Pictures from a World War I Soldier


My friend, Dean Putney, has a Kickstarter in its last days. His great-grandfather served in the German army in the first World War, and an absurdly well-preserved treasure trove of photographs and stereographs — and the negatives! — were handed down through the family. Dean has made it a mission to preserve and present these unique images from the war and the early 1900s. He is creating a book with commentary.

Dean set out to raise a fairly large sum: $50,000 to hit a 1,000-copy order for the kind of printing he wanted to use. However, Dean has lots of friends, and is the head programmer guy at Boing Boing; I and many others backed and promoted the heck out of this great project. He raised the $50,000 in a few days and is dollars away from $100,000 as I write this. (As a result, he’s been able to use more expensive printing as well.)

One of Dean’s neat ideas was to create a sense of scarcity. If you wanted a print copy of the book, PDF, and digital downloads, he set three contribution levels: super early bird special, early bird special, and a bundle. Super early bird was $70, limited to 100 backers; early bird was $75, limited to 300 backers; and the book, digital stuff, and an 11-by-14–inch print for $89 with unlimited backers. (Shipping in the United States was included in all of those.)

This was a great way to build early buzz through a slight discount: both early-bird categories sold out quickly. During the campaign, it seems he discovered more people wanted just the book without the print; he added another $75 category, which 82 more backers signed up for. (218 people went for the $89 bundle.)

The images remain protected by copyright because they were unpublished until now. However, Dean is a true believer in open culture, and has licensed the image for non-commercial, non-modified use with attribution (CC BY-NC-ND license). The “non-commercial” part sometimes causes confusion, and Dean specifically says that the images can be used in a “blog, news article,” or for personal use.

Amazingly, Dean has just sent the book off to the printer, even before the project is done, and they are on target to deliver before the end of the year. 

Dean will be a future guest on the show to discuss the project, progress, and his relative’s photographs. 

Update: The campaign finished with over $113,000 in pledges.