On photography collectives


General Photography

A little while ago, Alec Soth asked his Magnum colleagues what advice they would give young photographers and posted the results over at Magnum’s blog. As could be expected, the post generated a lot of excited responses, but there were also some rumblings to be found all over the web (see an example here). I admit I was a bit surprised by the discontent the Magnum post created, and it made me think about what people were actually expecting (I initiated a bit of a discussion about this here). But I also started to think about something else, namely about photography collectives and their paucity.

I can really only think of two photography collectives, namely the European (somewhat oddly named) Piece of Cake group, and the American Exposure Project. As far as I can tell, these two groups are at somewhat different stages of their evolution, with the European one being extremely active (and quite successful actually); and I don’t intend talking too much about these groups (even though if you’re not familiar with them you might want to check them out).

What I’m wondering is why there aren’t more of those groups. It appears quite obvious that connecting with other photographers over the net is very simple, and lots of people seem to be doing that. But then the next step, regular meetings, and joint activities don’t really seem to be happening all that much.

Especially for emerging artists bundling resources and working together, as a group, to promote work and to maybe stage a show somewhere (why not invest some money, rent an empty space for cheap somewhere and stage a show for two weeks?), or to publish work together (for example, see The Exposure Project’s books) seems like a very natural thing to do, especially given that - unfortunately! - it is so hard to get exposure as an individual.

What is more, working in a group or collective also provides a chance to learn together, to advance together. I’m sure there are lots of photographers who share their work with their friends, but I think taking it to the next level and very consciously working on a group effort can make quite a bit of difference actually.

So maybe that’s an idea for emerging photographers, namely to look at what Piece of Cake or The Exposure Project are doing. Needless to say, working as a group requires an investment of time and possibly money, but given what can be gained from that I think the advantages will easily outweigh the disadvantages.