We are a boutique photo agency and an independent publisher — founded in 2008 by visual storyteller Claudio Maria Lerario — whose essence is a deep love for cultural and biological diversity in all its forms.
What we do
We create books, artworks and a digest devoted to represent the concatenation, the consolidation and the integration of our differences across distinct conditions, cultures, beliefs, generations, and latitudes.
Our work is people-centered, with a focus on long-term, in-depth, collaborative portraiture projects that memorialize and celebrate the superstars of the everyday: the underserved, the socially ignored, the culturally overlooked, those who — trying to make the best of their and others’ lives — struggle to defend human dignity, the most powerful instrument with which to progress both on an individual and on a collective level.
We are multi-disciplinary
As photographers, we operate at diverse latitudes to produce reportages that revolve around the nature of humanity’s social, educational, and economic challenges.
As designers and publishers, we manage most projects from start to finish, handling all of the necessary details to transform our photographic works in the best publications (print, digital, online) we possibly can.
For whom we work
Our publications and artworks are geared toward curious humans, and change-makers at heart, who are interested in the well-being of the community they live in but who are also capable of feeling a natural empathy toward the Other and the Unknown.
However, as the subjects we’re exploring are relevant to everyone and we don’t want anyone to be excluded from their discussion (true dialogue is not talking only to people who think it like us), we appeal to a much broader group of people including all those who care about good photography, inspiring writing, and off-the-beaten-track stories.
Social projects / Community programs
As a social enterprise, we invest a large part of the revenues — generated through the sale of our publications and artworks — to actively sustain small communities living in underserved areas of the world.
We develop true partnerships with local organizations and — working side by side with the community’s members — we meet their communication needs by providing high-quality services that otherwise are not available or that they could never afford to pay for.
Code of conduct
1. Despite being a small business, when working on projects for underserved communities and/or underprivileged people, our services are totally free for those who benefit from our work: we cover all the administrative and operational costs.
2. We try always to sustain the projects through our business activities and products sales. In some cases — which regard few specific and bigger projects — we may use crowdfunding and/or some forms of support from our sponsors.
3. We refuse to engage in any relationship that will lead to a dependency tie-up: our support is only temporarily and sized on measurable goals. We support projects because they are based on a good idea, not because the people are “poor”.
Custom works / Clients
Besides working on our own projects, we collaborate with a number of companies and organizations from around the globe to envision new ideas that can be useful vehicles for driving awareness of cause-based initiatives.
Technically, we have the experience and the expertise to manage everything in-house — content curation, photography, design, coding, etc — from start to finish. This gives a solid foundation to our projects and helps maintain low production costs without sacrificing quality.
Being a small team, every year we choose only a limited number of projects prioritizing those that reflect our world view and have the capability to convey a message that goes far beyond the impulse of merely trying to please the public or the clients.
Partial client list
We have been working in the international publishing industry for 25+ years now and we have managed dozens of high-end storytelling projects in five continents. Among others, we’ve produced essays and publications for Ricordi, Prada, Simrad, Medusa Films, Gucci, Unipol Group, Dolce & Gabbana, Mondadori, Ethiopian Airlines, Leo Burnett, Deutsche Bank, Mursia, Lufthansa, Condé Nast, Christiania Bank, EU, Greenpeace, UN, Unesco and two Royal Houses (England and Norway) as well as many NGOs, media companies, museums, and public institutions.
Organization / Business model
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 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.
Dos & Don’ts
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.
Mission / Motivations
Basically, we aim to foster a sense of community by exploring common grounds and differences through images — that are easily understood in all parts of the world — and words that borrow a lot from literature, poetry, anthropology, economics, sociology and psychology as well as neuroscience and evolutionary biology.
We want also to address the crisis of connection we are living in and to dissuade the notion that humans need walls, fences or borders of any kind to feel protected and safe. Especially nowadays, despite the endless opportunities available today to share knowledge and learn from others, there seems to be an increasing lack of consensus and understanding of humanity’s common interests as well as of human difference.
The unfortunate result is that humans still build stereotypes and binaries that go further to create anachronistic divisions. Actually the Other has been supplanted by the Uniform and this impedes the capacity for mutual understanding thus constraining the creation of quality relationships.
Everything we publish is an act of defiance against this worrying trend. And we perfectly know this is nothing new or revolutionary: human sciences and arts have for centuries pinpointed how human beings are naturally empathic, social and cooperative. And we also know that there are other similar projects out there (please note that, as we believe in cooperation over competition, the best ones are covered in-depth and showcased in our newsletter).
Nevertheless, this is our small but hopefully significant contribution to building a shared space between distant worlds, to provoke, to question, to shed light on the status quo, to move over the line of conformity in the current social networking age and to embrace a global mindset.
By distributing all this with every available medium we hope to connect with those hungry for ideas about how to take action for repairing that missing link of humanity that humans ought to show one another. We believe this is the only way to build a circle of safety, inside our many tribes, where we feel like we belong.
Meet the team
Lerario Photos was created by Claudio Maria Lerario, an Italian-born photographer in activity since 1992 whose career spans from journalism to editorial and advertising, with images published and used in all fields, from social reportages to film, television, marine sports and high fashion | the full story
Claudio’s work is supported by Elisa Amati (photographer), Loana Corraini (writer), Andrea Lerario (interactive projects), Mattia Lerario (project manager), Seblewongel Getachew (anthropologist), Ubaldo Samuelli (designer), Marco Tardio (travel designer), Concetta Ferrario (typographer and designer), and Matteo Sormani (exhibits and events).
This small team collaborates with a group of talented individuals coming from different countries and made up of photojournalists, writers, researchers, and explorers of all kinds.
As a social enterprise, we share our expertise and experience — built in 20+ years working for the international publishing industry — with small communities living in underserved areas of the world.