In 2016, Creative and Marketing Consultant Gina Martin founded The Bob and Diane Fund in memory of her mother and father, who, in addition to 50 years of marriage, shared a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s. Each year, the non-profit gives a $5,000 grant to support visual storytelling about Alzheimer’s and Dementia. This June, as part of the 12th annual Photoville Festival in Brooklyn, New York, The Bob and Diane Fund and its first seven grant winners will present “Losing Self,” an inaugural group showing this powerful body of stories about humanity, survival, and loss. The festival dates are June 3rd-18th.
Gina comes to Wonderful Machine after over two decades at National Geographic, where she represented photographers’ work in the editorial market worldwide. She is active in the larger photo community by attending photo festivals, providing portfolio reviews, judging photo contests, and mentoring emerging photographers.
We reached out to Gina to hear more about The Bob and Diane Fund, the Photoville exhibition, and her life outside of Wonderful Machine.
Q. You speak of Alzheimer’s and dementia as diseases that have been “in the shadows for far too long.” As a daughter of Alzheimer’s and an advocate, what has kept these diseases in the shadows? Is it indifference, misconceptions, funding, or something else? In the same capacity, what needs to be first understood about Alzheimer’s and dementia for hearts to begin to change?
First – I am going to use the word “dementia” to cover all forms for this interview. Dementia has not been talked about as much as cancer or other known diseases. There has always been a shame or a hush-hush associated with it. Those who have not experienced dementia in their family may see it as only memory loss or an old age illness and that it may not be as important or urgent to support. However, it is so much more than forgetting someone’s name and we need to change that misconception. I believe that visual storytelling can change that and bring more awareness, understanding and empathy to dementia.
Q. How did The Bob and Diane Fund become involved in Photoville this year?
This is the first time the BDF will be exhibited privately or publicly. An exhibition has been a huge goal of mine. In fact, the founders of Photoville have asked me to apply for a few years now, but I have never quite had the wherewithal to produce the show. However, this year, one of our Board Members who has experience with producing a Photoville exhibit, applied on the fund’s behalf.
Q. How was it decided to have a group show, and not a solo exhibition for just one of the grant winners? Has the work ever been displayed publicly or privately in one place before?
We decided on an X-Cross / 8-sided banner (each side is 58” x 58”). This was a perfect option for us since we had 7 grantees and then could talk about the fund on the 8th side. I am so thrilled to see all 7 grantees work shown together for the first time.
Q. What has the selection process been like for The Bob and Diane Fund grant winners? Has there been something about a particular project each year that signified a clear winner? If so, is it a recurring theme, or has the vision or concept of the fund changed at all with its winners?
Our yearly application process only requests that the project be still images and related to dementia. There is no specific theme or other requirement. Projects that make the first cut should at least tell a story. Once we narrow down the selection, then we really look at the photography and editing. Each year can be a different take on dementia or the caregiver – we really look at the level of photography and storytelling.
Q. For the photo grant submissions that have fallen short, is there a common theme to what has been missed? If so, is it a matter of idea, execution/delivery, or something else?
This depends on if it did not pass the first round or if it made it to the top 5. If it did not make the first round, then the photography or cohesiveness was not there. If it made the final round it could be ONE thing, like one image that should have been edited out or including one b/w with all color images. Photographers really need to look at their edit and sequence of their project. We have true industry professionals judging the submissions and when it is 5 VERY strong projects at the end, the tiniest error could make the difference.
Q. Have you been surprised by any of the photo grant submissions you’ve received? Is there something you’ve been hoping to see captured or represented and haven’t?
Every year I am always blown away by the variety and caliber of work. The only work I have not really seen is the science and research side of dementia. However, I am not sure if that could be photographed as well as the person living with it or the caregiver. I would be curious to see it though.
Q. Do all photographs tell a visual story? Does photography have an edge over other visual arts toward this end in the context of advocacy?
I’m not sure if all photographs can tell a story. A VERY strong single image or a set of images can. I do believe strongly that visual storytelling can bring awareness and understanding. Working for National Geographic for 21 years, I have seen first hand how images can change perception and policy. As I stated before, changing perception leads to empathy, which leads to supporting a cause, which leads to more financial funding and finally and hopefully – a cure.
Q. Beyond The Bob and Diane Fund, how do you know when a photo is exceptional?
When it touches you. When it moves you. Makes you stop and think.
Q. What do you need to see or feel to buy a photo book? What was the first photo book or print you bought, or which was the first you bought that really meant something?
One of the first photo books I bought was an Annie Leibovitz book of her celebrity work. I loved her creativity and how she brought their personalities to life. My style and taste of photography has changed so much over the years and I have such a wide variety of photography books and prints today. Buying books today I tend to lean to more boutique-style books. Sometimes it is the feel or the creative making of the book that makes me buy it. I am much more thoughtful in my purchases today. With over 950 photography books and 250 photography prints, I am short on space and storage and only purchase it if it touches me and I want to see it every day.
Q. Was there a clear moment when you realized that you really believed in the photographic art form? If so, has it changed over the years? What makes you still believe in the form and its capacities, or gives you hope?
I love photography and probably always will. Obviously photography and the technology side of it has changed over the years, but so has the business-side of it. There are so many photographers out there today and it is very difficult to make a living at it. The caliber and competition is brutal. However, as someone who appreciates and collects photography I love the discovery side of it. Discovering emerging photographers and watching them grow and finding their voice is beautiful.
Q. Where has The Bob and Diane Fund succeeded where other dementia non-profits have not? Moving forward, where could The Bob and Diane Fund be stronger?
The Bob and Diane Fund is the only grant giving organization that supports photographers on a very specific topic – Dementia. Because of this, we have been very fortunate to receive wonderful support and press throughout the world. Moving forward, I would like to increase the yearly grant to more than $5,000 USD. I want to support emerging photographers to begin work on dementia, not just existing projects.
Q. What are your role and responsibilities at Wonderful Machine?
I am a creative and marketing consultant for photographers, working with a photographer anywhere from 1-6 months. This can be creatively, going through their website, seeing what is missing from it and how they can fill those holes or editing their website images. The other is with marketing. I will work with a photographer and discuss what kind of client they want to work with (editorial or commercial). We make a list of clients they would love to work with and I research those clients and find the right contact person and email the client on behalf of the photographer.
Read more about The Bob and Diane Fund on its website.
Stay tuned to learn more about the team and their lives outside of Wonderful Machine!