Support: Shouldn’t It Be A Two-Way Street?
Posted on June 24th, 2013
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about support and what it means. Is it something you can ask for, but not give back? Are we obligated to return the favor, or is it even important to worry about that?
If you’ve had a photo project on indie-go-go, or Emphas.is, or Kickstarter asking for money, I wonder: have you contributed to other photographer’s projects? If you’ve got a book-signing coming up, or have published a book, did you buy someone else’s book, or go to their signing, or for that matter, their gallery opening? If someone wrote about you on their blog, did you read it? Did you promote the fact that they wrote about you, or did you also promote the writer? Do you even read other photography blogs, or only when they feature you?
As much as I can say there is a photography community in New York, I find myself questioning how much of it is self-interest and how much of it is reciprocal.
Now I don’t claim to be perfect in this regard. I often fall short of my goal of giving as well as hoping to receive. Even when something benefits me, I don’t always hold up my end of the bargain and promote it as well as I should. So I’m not here to claim perfection.
But it does make me wonder: Do you believe in being a lone wolf only thinking about your own career, or do you realize and promote the value of community?
Today I was clued in to a piece on Examiner.com web page where a photographer wrote something about iconic photos, without crediting ANY of the photographers. As I read to the end of the piece, I saw the photographer was asking for people to contribute to him because he had his gear stolen.
So he couldn’t credit the people who risked their lives to take these “iconic photos,” but he could ask readers to give him money. Wow!
Things are difficult all over; there are new challenges all the time. And I would never say that you shouldn’t be looking out for yourself, I’m just wondering if you realize the benefits of joining together in support of each other?
Sometimes self-interest has to be balanced by the greater good; the greater needs of the community. How else can we protect and promote what is great about photography? I don’t mean scratch each other’s backs, I mean help others (if you can) to achieve their goals as well as your own.
Photographers have always been thought of as loners, and for some people they revel in that. But it’s through networking, and getting out, and talking with others, and reading about what’s going on that can help to create a stronger and more unified community.
A perfect example of this (and an example of where I think I fell down) was the FlashForward Festival in Boston last month. I was invited, as were several photographers to speak and be on panels. But there wasn’t enough promotion by those participating or support from the people in Boston, including the media. And so, a really fantastic group of speakers didn’t get through to a really great audience. Why were all of us not promoting this festival in all of our social media platforms—and that goes for speakers AND visitors? And if that doesn’t happen, why are we not asking each other Why Not?
Have we all become too busy (or lazy) to get off our butts and really engage? Why do we accept the current status quo (the “new normal”) without speaking out against it if we disagree? Why are we so willing to just take it and move on? Do you think things will get better?
Can’t supporting each other be a mutually beneficial thing? For all the time it takes for you to post to FB about your vacation, or your family, or something you saw on the street, you can comment, you can call people to account. You can add your voice to others.
That’s how things change. That’s how you take control of shaping the future.
Tagged: emphas.is, photography, stella kramer, stellazine
On the money Stella, as usual.
This is what we try to do with Square Magazine: promote photography and photographers. There is still one problem though, something that’s quite puzzling: although we do ask for artists to send us news about their progress (exhibitions, shows, talks, books…), they pretty rarely do so. It is as if artists do not even expect support, in a way (OK, I know, the comparison between us and FF is not really accurate eh eh)
I did not know that Chris and I have been in and read your magazine. I will make more of an effort to let you know.
Great to see this highlighted. I’m just back from Tasmania, their prof convention. They have all the issues we have in the uk, saturation, plummeting standards etc but the vibe between photographers as humans was immense. None of the apathy we have here, all the fences were down and a mutual sense of encouragement resonated. Maybe because we are a small island and feel protective of our own.
we must shift
and work towards a win win game…
Read this with great interest. As photographers, we are the root cause of the problem. I have met some of the most wonderful human beings in this profession, supportive, encouraging, without a trace of ego. By the same token I’ve also met some of the most selfish, self centered, arrogant people ever. Support, from where I’m standing, is always being requested and voiced all the time. Many of us pony up money, sign petitions, send emails, write notes of encouragement and in many instances once these “artists” have gotten what they wanted, dispose of all courtesy, professional or otherwise. Hey, been de-friended on FB by a couple of “darlings” of the industry after sending my meager hard earned money for their crowd funding campaigns.
Not everyone is in NYC or LA or the Bay Area. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a community “at large elsewhere”. In the professional food chain I’m probably just plankton. Take plankton out of the food chain and watch what happens. A lot of these projects wouldn’t even get off the ground. Like you, I’m not claiming perfection or an exemption from part of the guilt. I do try to do my part.
In this era of social media instead of being more connected, we are becoming less so and increasingly more antisocial. The internet is definitely a double edge sword. It’s easier to dispose of others virtually. Connections are at best tenuous, at worst, merely an item on a rolodex. Kindness seems to be in short supply. Sharing is becoming scarce, not sharing FB pix or links, real sharing, sharing in order to create community. What is the answer? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the current status quo is not conducive to a healthy professional environment.
You raise a very valid question, Stella. And for me the answer would be yes, supporting each other is a mutually beneficial thing. I certainly believe in the value of a community and in social awareness. You help and support – and get help and support in return. I don’t think it necessarily has to be reciprocal between two people, but within the community. If someone for instance support my kickstarter project, I don’t necessarily have to support his or her kickstarter project if it’s a project I don’t approve of for instance. But I would certainly support others, and try to find a way to support this person maybe in a different way. I think we ought to think about it as a community interaction. Besides getting directly help or support in return yourself, another benefit is that by supporting the community you actually grown yourself in that process. It’s like when I am teaching workshops where I give of myself to the students, but in that process I learn and gain just as much myself. Great post, Stella.
Great article and part of the reason I started my site/blog: pacificnwphotography.com, so that I could at least try and create an online community of sorts for photographers/photography fans in the Pacific NW. And also to promote and engage with the larger world-wide photography community.
i am a huge supporter and find it a pleasure. period. i can’t imagine making art or living any other way. i am far from a pushover, but i find that community makes life possible.
I am so with you on this Stella. In fact, when it comes to you specifically, I can say that your efforts are appreciated by me personally. You have supported my work in the past, and I would never ever forget that, and (you know this) will thank you until the end of time for it. I have been a big supporter of giving back, most especially when it comes to other artists of any kind. It also goes beyond that, and I find that supporting non-profits and educational institutions is key to surviving and thriving into the future.
Why anyone would not help out and support others that have helped them? Maybe I wear rose colored glasses, but how could you NOT?
This goes without saying, but you present us with a great article and a reminder to all that we are in this together. Thank you for this and everything else you’ve done in the past, and will clearly be doing in the future.
All my best Stella.
You are so sweet to say these things, Michael. We all need a reminder sometimes that we’re in this together.
The beauty about helping the photographic community is that it isn’t even altruistic.
This year I coordinated 15 photographers who were featured as part of Sydney’s Headon Photo Festival. I did this as I was one of the featured photographs the previous year and wanted to give something back.
But I ended up receiving far more than I gave. I came across an amazing curator, Hasib Zakaria, I went to a free talk by an extraordinary photographer, Shahidal Alam, I met James Nachtwey, Ben Lowy, Eli Reed..the list goes on…and I found there was a terrific community of dedicated public-spirited photographers in Sydney.
So give as much as you can because you will get so much more in return.