Article by Alex Garcia
I first met Mel Burford at the Los Angeles Times in 1994, when she hadn’t yet moved to the United States and was still involved in efforts to elevate photojournalism in her native New Zealand. Five years and many Ramen noodles later, she came to the U.S. as a student at Ohio University and then found work in the Chicago area with the Copley Newspapers chain. Later she joined and excelled at the Dallas Morning News. She has become an accomplished photojournalist with a Pulitzer Prize to her honors list, among significant awards from POYi and the NPPA Best of Photojournalism. She is now a New York-based freelancer and has joined together with 5 other photojournalists to form a photo collective, Prime Collective, similar to Luceo Images.
You’ve heard a lot about collectives lately, if you’re paying attention to a profession hungry for positive news about itself. What are the benefits of being in a collective for photographers? Is it an economic model that will save photojournalism? A vehicle for self-expression?
The Prime Collective is still in its infancy having just launched within the last two weeks. Other founding members are Dominic Bracco II, Brendan Hoffman, Charlie Mahoney, Lance Rosenfield, and Max Whittaker. Knowing Mel from her first forays to the U.S., I asked her to explain her vision for the collective in a “10 Questions” interview:
What does it mean to be a founding member of Prime?
It means that I’m part of a group of people who share a love for photography, for telling stories and for helping each other be better not only within the art of photography itself but also as business owners, as freelancers, as networkers.
We are six people who came together. I was invited in. I had been a freelancer for five months when I first heard about the opportunity to be a part of this new collective. At first I didn’t feel like I had a lot to offer as I’d only been a freelancer for a couple of months but at the same time, I had been a photojournalist working for newspapers for twenty years. And I had been trained in video from David Leeson at The Dallas Morning News. The newspaper taught all the photographers video and editing with Final Cut and I’m so incredibly thankful that I have those skills. So God bless the Dallas Morning News for that.
Most important for me was the respect for each other. Their work blows me away. This isn’t a plug! Their talent is incredible. And I suppose I was nervous that I wouldn’t be the right fit for them. I feel incredibly lucky that i was invited to be a part of this. We launched 1/11/11.