A new platform for crowdfunded photojournalism which aims to build a community around projects has received more than $20,000 in backing, just over a week since it went live.

Emphas.is works by inviting story proposals and an expenses budget estimate from professional photojournalists, to be reviewed by a board of advisers working against a set list of criteria.

Individuals can then make a contribution to approved projects, giving them access to a 'making-of' zone, where photojournalists communicate with their 'backers' through blogging, video and pictures as well as directly.

After going live earlier this month with nine projects, the site reported thousands of dollars in backing just days in, reaching $21,000 at the end of last week.

Each project is given a deadline by when 100 per cent of funding must have been raised. If the target is not reached then all contributions will be returned to the backers, the site says.

Where targets are met the funds are transferred to the journalist, with 15 per cent kept by Emphas.is.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk Karim Ben Khelifa, co-founder and CEO of Emphas.is, said the aim of the site is to get journalists out on the road "where they belong".

"We all came to a point where we realised the media would not produce most of the stories we wanted to do and we realised also that we had more experience at that point than we had ten years ago, but most likely we also had less work. So we decided we would try either to find a solution or move on with our life and the solution came as trying to cut the middle man."

He added that the production platform is about sharing the experience of photojournalists, and potentially writers in the future, rather than focusing on the end product.

"The end product can still find a lot of distribution but it has never been monetised to give you an experience from the ground. Also social media really allows this today, and when you look at studies on how people consume media today it's going definitely there.

"So now we're starting with visual journalism. A photograph can be understood from all sides of the world – we'll be English based but we want to reach out to as many people as we can in different countries.

"It is not just about attempting to find the funding for projects but what we want to do is create people around those issues that journalists create, to take them as a channel, as sources of information from the ground.

"You can click on someone, discover who he is, get on the road with him, get to interact with him if there's something you don't understand, you can ask a question and a journalist is there to reply to you, to directly interact with you."

He added that the site also helps when it comes to pitching stories and projects to media companies, by illustrating the public support behind an idea.

"It changes the balance because a photo editor or a magazine can assess the interest of the public in a story, if people want it then they find it very interesting.

"We limit the media participation [in backing] to 50 per cent, because while your story will be very attractive to the media we believe that tomorrow you can call back your public and say I'm coming out with a book, or I'm doing an exhibition, or I'm doing another part of this project, and you can call them back. It is really harder to call the media back.

"For me the future lies in a relationship you have directly with your public, you need to feed them, you need to give them reach to the insides of what you're covering.

"I think this is where it is really an innovation because you cut the middle man and you create journalists on their own."

Emphas.is claims to have reached an agreement with Reporters Without Borders and Escapade Insurances in Canada to offer insurance plans to participating photojournalists.

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