Nikon Europe is the main sponsor of the photo agency, NOOR. Evelien Kunst, its managing director, spoke to us recently about their work and Nikon’s role in the agency.
Can you explain what NOOR is and how it works?
NOOR is an Arabic word meaning ‘light’, which sums up very neatly what our photo agency is all about. Our aim is to shine a light on specific social issues we care about and to educate our audience by initiating and producing specific photojournalistic projects. To do this we get help from publications, NGOs and foundations, and sponsor partners such as Nikon. We also get financial support from grants and subsidies.
What kind of projects does Nikon help NOOR develop?
We put together regular group projects which, depending on the subject, can involve a number of our photographers covering the topic from different angles. Without Nikon’s financial support these projects just wouldn’t happen. For example, Climate Change, back in 2009-2010, was created to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen at the time.
There was the Brazil by NOOR group project in 2011 and 2012, which looked at the social and economic transition happening in that country from a variety of perspectives. Our next group project will be announced soon, so watch this space. Nikon also helps us to support new photography talent. So together we also organize an annual NOOR-Nikon Masterclasses in Documentary Photography (Lagos 2009, Saint Petersburg 2010, Bucharest 2011, Cape Town 2012 and Tunis 2013). These masterclasses can really help nurture a photographer’s development.
How do you choose the photographers you represent?
It’s important to understand that the agency is owned by the photographers. We currently represent ten photographers and we want to keep the group small because it’s more manageable. As you might understand the decision-making process is rather different if you are co-owning with ten photographers or with twenty photographers. Any new members first of all have to be very good photographers with the same ethical approach towards story telling. Then we find it important that a new member can add something new to the group. Finally we have to get along, that’s vital as we are running a business together too.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into documentary photography?
Follow your heart and work on stories that you are passionate about. Get up early in the morning and work very, very hard, since there is a lot of competition. And don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is not clear. Especially if it is about contracts related to licensing fees or assignments. Most photographers get so excited that their work is getting published that they don’t read a contract.
To find out more about published work or news, follow the NOOR news blog.