5 Incredible Photography Collectives Every Photography Enthusiast Should Follow

Photography can be more enjoyable when the common social dynamic of "Groups" takes place. The night before he died, the 19th-century French mathematician Évariste Galois postulated a very interesting definition of “groups” – and even though he was certainly referring to math, his definition also applies to photography collectives. "A group is composed of members, all of whom are equal in common feature; contains a member of identity such as its combination with any other member of that other member, which means that it maintains the identity of the member."

Thanks to the new communication networks and technology, photography collectives can be formed and grow as a group without the need for being fixed at a specific geolocation, as with traditional social groups. The passion for photography requires discipline, and if it develops in an individualized way, it ends up demanding harrowing amounts of energy. That’s why collectives are so functional. As a one-man army, one’s energy will be quickly drawn, but in a collective environment, the energy demand ends up being not just tolerable, but also enjoyable.

Photography collectives are not only a truly effective strategy in terms of visibility and diffusion, but also an effective way to develop projects in a sustainable – or at least in an economically viable – way. There is no universal manual for the constitution of an effective collective, but in our opinion, these 7 photography collectives are worth keeping an eye on to keep abreast of the good things happening in photography nowadays.

BLANKPAPER

This collective seems more like a fraternity than a collective. Julián Barón, Ricardo Cases, Alejandro Marote, Óscar Monzón, Mario Rey,  Fosi Vegue and Antonio M. Xoubanova formed Blank Paper in 2003. This collective has been recognized for its contribution to the world of contemporary fine art photography. Each collective finds its own way to make photography a sustainable business, and the intention of this collective – to create a space for common sharing of new and fresh projects and ideas – led to the constitution of this school, which offers a space for meetings, discussions and, above all, a platform of knowledge that guides the students in their personal and professional growth.

The most accessible way to get close to Blank Paper's work is by attending exhibitions and by buying prints, but they have a very press-oriented Instagram account that sprouts some goodies from time to time.

LA CALLE ES NUESTRA

La Calle es Nuestra (The Street is Ours) is a young collective, recently formed in 2017 with the purpose of showcasing its photographers’ own worlds and to share knowledge among their members. Unfortunately, they are not admitting any more photographers right now, which to me is pretty sad.

These guys have an amazing manifesto, which I'm very pleased to translate: "The Street Smells. It needs to be felt and touched. We feel the street and we drown ourselves in its singular nature, its people, its buildings, its suburbs, its wet walls, its rough bricks and reflections. We took the street." You can follow their work here.

NOPHOTO

This is a collective of contemporary photography born in 2005 with the purpose of making NO conventional individual and collective projects viable. It is characterized by an open attitude towards content, an interdisciplinary tendency in forms, the use of multiple media for diffusion of projects, web and digital projection and the personal implication in the process of conceptualization and production.

You can follow them around here.

NOOR

This is a collective uniting a select group of highly accomplished photojournalists and documentary storytellers focusing on contemporary global issues. They started out as an agency (pretty much like the good old Magnum). NOOR members have photographed and documented serious topics like civil and political unrest, environmental issues, war, famine, and natural disasters around the globe. Besides individual photographic projects, collective projects are at the core of NOOR. Its headquarters are in Amsterdam and formed by thirteen photographers from eleven different countries.

Follow their work here and here.

STROMA

Stroma is formed by a diverse group of photographers brought together by a common desire to create and share their view of contemporary photography, which transcends several genres. Their varying backgrounds (cultural and geographical), are the basis of Stroma’s broad photographic perspective. You can see more of the work of Arthur, Julian, Nina, Pat, Sarah, Steve and Trevor here and here.

Easter Egg

FOTOKIDS

This is a collective formed by some of the youngest photographers out there. Fotokids started in a dumpster with six members, and is now in several marginal areas of the Guatemalan capital. Today the group has more than 100 members, all young people between 7 and 26 years old, showing us from their position the reality that surrounds them. A must-see indeed. Watch their steps here.

About Fractal, my failing collective

Some time ago, I ended up in a collective. The dynamic was pretty good, and we all met our deadlines with small delays. Don't know exactly how I ended up being in charge. Here I'm listing the main reasons for the failure of the collective:

  • Head members were disenchanted with each other
  • Big egos
  • Lack of a manifesto or statement
  • It wasn't sustainable
  • Poor communication among members
  • No social media presence
  • Awful website
  • Members had other stronger passions (like music, video, and archeology).

In the end, we had a leak of members, and the shortage of committed photographers was the reason the collective finally ended. It was a very nurturing experience though, and I would love to be part of some other collectives now that I have more solid criteria for business development and my own aesthetic.

Here you can see the 50 works we did together.

Keeping a collective alive is hard work, so if you guys know of any other collectives that deserve more attention, please share them with us.

Originally Published at Light Stalking

5 Argentinian Photographers You Should Know

In some ways, societies generate a kind of unique identity thanks to their culture and other anthropological elements. I think this gives photographers from each country a common sensibility that makes their images somehow related and easy to identify. Photographers can have extremely varied and diverse styles, but my hypothesis is that they reflect more or less the same “cultural identity", almost in the same way that people in general can respond their whole life to the same passion. Some days ago, I put special emphasis on Mexican photographers, and this time I want to focus on Argentinian photographers. I hope you like them.

Daniel Mordzinski (1960 - )

Personally, I feel a deep fascination with the work of Daniel Mordzinski. His work is a solid example for all those who have felt the existential worry of pursuing not just a style, but a specific style within a photographic niche. Daniel specializes in only one type of people – writers – and he portrays them like no one else. He has portrayed Hispanic American authors for more than three decades.

One of the masters of "Environmental Portrait" is without a doubt Arnold Newman, but he worked with different types of people, from theater critics to fluorescent lighting professionals, from Woody Allen to Francisco Franco. That is why Mordzinski’s titanic effort is far more impressive to me, because his level of specialization is so high that he really sets the bar for every photographer out there.

Most of his images capture the essence of writers as we imagine them, allowing us to enter into the intimacy of their creative spaces and ideas. To some extent, Daniel is an ambassador for literature lovers who enables us to approach our literary heroes and idols.

I wanted to discuss Daniel's work first because I find it fascinating how he portrayed many of my literary heroes, people like Roberto Bolaño and Jorge Luis Borges. In the middle of May this year, the Museum of Art in my country had the fortune of receiving a sample of more than 200 photographs taken by Daniel, all of them depicting Hispanic authors. I was mesmerized while wandering in the midst of so many of my heroes, along with a vast number of other writers who were unknown to me.

That's the magic I felt when I saw these pictures, and it’s been something I wanted to share with you ever since. You can see a lot of Daniel’s images here.

Rodrigo Abd (1976 - )

Rodrigo Abd is an Associated Press photographer who was part of a team that won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for their coverage of the Syrian Civil War. His began as a staff photographer at La Razón and La Nación newspapers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 1999 to 2003. In 2003, he became a staff photographer for the Associated Press in Guatemala, with the exception of 2006, when he was based in Kabul, Afghanistan. He has always been recognized for the passionate way in which he portrays subjects that are too scabrous and harsh for many photographers. Honestly, his images are strong, but they have a rather intriguing aesthetic, despite being related to moments as raw as death itself.

A curious fact about Rodrigo is that he has shot several images with a 19th-century wooden camera he acquired in Afghanistan. I mention this because it shows us not only his skill, but also that the camera isn’t what makes the images – it’s the photographer.

You can see more of his work here. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

Andy Goldstein (1943 - )

Andy Goldstein is an expert in creativity and teaching. Without a doubt, his best-known work is "Vivir en la Tierra" a series of 66 large-format photographs in which he portrays families in informal settlements in 14 Latin American countries, which happen to be very common in the continent.

I had the opportunity to take a class with Andy, and through him I learned about how important it is to know the intention of a photograph before even beginning to work on it in post-production. By only adjusting the white balance, Andy was able to make all the audience feel different feelings and perceptions about a scene. He made us feel afraid, and then protected, with the same image, just by adjusting the image's temperature.

Apart from this great experience, I also saw his sample of "Vivir en la Tierra", in which the grand size of the images transports the spectator to precarious and common locations throughout Latin America.

You can see more of his work here.

Romina Ressia (1981 - )

Romina Ressia is the youngest of the photographers I present today, and she is an important figure in the art photography scene. Her work is characterized by portraits with an obvious Renaissance influence, very similar to the way in which Hendrik Kerstens has based his portraits on Flemish paintings. The curious thing is that Romina (like Hendrik) has juxtaposed modern and vernacular elements in her images, giving them a unique character and modern context.

In her early career she was dedicated to fashion photography, and gradually she turned her eye to the fine-art world. Her works are represented by galleries in the United Kingdom, New York, Switzerland and Italy and have been exhibited in major cities including New York, Milan, United Kingdom, Zurich, Paris and Buenos Aires.

We can appreciate her excellent work here.

Matías Altbach (?)

As a Latin person, and a lover of music, I can assure you that Argentina has blessed us with much great music. I’m sure Matías Albatch knows this because, like Daniel Mordzinski, he has decided to focus his photographic opus on music and musicians, especially one of the most beautiful genres of all: rock. He started his own projects and took part in several initiatives. He recognized that the music scene in Buenos Aires was something special, so he left his day job to focus exclusively on music.

You can see more of his work here.

Easter Egg

Internet and Geography has given me the fortune of connecting with amazing people with time, now I want to share with you a video made by a fellow Argentinian photographer who has been working hard to create a solid magazine that features only the best of contemporary Latin American documentary photography. Before the Claps, by Jorge Piccini.

Originally Published at Light Stalking

The Importance of Display Calibration

There was, for a long time, a difficult-to-define color type in photographs that I admired. Finally, I learned that the color that was seducing me so much was produced by a now-extinct film called Kodachrome. Most of my photographs are ultimately displayed in black-and-white. The reason is utilitarian: since my images are from the streets, they aren’t taken in a controlled environment, and too much color in the scene can distract the viewer. At the time, this was the perfect excuse for investing so little time in learning about precise color correction. Oh, poor, naive me.

One of the most common description I found in Fujifilm camera reviews involved a thing called "Film Simulation". Within this small repertoire of effects lived the king of color films, for me and many other photographers: the famous Kodachrome, dubbed "Classic Chrome" in the world of digital photography. Fujifilm humbly describes this profile as offering "Added tonal depth for a documentary photography look." The Classic Chrome profile is a pretty precise simulation of Kodachrome’s behavior when exposed to light.

Almost immediately after un-boxing my new camera and turning it on, I searched for that profile. I was astonished with the colors that my camera's LCD screen was showing me. But something odd happened next: after importing the RAW files into my computer, I stopped seeing those wonderful colors. I blamed it on the Adobe Lightroom Software I was using, since it was outdated. I decided to upgrade, and found that in the new version of Lightroom I could choose the camera profile for the image, just as if I was changing White Balance settings. This was amazing to me, because I could switch between Velvia, Provia, Astia, Across, Standard, and the wonderful Classic Chrome. But I still wasn't seeing the colors in that old seductive way.

It's here where a life-changing event came into play – an event that took me back to my photographic childhood. The simple trick is called display calibration. It was a huge mistake on my part to have been working all these years without adjusting my displays, I know. Shame on me. But I hope my experience will help someone else out there.

It all started thanks to a friend's concern for calibrating the screens on his computers. After doing so, he discovered a massive difference in the "before" and "after" calibration results. He bought this software, which within a couple of clicks after installation calibrates the screen in a fairly precise and curious way. The process takes about ten minutes, and is almost standalone. I really appreciated the gesture, because my friend had invested about $200 in the system and gave free calibrations to a group of fellow photographers.

Photographers invest a serious amount of money in gear, which create files that are visualized on our built-in camera screens to a different screen altogether. After learning the importance of having all my devices calibrated so they interpret light in a precise way, I now consider (like many out there) that calibrating displays as a top priority.

Here are a couple of reasons why we should calibrate our displays:

Every Screen is a Different World

Most people nowadays view photographs through screens, and each and one of these screens reproduces light in a unique way. Most screens today are very bright, and offer many kinds of screen qualities. I'm not going to lie: my computer is certainly not the most powerful thing on the market, but it does what I need it to do, quickly, in a way that doesn't affect my workflow. All displays must be seen as machines, and every machine, over time, suffers wear either from mechanical stress or deterioration of its internal components. As contradictory as it sounds, standards are helpful in the creative world. Formally, I have studied the Science of Quality Management, and standards are something I have been keen on for a long time. Standards allow us to do things well, repeatedly, with an openness to improvement.

It helps us print exactly what we see

The world of printing is another discipline by itself, with its own peculiar tricks and techniques, and it is totally foreign to most photographers. Seeing our printed work is also a delight, a fundamental part of our relationship with our images. If we can set our displays according to a standard (which is logically rigorous for almost any serious printing professional), all our images can "speak the same language" as the machines used by the people we trust to convert our work into a physical thing.

There are many ways to calibrate our displays – from using the settings on our devices, to the integration of highly sophisticated devices designed exclusively to see and measure light in ways far beyond our understanding. The important thing is that the decision we make helps us attain the exact color standard we seek. Remember, we have invested significant amounts of money in our photographic equipment, so it is logical and wise to invest a little more toward the way we see the results that our photographic devices produce.

This action has undoubtedly changed the way I see my photographs (and many other things, like movies and photographs online). Today I can say, without fear of being mistaken, that even if the streets present environments with a low level of control, colors can help deliver the photographic message more efficiently. This is totally contrary to what I believed before I felt comfortable working with color – that is, before I calibrated my computer's display. My next step will be to invest in a good monitor that allows me to reach very close to 100% of the existing RGB color spectrum.

Originally Published at Light Stalking