Recently I met Colin Westerbeck, the author of “Bystander: A History of Street Photography” and he shared some great stories with me. One of the stories he shared was the great friendship that Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz shared. They would hang out a ton, go shooting, eat with one another, and critique one anothers’ work at each others’ houses.
When it comes to street photography, I personally like to shoot with other people. Although you probably get the “best” photographs when going by yourself, going along with a buddy or a couple of friends is a great way to stay motivated, have fun, and still get some great shots. Imagine like having a gym-buddy (they will get your ass out of bed to go workout). Same thing with having street photography buddies (they get your ass off the computer at home and go out and hit the streets).
For this blog post I will describe how you can start your own street photography community, and the benefits that it will bring you!
Why is it important to be a part of the street photography community? What I have learned in sociology is that humans are naturally social beings. We crave attention and interaction with one another, and we depend on one another to help support us.
In street photography, we need constant help and support. If there was no street photography community, who could we ever show our photographs to and get honest feedback and critique- and advice to help us become better street photographers?
There are many great online street photography collectives, Flickr groups, Facebook groups, forums, etc but I would argue that the best street photography community to be a part of is an in-person community.
Why is that?
Although the internet is a great place to learn street photography and also get helpful feedback and critique, nothing ever beats face-to-face human interaction.
When people ask me to review their portfolio, I am always reluctant to do it over the internet because I know I won’t be able to do it proper justice. I am constantly distracted with emails, Facebook messages, Flickr messages, blogs, tweets, and the internet in general.
Rather, when meeting in-person, I can sit down next to the person face-to-face and have a conversation with them- and focus on reviewing/critiquing their work.
When critiquing on the internet (I am guilty of this as well) we give generic feedback/comments such as, “Nice shot!” or “I like the light” or “Great tones!”. Such comments never help photographers, as it doesn’t give meaningful critique on how to do better.
When getting a critique in-person, you can see the people’s expressions in their face when looking at your images (you can see people get excited when they see a good image) or see which images may be uninteresting (they will quickly skip them). Also by having an in-person critique, the person can easily point to things in the image that work/don’t work – and you can have an extended (and non-interrupted) opportunity to give feedback.
Shooting with friends
(Above footage from my recent London Street Photography Workshop with Charlie Kirk). See upcoming street photography workshop with Charlie Kirk and Fabrizio Q in London).
Not only that, but I love to shoot street photography with my friends. Although there are many merits for shooting street photography by yourself (it is much more zen, you don’t get distracted, you focus on the photography, other people in the group don’t get the same photos you do, and so on) I prefer to shoot alongside my friends.
Why do you ask? I myself am a very social person, and I love being constantly around my friends and people I admire. When shooting on the streets with my friends, I feel less self-concious and more courageous when shooting – and it is also just a nice opportunity to spend time with people. As much as I love street photography, I love chatting and laughing with my friends, sitting down and grabbing coffee or ice-cream in-between shooting, and eating lunch and dinner together (and a few beers after too!)
Ideas to start your own street photography community
I am very blessed to have a very loving street photography community in Los Angeles (and now several places around the world!). Below I will give you some advice on how you can start your own street photography community, as well as some ideas you can do within your community!
1. Find the people
The most important thing is to find street photographers in your area. The problem is that street photography is still a niche, so it is difficult to find other street photographers in your area. I have thought about this issue and thought of a good solution: I have made a Google Doc where people can add their name, location, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, and email for people to contact one another. I have also made some Facebook street photography groups (in popular cities- sorry if I didn’t include your city) that you can join and introduce yourself as well!
Of course, you can also leave your contact info or make your own Facebook or Flickr group in the comments that you can share!
2. Schedule a meet-up
After you have joined an online street photography group or forum, the next step is to introduce yourselves to one-another in-person!
My suggestion is to make a Facebook event and keep it open and invite all the people to meet up on a certain day. Generally weekends work well, where you can meet up for lunch, introduce yourselves to one another, share your work with one another (via iPads, iPhones, etc), and then go shooting afterwards!
Above is a video of a meet-up I recently had in London where we all just met for dinner! We didn’t have the chance to go shooting afterwards, but it was great to meet people in the area!
3. Shoot with one another
When shooting street photography with one-another, it is great to shoot street photography in a group (as everyone feeds off one another’s positive energy and feels more confident, while subjects in the streets feel more comfortable as well).
However a problem that occurs if you have too many people clumped up together shooting on the streets with one another. I suggest sticking in groups of 3-5 people to not crowd the street too much. If there are more than 3-5 people in the meet-up, simple break off into smaller groups and decide to meet up at a place afterward.
4. Give feedback/critique to one another
Also a nice idea to have is to give feedback/critique to one anothers’ images after you go shooting. Simply stop by a cafe or a bar, grab a few coffees (or beers), and take a look at one anothers’ images on the back of your LCD screens that you just shot. If you shoot film, then have some older work prepared to ask for helpful critique/feedback from.
Remember that the key to a good critique is not only to say what you like about the image, but the parts of the image that don’t work and what they can do to improve their images.
5. Stay consistent
The most important thing about any communities is to make a regular thing. Once you build the habit of doing something regularly, it will be a lot easier for the group to see one another often- and stay motivated.
I suggest perhaps meeting once a week (or once a month) on Saturdays at noon. Not only is it a good opportunity to find more time to shoot, but also a good opportunity to get out of the house (you will probably troll around on Facebook and reddit the entire days without something to look forward to!).
So remember, as a street photographer it is really important to have a community to help support you and help you grow as well. Below are some resources that can help you start/join your own street photography community!
Facebook street photography groups
I have tried to add as many cities as I can – so please try to join the group closest to where you live!
Remember you can always upload your photographs to my Facebook fan page as well :)
- Los Angeles Streettogs
- NYC Streettogs
- Chicago Streettogs
- San Francisco Streettogs
- Austin Streettogs
- Detroit Streettogs
- London Streettogs
- Switzerland Streettogs
- Paris Streettogs
- Berlin Streettogs
- Stockholm Streettogs
- Rome Streettogs
- Barcelona Streettogs
- Lisbon Streettogs
- Singapore Streettogs
- Kuala Lumpur Streettogs
- Kota Kinabalu Streettogs
- Hong Kong Streettogs
- India Street Photography
- Japan Streettogs
- Filipino Street Photographers
Flickr Street Photography Groups
Are you stuck in the middle of nowhere and still want to get better in street photography? Join these great Flickr street photography groups.
Street Photography Directory (Google Doc)
If you want to add your name to this street photography google doc, use the links below!
*Don’t see your city/country above? Make your own Facebook group (keep it open) and share a link below in the comments! Also remember you can always share your photos on my Facebook fan page as well!
Do you have any other tips for street photographers trying to join/create a community? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!