Interview with Jeffrey Kerekes - Founder & Photographer at I Love New Heaven

Jeffrey Kerekes
I Love New Heaven was launched in 2012 as a collaboration between independent New Haven photographers Jeffrey Kerekes and Chris Randall who share a passion for documenting New Haven, Connecticut. The mission of I LOVE NEW HAVEN is to promote community engagement and civic pride through photographing the people, places and things of New Haven. 

Could you please briefly tell when did you create your community media? Did you do it alone? Who is in your team now?
We started I Love New Heaven in September 2012.  I started it with a neighbor and fellow photographer Chris Randall.  We now have eight active photographers and, small number of former contributors, and have had a lot of contributions from the community at large – perhaps 100+ others.

Did you have any funding at the start of creation? What was the amount of it?
We had no funding from outside sources.  We chose to keep this project as low cost as possible.  We pay for only the domain name.  We chose to host the site on Blogger (a google product) because it was free, relatively easy to use for people unfamiliar with publishing platforms and if we choose to end the project, the site can stay available without continued funding.

What is the amount of funding now? Who are the donors?
We have chosen not to get outside funding and maintain this as a volunteer project.  Pursuing funding would be a full time endeavor and we wanted to focus our efforts on creating content.

Do you have salaries? Is that your only work or it is more like your hobby? 
More of a hobby.  Some of the photographers have found jobs by being positively associated with this project.

What is an approximate amount you spend for your media in a month?
Zero.  We spend about $30USD/year on domain names.

What are you goals for development of your media? 
We want to continue to obtain new visitors to our site.  We additionally desire to cover more underserved areas of our city to be more holistic and inclusive.

Does your media earn any money from advertisement or smth else?
No.  We thought about doing so.  One of our photographers sells calendars, prints and a book all directly related to the project. 

Can you call yourself an independent media?
Yes.  Calling oneself a Photojournalist where we are located is perfectly legal and does not require special credentials, membership, or legal/governmental accreditation.

What are the difficulties in your work? 
We publish five days a week and this is a lot of work for a fully volunteer initiative.  We have difficulties with some photographers posting as promised and with some people being able to complete multiple steps of our publishing process – our website, social media etc…  This requires more follow up on the part of the founders.  Perhaps by having paid staff, we could have higher demands on them for completing these steps.

And maybe you could give some advice for those Ukrainians who are going to start their own community media and don’t know where to start and where to get funding from. 
People doing similar projects around where I am are trying a lot of different options.  Some are doing a print version of their work on a semi regular basis so as to sell advertising space in a printed magazine.  As I mentioned, my colleague is selling prints, calendars and a book.  I am not able to speak to how profitable those initiatives are. 

Interviews were conducted under the Project "Fostering Civic Journalism in Ukrainian's Regions", supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. government.