1. You will acquire some life-long friendships.
Ok, so that isn't entirely true. More than likely you will solidify life-long friendships - relationships that you've already started doing the ground work on. You see, most of the people that showed up to my gathering were photographers I already felt like I sort of knew. Several of them I even considered really good friends. You know ... really good friends I've never met. Which might sound weird at first, but this has been a thing for a long time, people - ever heard of a pen pal? #lawyered.
You see, I met this guy Chris Rivera a couple of years ago in the magical land they call "Twitter." We were almost immediately inseparable .... well if you don't count the entirety of America in between keeping us pretty dang separate. For years we've been building our strange and wonderful friendship in which one minute we are giving the other advice and/or praise for a photo they just posted, while in the next moment having an intense conversation using nothing but gifs of Nicki Minaj ... don't ask .... Basically what I'm getting at here is that Chris Rivera is so freakin' awesome and it was beyond incredible to finally get to meet him in person. If you host a meetup, you might just get the chance to finally meet your own "Chris." (Or this Chris, provided you invite him and he can make it of course.)
2. Your portfolio will explode with new work.
I swear if I don't go to at least one substantial gathering a year, my portfolio wouldn't be even remotely close to where it is now. I've taken so many of my very favorite (and often most popular) pictures at Flickr gatherings. There is just something about the crazy artistic energy that occurs with all the different photographers in one location. I think the incredibly famous and talented photographer Robert Cornelius said it best in his blog post about a meet up he went to last year, when he said, "Suddenly everyone becomes a big, harmonious, creative machine." Or perhaps when he uttered the perfectly crafted words, "Every moment is crazy, amazing, all over the place, and utterly perfect. This is where art is born."
(All of these images were shot at photo meetups!)
Seeing everyone around you collaborating, doing the most strange and beautiful things, is just so stinkin' inspiring. I did the math (by that of course I mean I counted), and at my meet up I shot 13 completely different setups. Also, knowing me, at some point way down the road I'll use an outtake from at least one shoot to edit into a totally different piece than the original concept.
3. You get to shoot your friends in the face! (...with cameras)
Reason number three is going to be short, because I already wrote a whole post about why shooting other conceptual photographers is the best (but I just can't say enough about how truly enjoyable it is to shoot other artists). Almost everyone at my meet up also happened to be a part-time-self-portrait-artist-extraordinaire and have all spent just about as much time in front of the camera as they have behind. It's so fun to take pictures of someone that already knows how to position themselves, and that also takes direction SO well! Not to mention they have no problem climbing onto a big pointy stump, being wet, cold, barefoot, or generally uncomfortable for the sake of art. Also, if you're lucky (and you more than likely will be), you'll end up in other people's photos. There are few things as satisfying as updating your profile picture with a mind-bogglingly-beautiful concept piece created by one of your new best friends!!
4. You gain access to LOTS of props and costumes.
Perhaps one of the main reasons that you should host a photography gathering is because you will get to play with some seriously bonkers props and costumes. Everyone brings their A-game in the "photo shoot stuff" department. During the first day in Watkins, the living room kinda became a big prop/costume show-and-tell station. Everyone plopped down their stuff and told all about what they had brought. There were dresses dangling off of everything and props galore sprinkled in amongst all of the various costumes.
Before we would leave to go shoot it was like getting to shop in the best conceptual photography prop house ever ... but everything was free. By pooling all the fantastical things each of these photographers have been collecting and creating with, everyone can get a chance to work with all kinds of different things. Not only that, but we don't have to spend a ton of money in thrift stores and antique shops to get to shoot with a bunch of awesome new items. Obviously there is some money up front for everyone to acquire the things they brought in the first place, but what I'm saying is that it's really fun to tap into everyone else's collections. Also, it's super cool to see people use your props and things in new and interesting way you may have never though of!
5. You might learn a thing or two.
While you are watching everyone else work it's nearly impossible not to continually see things that make you go, "OH, I never thought to do that!" For the most part, all these other creative photographers have been slowly building their styles and skill sets by just trying things. It's super cool to be able to pick people's brains about the processes they've developed over the years, or even just to sit back and quietly watch someone else do their thing. What's even more fascinating is being there while someone is shooting and then seeing the finished piece pop up online and having the, "Oooohhhh that's why they did that," moment. "I had no idea it was going to look like this after they edited it!"
6. Together you will grow your followings.
Obviously photographers like all those who attended (and probably you reading this I'd wager) create art for the fun of it - Because we have these whimsical ideas floating around in our brain spaces that we just want the world to see. (Also possibly for money, but come on you know that's just a bonus price on top of the joy of creating art!) So, it's a given that we do want the world to see our work. (Like, as many humans as humanly possible ammiright?) We are all kidding ourselves if we think we don't look at the amount of "likes" on everything. Clearly it is not the most important thing (I would keep on creating my art even if no one was watching but my mom), but let's be real, we love the "likes." An audience just makes it way more fun. We all enjoy the interaction from our followers and the more followers we have, the more interaction our art might drum up.
Anyway, one of the countless perks of hosting/attending a photography gathering is the support group you end up forming. After we've all said our goodbyes, hugged, laughed, cried, hugged again, and then went our separate ways, we start to finish the concepts we shot and put them online. As I mentioned in reason number 3, the person in your brand spanking new image is more than likely a photographer. (Like IDK Chris Rivera!?!) So once you share the finished piece, they are bound to share it with their audience as well. Not to mention you can also link to so-and-so who assisted you on the shoot, this-cool-dude who provided the prop, and shout out that the dress was lent by this-other-amazing-artist. Long story short, while all of your portfolios are slowly growing from all the pictures you shot, your followings will grow right along with it since you can all be tagging, sharing, and promoting each other's work.
7. THEY ARE JUST SO MUCH FUN!
From what I've gathered thus far in my experience with photography meetups (in addition to the nourishing, inspirational, creative atmosphere), is that they are the most pure, unfiltered joy you could hope to experience. Even after the sun has set (at like 5pm, WTF WINTER!?!?!), and you all head back to home base, the fun has only just begun. This is when some of the heavy bonding takes place. During the day while you're all shooting, it's basically artistic chaos. Everyone is all over the place continuously fluttering about from one project to the next. So once you all settle back in for the evening, you can really talk, joke, laugh, tell stories, possibly drink lots of beer/wine, and sprinkle in the occasional Mario Kart tournament.
The evenings during the Watkins Glen Flickr Gathering were ridiculously fun. With that many crazy awesome people in one household, I felt like I wanted to be everywhere at once. There were deep interesting conversations going on that you could hop into at any point, laughter to the point of tears occurring at the dining room table, a group on the floor in this corner sharing their work and talking art, even a bedroom full of people cracking up while hearing stories about the crazy things my brother says in his sleep. Some people just can't shake the inspiration of the day, so shoots are happening off in a random room of the house. No matter where you turn there is some fun to be had and memories to be made. I just love these times with these people. Photographers are the best sort of humans.
8. So I can come to it...
This is by far the most important reason you should host a photo meetup. BECAUSE I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THEM!! So please please pretty please host a photography gathering so I can come meet you and we can make beautiful beautiful art together. In my opinion there are simply not enough meetups. Clearly I feel this way, because the only major gathering I was invited to this year ... was the one I hosted and invited myself to. (If you missed it, you can check out last week's post about how I ended up hosting a Flickr gathering in the first place.)