I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER.
–Groucho Marx, Groucho and Me
The internet is a powerful tool for bringing people together. Sometimes I think it may be too powerful. Let me explain.
I had two shoots yesterday (pictures forthcoming) that were absolutely amazing. One of them was a collaboration with a flow friend that was probably half improvisation, the other was a collaboration with a make-up artist and a model to shoot an idea that I’ve had for years out of my head. They were great fun, we laughed all the way through, the pictures I’ve worked on have been impressive and I would work with all these people again in a heartbeat.
But to be honest, the best part was the conversation. Not just laughing with a friend and making new ones, but snarking about a Facebook group we’re all in eccentric orbits around. That on top of everything else was worth a fortune and was a tremendous relief.
I like groups mostly. I like meeting people and sharing interests and discovering some new thing or another. Hell, that’s how I’ve fallen in to so many different scenes and hobbies since I moved to Seattle: samba, burlesque, fire spinning, toy photography, gaming… the list goes on. I like that there’s a social structure I can take part in when I want and can (usually) take time off when and if I need it without it becoming A Thing. And online the conversation ebbs and flows and you jump on and off as you’re interested. They’re great!
But I get frustrated when the group feels limiting. Especially in creative groups where the dominant conversation seems to be how everything is swell and golly where did people get their ideas. Creative groups where styles seem static. Now, I don’t want to be a jerk, I don’t want to make it personal, but I do want to say we can do better. More than this. More than the same. That we can flip the tropes and twist the cliches and maybe try to do more and better, right? Maybe?
It reminds me of some of my first encounters with deep geek culture online in the early days of the Internet. Where the thrill of finding others like you was quickly tempered by the schisms of disagreement and, in the name of civility, we will all agree that we like everything. EVERYTHING!
I tend to leave because I can’t shake the feeling that I’m the only one raising even a tiny fuss. Or, more recently, asked to leave because I rocked the boat and challenged some really silly ideas (a photo of a Lego cat is not animal photography! Ahem).
So this group we’re all in is devoted to open shoots and TFP (Trade For Print) exchanges so people can build their portfolios. We’re all in it for similar reasons at different parts of the process.
But the group feels monotonous. It’s filled with the same calls for boudoir shoots. Lots of pictures of women on beaches looking out at the water with bored expressions. A couple of weeks ago when someone posted a picture of a “milk bath” shoot (bath tub filled with milk or cloudy liquid, usually with flower petals or glitter for contrast), there was a run on that style and it seemed like every other day another photographer posted their take on the subject, which never seemed too different from the previous picture.
Was it me?
So to have three conversations, all of them at one point or another filled with laughter at the expense of the tedium of the group was so god damned reaffirming. What, another picture of a girl in a bikini on a motorcycle? Wait, it was a milk bath but with glitter! Goddammit, why was I not sitting down?! No wait, it’s a milk bath on a beach with a motorcycle… perfect!
I’m not keen to join online groups anymore. I don’t like that feeling of isolation in the face of unyielding and unchanging enthusiasm. I want to find the other malcontents and the weirdos and people with darker ideas and work with them in the face of homogeny.
So those shoots? Well I’ll be a little less involved in the day to day “activity” of the group, but I found a few more freaks and a few more oddballs, so I’ll chalk it up as a win.
Sometimes the best thing isn’t changing a group from the inside or reinventing the wheel. It’s just finding out you’re not alone with your opinions. That’s how you find real collaborators.