Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reaching Out - The Importance of Community

Who are you going to for advice?

Do you often wish you had the same sense of community that you had in college? That wonderful ability to wander from studio to studio and discuss art...or just hang out?

The hardest part of being a working artist (or other independant creative) is the sense of isolation from the rest of the world. That feeling of being a "lone wolf" may not be the best thing to keep you moving forward in your career. I know with Facebook and other online social sites we can connect digitally, but I've found it's not the same as that in-person connection.

A few years ago, I started a photo-critique group which met every month or so at my home. The group started when I returned from Photo Lucida in Oregon and emailed every participant from the So Cal area. It was a very good experience, lasted for a good 3-4 years and brought me a much larger group of friends and colleagues. Like most organized activities, it languished when I got too busy to dedicate more time. But, while it was going, I found it a good nudge to make sure I kept making images. I also found the critiques extremely helpful when trying to edit my own work.

In New York there's The NY PhotoGroup Salon which meets the third Wednesday of every month and reviews the work of a rotating group of photographers. It started in one of the founding member's studios...apparently this was back in the day when the studio had a chef who made amazing food for the meetings...and now meets at the SoHo Photo Gallery. I heard about it through Bill Westheimer an inventive photographer I met years ago at Photo Lucida.

There was an interesting article in the NY Times that Dan Shepard (see post from 6.28.12) brought to my attention on Photo Collectives which discussed a variety of approaches, everything from groups that are fully enmeshed both financially and creatively, to those that work much more informally. The article stated that this has been a natural response on the part of photographers to give themselves a bigger voice in the world.

In my conversation with Dan he talked about creating a photo-collective and described his idea of the perfect collective. He felt the biggest issue is really the amount of pre-planning that's involved - since it's very important to discuss and plan out what the goals and vision of a group would be.  While it's great to have a group of people to share expenses with,  it seemed to him that the format also gives the possibility to have a bigger voice on topics they feel are important.  The big issue is really making sure you have a group of people who are committed to the collective, even when it's not their specific work that's being shown. It's not enough to just need to really be a part of it.

I'd like to start my critique group back up - but more than that, I'd like to find a group of like-minded individuals would be oriented to the business end of photography - really getting careers going. I'd want to be able to sit down and define our goals, be very hard-headed about our time and see if using the power of the group could work for me.

What kind of a community are you going to start?

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