Self photo of Saanich's Dion Manastyrski

Saanich photographer brings dream to reality with crowdfunding

Dion Manastyrski raises $40,000 through Indiegogo.com for barn photography book, Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change

Photographer Dion Manastyrski has some advice for anyone considering using crowdfunding for a project.

Firstly, be well prepared to expand beyond the supportive reach of your friends and family, he says, because it’s tough going once you reach out to the general public.

“I’ve read warnings about how it’s not easy, it’s definitely difficult if you want to do anything more than a small amount,” Manastyrski says.

Manastyrski, who lives near Uptown in Saanich, is now launching the print production of his first book, a hardcover photo essay called Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change, thanks to a successful $41,000 crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo.com. The proceeds exceeded his original goal by about 10 per cent.

“One thing I learned is that anyone attempting crowdfunding absolutely has to have a good presentation of their project, and some appeal. And you have to let people know a little bit about you,” he added.

It took 10 years for Manastyrski to accumulate the photos and interviews for his book, which focuses on abandoned homes, barns and schoolhouses dating back 100 years in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Manastyrski grew up in Saskatchewan but moved locally for the University of Victoria and stayed as a forest biology researcher with Natural Resources Canada at the Pacific Forestry Centre.

Taking photos was part of his work which developed into a hobby. His annual visits with family in Saskatchewan doubled as photography trips, and he sometimes spent days seeking the right light to capture an old barn.  Now retired, he’s focused on filling the book’s pre-orders, which should be out by January, if not earlier. Manastyrski chose to “independently publish” the book through Friesens Book Division in Manitoba.

“It costs a lot to print in Canada but I really wanted to, and it’s a high-quality printer, which I really wanted.”

The quality of the production means it will be at least $50 for the book and more than $70 to cover shipping.

Those who pre-ordered the book with shipping earned a discount, a common trend with crowd funding.

“I sold the shipped books at $65 which is at least eight to 10 dollars less,” Manastyrski said.

(Photo below: Dion Manastyrski)

He finished compiling the book’s material with a four-month road trip this summer, his eighth and final road trip throughout Saskatachewan and Manitoba over the last 10 years. He also interviewed 70 people in total including retired farmers, former teachers of one-room schools and other longstanding community members to bring background context to the photos.

“The words of the people it tells a story of the past Prairie life. Even though I grew up on a farm and knew about life there, I was still surprised to learn what it was like there before electricity, they grew their own food and preserved it, they lived without refrigeration and heated their     homes,” Manastyrski said.

As the reader delves deep into the Prairie Sunset, the book becomes a story of self efficiency, Manastyrski said.

“The community among the people was strong, they worked together a lot, and helped each other out, the further back you go the more obvious it was there was hardships. It was extremely difficult when they started out, they had a chunk of land and a box of tools.”

See the a preview of the book at prairiesunset.ca.

reporter@saanichnews.com