Building a Photographer Community: an Artists Salon, a Virtual 1920s Paris Cafe, the Modern-Day Algonquin Round Table for Photographers

I really enjoy writing about photography. I think as photographers, we have a lot to share and we should offer each other everything we know. There are no trade secrets, nothing one photographer knows that can’t be told. I often say, “Share everything.” We are not in direct competition but colleagues, all working together to make the greatest body of photographic work that we collectively can.

I get a handful of comments on my blog posts here but not many. I wonder if this isn’t the best place to create dialogue. That these words would be better received in a different venue–Medium, Facebook, Slack, Discord (though I don’t really know what that even is or how it works), or any other number of online platforms that allow the user–someone like me–to create a community of like-minded people, a tribe, in our case of photographers.

Perhaps only film photographers. Though maybe it doesn’t have to be so exclusive and could be for all kinds of photographers. Or is there strength in being smaller, niche?

I don’t have any answers. I’m still looking into it and asking the questions. I spend a bit of time each day on Twitter reading news headlines and looking at some photographs that appear in my feed, but it doesn’t feel like a dedicated photographer site. I look a bit on Facebook photography groups, too, but don’t stay too long. I never bother to open Instagram. I don’t go on Flickr. I used to go on Clubhouse but their rooms were boring and full of people I didn’t know, or didn’t want to listen to if I did.

I don’t know where to go to find a community of photographers. I really don’t.

I suppose I’m looking to build a close-knit community of photographer friends who gather frequently, who post work, who comment on each others work, sort of like a meet up online, one that never ends. A living meeting place online.

If I were to wake up at 4am and look on there and see that my photographer friend Tom from a nearby location is on, I can hit him up with a question: “Hey, what are you doing up at this hour and more importantly, what are you working on?”

I’m also looking to monetize some of my writing and the work I do. Right now, I haven’t made any money from this 6x6Portraits blog, and while I didn’t start it as a way to make a living, I wouldn’t mind if there were a way to have members either join at a small monthly fee, say $1 or $2, to help pay for a domain name and hosting fees, maybe a beer or two. Or alternatively, have an easy tip jar button on each post that works with one-click and prefilled credit card information so it’s easy and instant to tip.

And then to encourage other members to write some articles and contribute their own content and then have a way for them to also collect a small tip, a monetary note of thanks. By that model, we get more people writing more articles, posting more photo collections, creating more content that we all learn from.

We could have regular, perhaps monthly, online gallery showings where we present a photographer’s work as an ‘art opening’. To get excited about photography. To get inspired. To learn from each other. To offer ideas and thoughts in-person albeit via an online platform.

Essentially, I’m looking for a crowded room of photographer friends who like to hang together. A place to meet up at instead of going on Facebook. A link online to click or a maybe a phone app that gets me to a group of special photographer friends who we enjoy chatting with, talking shop with. A hangout.

That’s it. A hangout.

I’m looking for an ONLINE version of an artists salon. A place like La Closerie des Lilas, the cafe in Paris where writers like Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Man Ray, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald hung out in the 1920s. The Algonquin Hotel round table. A place to gather!

The writers at the Algonquin Hotel round table, by the wonderful and unmistakable Al Hirschfeld.

An exclusive club of photographers that perhaps is by invite only. Not too big. And not exclusive to keep people out, but rather to create a quality room of like-minded, respectful photographers who contribute to the group, not trolls or troublemakers.

The kind of connections that when one photographer is visiting a city another photographer lives in, there could be in-person meetups for coffee or a wine or beer.

I’m thinking no more than a few hundred members at most from around the world. I don’t have all the answers. I’m in the idea germination stage.

Your thoughts? Wouldn’t you love to stop by and find Paul and Rory and Mike and Craig in there, just hanging out, talking about their work, or cameras, or film, or new projects, whatever? A conversation you could mosey over to and get in on? With different people in the room at any given time.

Maybe there could be an easy way to get a notification when someone new enters the room. That could be just the person you have a question for. That might be useful.

And suppose there were a way to move into separate rooms for side conversations. I don’t envision it as Zoom with video. I don’t need you to see my bedhead at 4am, but rather a place to write and communicate with words. But maybe we should consider video.

Nothing is off the table. When brainstorming, all is fair game. That’s what I’m doing right now here while sitting at this pub, Bootstrap Brewing in Longmont Colorado, drinking an Insane Rush IPA, an India Pale Ale.

Fun bit of trivia, did you know that when the British had colonized India, the beer they would ship up to India would go bad, so they added hops to keep it from spoiling, and kept adding more and more hops til they found the amount they needed, and eventually the really hoppy beer that would survive the trip, that was called the India Pale Ale.

Insane Rush. That’s exactly what I’m working on. A crazy idea. A new concept. In both my beer glass and on this page. A way to gather to get an insane rush, my photographic fill.

Now to figure out how to make it. To get the information to how to build the infrastructure, or find one that’s already built that would suffice.

And then, to find you standing around inside.

That would be a rush! Your contributions, ideas and thoughts are most welcome. And if you can design something, I would be most interested in chatting with you!

So the question for you, would you be interested in joining? Would you contribute articles? Would you pay a small fee to be a member? How can we make it? Thanks for your response!

5 thoughts on “Building a Photographer Community: an Artists Salon, a Virtual 1920s Paris Cafe, the Modern-Day Algonquin Round Table for Photographers

Add yours

  1. Building something like that is hard, unless as you say, you do it online. Will this be the Magnum of the 21st Century? I used to have something like that (in person) but it was cross-disciplinary and included musicians, poets, painters, photographers, and other artists; sadly we couldn’t keep it going but that was in our small mountain town. I went to support my friends but didn’t have much to show myself back then.

    Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want to join a collective where any noticeable amount of work was created digitally. I already don’t have much time as it is and if I were to (hypothetically) commit to something like this then I want to make sure it would hold my interest. I already am a part of groups/collectives that I don’t attend because very little of the work interests me.

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  2. I think your idea is great and something like this is definitely needed. I’d love a space where we can talk about the art and creativity of photography… rather than the tools. I’d love to share photos and get constructive feedback from people who put thought into it… rather than a thumbs up or thumbs down! I’d love to hear how people deal with periods where their creativity and drive is low. I’d love to do a physical print exchange as a way of sharing work. I’d love to hear why people photograph – no matter what they photograph.

    If the focus is on art, creativity, and photography, I probably would be welcomed (as a photographer who happens to use digital cameras). If the focus is on tools or just film photography, you probably wouldn’t want me in that group. But why focus on tools when there are so many better topics and discussions to be had?!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Brian. If you are in Colorado and can come, all are welcome. All types and we are more about photography than gear for sure. You’d be a great addition.

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    1. Thanks for this. I tried it for a while and got no patrons so I took off the link. Yes, Mike does well at TOP. He has a much bigger audience, I suspect.

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