Lerario Photos is a boutique photo agency and independent publisher that has adopted the social enterprise model. We are an disintermediated company: no one owns us and there are no middle people between you and us. This independence allows us to break with conventional business models, to remain objective, to not compromise, and to focus our efforts and resources only on stories and ideas that touch our heart.
When we founded Lerario Photos — in 2009, after 20+ years working in the international media industry — we wanted to create something sustainable and built on communitarian values, editorial transparency, and integrity.
We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel or disrupt anything. We wanted “only” to create accessible high-quality publications and products capable of delivering, beauty and awareness to our readers’ lives as well as of bringing value and benefit to the individuals or the communities we work with.
Having weathered and survived numerous changes in the industry, we knew the risks involved in similar ventures, especially in the today’s media landscape. So, since the very first beginning of this adventure, as we did not want to depend on the mainstream media’s publishing policies, we decided to take control of our entire production, from start to finish.
We neither wanted to adhere to the unimaginative narrative that is considered wow-worthy or significant in so many humanitarian related circles. Then, to protect the image of people who trust us, we have also decided to control how our images and publications are distributed: this means to refuse of being beholden to the endless rat race that is the marketing driven by social media’s algorithms.
Instead, we have decided to go with a hybrid business model which includes paid subscriptions, shoppable physical products, and paid custom services as well as high-quality free content available to anyone and sustained by like-minded sponsors and partners. This way we are able to fund our reportages, to sustain ourselves and to support our social projects. At the same time, we don’t exclude anybody and we can build a natural and larger pool of readers.
The social enterprise / Dos & Don’ts
Legally speaking, Lerario Photos Ltd is a London-based, family-owned social enterprise managed by its board: Claudio Maria Lerario, Andrea Lerario and Mattia Lerario. We have adopted a business model that allows us to sustain our social projects recognizing and pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission.
We are not a charity: we aim to compete in the market like any other small business and that we need to make the company commercially successful. We do pursue a profit and we work to ensure an appropriate living standard to ourselves and to all our contributors. But we are not consumed by the motive of personal gain. We are passionate about using our capabilities for achieving explicit social results and this motivates us as much, if not more, than the challenge of running a profitable business.
We don’t sell feel-good products: we don’t speculate. We are not another buy-my-product-and-donate company: we believe it is always wrong to exploit the “poors” for promotional purposes or to feed one’s ego.
We are not trying to grow a big enterprise: we are not building something to sell, we are not constrained by other people’s ideas. We are not forced into serving the interests of external shareholders.
We never ask blind money donations. This helps us to defend our independence, to keep administrative overheads low, to vet our supporters and to avoid any conflict of interest that could affect our work.