Building a Community in Photography
I have been teaching photography on the community level for many years. I have learned that in sharing foundation level skills and understanding, I am reminded of how much about photography I have relegated to the back burner, getting into a rut & becoming complacent. In awakening to the potential of the creative aspects of technique in photography, my appreciation and vision grow for the medium. Sharing my knowledge and experience reminds me of the many different ways of seeing, inspires others and in turn, inspires me!
I’ve been on both sides this summer, studying with photographers and teaching my own students. It’s like something huge “clicked”. Teaching became really personal to me. Instead of being didactic, I allowed my lessons to be flexible. If I didn’t cover all the material…well there was always the next class. The classes were not so much about my lesson plans as the students experiences. I created for class topics that I was exploring, thereby challenging my own process. Teaching online and the preparation involved also has a silver lining for the students - online critique. Joint critique is where the focus is on helping each other. For example, often we attach importance to images that are not successful, but there is an emotional connection that clouds our objectivity. Students presenting work have a captive audience. The other students critiquing their colleague’s work do so in a very supportive manner. This sharing of images also teaches ways of seeing another’s story and point of view. How gratifying it was to witness this.
A photo community is created on the basis of this mutual interest and trust.
Once the class sessions ended, there was the desire of the students to continue to share works online and to meet bimonthly. In a class that practiced in the field together, the friendships grew both nurturing and deep. Plans to continue shooting together in the future were made. Again, the community bonded. My perspective was one of gratification in the building of lasting relationships through photography.
It is my experience we can never get enough feedback nor do we do grow in a vacuum. Photography is a perfect medium in terms of expression and growth. It offers people to raise a voice previously unheard. One student, upon having her first ever image accepted into a show remarked: “I never thought of myself as an ‘artist’, but I am rethinking how I think of myself and my love of photos. Thank you!”
There are many organizations that offer the opportunity to share in a photographic community. One such is Wickford Art Association’s photo arts group, meeting bi-monthly – sharing images through the great platform of Zoom (I will be the first moderator!) and continuing their outdoor shooting as long as the weather holds. Other local organizations are the Newport Photo Guild, South County Art Association’s photo group, and the Photographic Society of RI. All of these group offer the camaraderie of those sharing in the same passion and the opportunity to learn.
So, go out and shoot with a friend, or a group of friends. Learn new things and have fun in the process. The connecting of like-minded people is a beautiful thing to be a part of and to witness. My experiences this summer have been about learning alongside my students. This sharing of vision through my love of teaching has opened new doors in my own artistic journey. As I continue my own growth of vision and connectedness, my intention is to offer the lessons I am learning in future class and workshop settings.