project we learnt that supporting structures are key to be able to save time and have overview on things. Handling a submission process where 300 artists are sending in over 2500 works. Having structure in creating that platform for making a good selection to a book where 8 people are in the process of deciding which photos will work in the book and overlooking the possibilities with the submitted photos. 43 artists were chosen for the project.


  • MEETING SUMMARIES stored online (we used a Google Doc), accessible to everyone in the project. Very brief summaries on what was decided and what was needed to do. Nothing bureaucratic, just something that’s easy to overlook and follow-up on.
  • CONTACTS DETAILS STORED IN ONE PLACE. The 43 artists wrote down contact details to themselves in a Google Forms with phone numbers, adresses, email, current city and so on. The information was stored in a Google Docs Speadsheet where all of the project team members had access to a synced and updated document. Formost it was important to easily find contact details if the production team of the book had questions.
  • CAPTIONS AND TRANSLATIONS STORED IN ONE PLACE. Captions to the images were uploaded by the 43 artists/photographers via Google Forms and stored in a Google Spreadsheet instead of letting everyone send in a separate mail on that. Giving translators access to that document would be a good way to have an overlook over the progress of translating the project.

#3 Think of formatting

Are submissions gonna be formatted or not. Compare The Photo Book about Sweden and The breakfast project. In the Breakfast project there is a clear frame where information is inputed. The photobook is an partly unformatted way (at least in an aesthetical way) of presenting photos. The theme provide some formatting though.

#4 Need to cluster in different ways to understand what something can be. In crowdsourced photo projects it’s hard to pre-determine the possibilities with the materal on beforehand. Therefore is key to allow the process to be flexible.

Some specific, some not

I don’t know anything about photography, but I do know something about crowdsourcing. Some of your points seem to be specific to the photography domain, in the sense that I don’t recognize them as something I have encountered before. One example is “formatted vs. unformatted”.

Other points seem to be generalizable to crowdsourcing in general. Your first point, for example - what you think of as process awareness I prefer to call project narrative. The purpose is the same: put yourself in the perspective of your participant and build them a story that will tell her what is happening and what her own role is in it. Once she knows the story and the role she plays in it, she will know what to do.

But why did you file this under social innovation, if I may ask?

Hello Alberto, you’re right about the category of it. Maybe I should change it… Need to add more insights, have everything written down but not that much written out and illustrated in a nice way.

When it comes to photo projects like this making a selection (or many selections or structure the information and photos in different ways) can highlight the content in so many different ways. Therefore it becomes key to look through projects others did, to explore and to see how to exhibit or how to present the thing you are working on in different ways.

interesting, interesting

Really fun to be talking to another person who’s done a crowdfunded, crowdsourced book! There aren’t that many of us out here!

My book is called The Future We Deserve. It’s 100 essays about the future by 100 people, GPL licensed, and produced via PediaPress, a really interesting German startup which produces books very efficiently from wikipages. I’m absolutely delighted with them, it’s a great piece of software.

EdgeRyders is very much the same kind of thinking, but now applied to the policy world. How, exactly, do we work together and think together to make a better course for government action to help all of us get to the lives we want?

Surely the crowd needs to act more often than once every four years to show its views…