Pictory on Hiatus

In the summer of 2009, I invited smart friends over for home-cooked dinner every Tuesday night, in exchange for feedback on a new project I was incredibly passionate about. This photo storytelling site came out of the generosity of this incredible SF design/journalism community, inspiration from the Alan Taylor’s work at the Big Picture Blog and storytelling giants like Studs Terkel and Ira Glass, and countless re-workings of the design alone at my computer. I launched in December 2009 to incredibly kind press and encouragement.

I have loved reading the stories. Your stories. I cried my eyes out at my keyboard countless times, when strangers were willing to share beautiful photo accounts of losing young wives to cancer and supporting friends through the darkest of times and back out again and the simple concept of “adult issues.” (There I go crying at my keyboard again.) They weren’t all sad. Some were fun or funny or informative or all of the above. Some changed my perspective and priorities in life. All of them helped me grow up and understand the world, especially while I had one of my hardest years in 2010.

I am overwhelmed with appreciation for everyone who contributed to Pictory. In addition to photo story submissions, dozens of the best designers in the business did beautiful, innovative pro-bono work for showcases (even the how it works page was lovely, thanks to Paul Octavious). My brother David Brunow proofread the showcases for typos or grammatical errors. The killer in-house marketing team at Levi’s made my online advertising dreams come true by being the first sponsor to support my experimental model of online advertising, shown in the “Secrets of Inspiring Women” showcase. Jim Coudal supported Pictory through Deck sponsorship of the tumblr blog.

Around the time I launched Pictory, I sat down for a beer with my first boss, in town from Kansas. He congratulated me on my new projects, but gently reminded me “I know you, and you’re happiest when you’re designing.” He wasn’t entirely right. While running Pictory, I fell in love with writing and editing. But the day-to-day pitching and PR chasing and selling wore me down quickly. As I was offered more and more interesting freelance design projects related to journalism and photography, it became all too tempting to just be the “creative one” again, and to leave the business development to someone else.

So that’s where I am now. Designing again, and really happy. I’ve split my time for years now, between freelance design and editorial work, my creative retreat series for photographers, Phoot Camp, the sister retreat for food leaders, Eat Retreat, and Pictory. We’ve hit on something special with the camps — we’re changing lives on a very small, human scale, and it’s incredibly rewarding. My goal over the next few years is to bring the bonding and inspiration that happens on these campgrounds to a larger, less exclusive community. I’ll be doing that for Phoot Camp and watching my good friend and Eat Retreat co-founder Kathryn Tomajan do the same for Eat Retreat. (I’m also excited to say that Eat Retreat alum and friend Fiona Tang will be consulting with me on the community/marketing side of Phoot Camp through her new agency Signal Camp.)

In all this excitement, Pictory has become an untended garden. I haven’t posted to this main site or the blog in months. And while the site was built like a ton of bricks (thanks Jeff Croft and Django) on great servers (thanks MediaTemple), it’s starting to show the wear and tear of years without design updates, backend maintenance, or framework upgrades. It’s time to put it aside.

As of today Pictory will go on hiatus. The showcase archives and the companion blog will remain up for the foreseeable future, but submissions to the main site will close now. There’s always a chance that I’ll do something exciting like a book, or prints, or something physical from the best of Pictory, and you can increase that chance if you tell me you want it here. If you’re looking for somewhere new to contribute work, I recommend Cowbird as a online documentary project with a similar spirit.

In closing: thank you. So many people helped me make this thing I will always be so proud of, and that has been such a gift. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I think it’s my turn to help other people do that now.