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

Why a Career as a Photographer Might Lose You All Your Loved Ones

This may sound funny, but when we pursue a photographic career, we gradually slip out of certain social circles into a more intimate space. Photography starts with a slight tickle in our life, and it gives us two options. The first one is to be delighted by it, but quickly drop it after realizing that it’s not the discipline for us. No hard feelings – many photographers have started out with other creative disciplines and finally fallen into the lovely claws of light. The other option is to become so in love with photography that eventually we become "passionate photographers". Here, the title of professional or amateur is no longer valid. If you have a true passion for photography, then you’re a passionate photographer. And there’s nothing left to discuss.

We love to wake up early

Not everybody has a good time waking up, especially early in the morning. We, as photographers, love to wake up when the light is soothing and the streets are less crowded. This is something not well appreciated by others, especially those who may live or travel with us. Just as you should not be willing to trust a tattoo artist who has no tattoos, don't trust a photographer who has trouble waking up early.

We love overcast days

This point is similar to the previous one. Photographers love the soft light of overcast days. Many people love to stay inside, perhaps to have a little brunch or just chill during overcast weather. Instead, we’re lured outside. Simple as that.

We lose track of time

We will, without a doubt, lose track of time while talking about anything that has the slightest, most remote relation to photography. A small and random social pleasantry can result in a two-hour (or longer) conversation (or monologue) if it triggers a photography-related thought. Meanwhile, our companions will just walk away from us.

We make movies impossible to enjoy

We always have something to say when it comes to movies. We make comments about the awesome light, the incredible cinematography, the Director of Photography’s poor decisions and, most annoyingly, we pause the movies a lot so we can appreciate the still image. I understand why regular people can’t stand us, at least for certain activities.

We love to wander the streets alone

Regularly, friends and loved ones like to remain calm in a fixed place to chat and have a nice time. For them, wandering aimlessly through random streets is not the most appealing thing to do. For me, as a former street photographer, I love to be in my zone – and that is on the streets, lost and happy.

We often skip meals

I don't know if this is standard, but for me it definitely is. I’ll skip food if I have a chance to get good pictures. I just don't need the food. I get extra energy from, I don't know, photosynthesis (how awesome is that photo-synthesis!). I would rather keep walking the streets than waste time in some restaurant. This one has a higher level of freakiness, because I have been on photo walks (which I don’t always enjoy) where I have refused to eat in order to keep shooting. My fellow photographers have a different way of seeing things. They need to eat. I don’t get it.

We see public transportation in a different way

We see public transportation as a world of possibilities. By travelling alone, we won’t make anybody feel embarrassed about our weird habit of taking pictures of people inside the metro, for example. Also, we'd rather be at a train station than in a shopping mall. The weird list just keeps getting weirder.

Forget about asking us to delete a picture

I don't know why, but this is a common request from friends and family when we take a couple of shots of them using our style. They will ask to see our pics, then ask us delete the ones they don't like. How preposterous is that? I’ve met photographers who don't delete a single picture they take, and their decision must be respected above all. I do delete photos, but during my editing process. I never do it in the camera, no matter how awful the shot.

We don't like to Photoshop things for you

"Hey, you’re a photographer, right? Could you please Photoshop this flyer for me?" Need I say more? These types of requests are just totally off the table. Please stop homogenizing completely different disciplines that use a powerful tool for completely different purposes.

We won't share images right away

It is okay for you to ask us to take a couple of pictures for them in a casual, ordinary moment? There’s really no problem with this at all, but things will be a lot easier for your social media dynamics if you lend us your own phone to do this. Using our camera to take random pictures will definitely take longer and feel like an eternity compared to your usual social media behavior, which is to publish things right away.

Obviously, this was a humorous post. But it doesn't mean it doesn’t contain grains of truth. The big conclusion here is simple: find a loved one who has huge patience with you in this matter (trust me, it wasn't easy for my partner to develop this patience). And remember to be less selfish when being part of a hanging-out group – that is to say, friends and family who are normal and not crazy about photography. They love us, so let’s give them some quality time once in a while.

Originally Published at Light Stalking

5 Books That Every Photographer Should Read

The world of photography is filled with many accessories and gadgets – from lenses, to fairly simple and peculiar add-ons like camera bags and release buttons – that tantalize us and beg us to include them in our repertoire. But there is a category of goods that, for me, is at the top of things in which every photographer should invest, even if they are second-, or third-hand (or countless-handed). They always manage to fulfill their role in teaching and inspiring us. These peculiar articles, which don't lose their value with time and owners, are photography books. There are a variety of types: academic (from dummy to engineering level), playful, philosophical (for lovers of aesthetics and other philosophical streams), and photo books, which are loaded with beautiful images for us to look at.

Here is a book for each of the categories I mentioned above.

Academic

-          Michael Freeman - The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography

This book was perhaps the most important to me in my life as a photographer. Seven years ago, after losing my point-and-shoot camera, I decided to get a DSLR (just like the pros). I bought all my gear in the U.S. and looked for a book that would help me take images I liked better. I entered a Barnes & Noble’s store, and for some reason I was driven to buy this book. I enjoyed black-and-white photography, and this book seemed to me like the obvious choice. Thankfully, I was not mistaken. It became my bible. It taught me the importance of black-and-white post-production in the digital world. With this book, I learned to contrast with color channels and to discern which areas deserved better care in post-processing.

Freeman is a natural teacher, and his books are wonderful for anyone who has a minimum of self-taught discipline. This book is an extremely easy-to-understand guide, and its size is perfect not only for reading, but also for appreciating the images that illustrate it. Its scope is quite broad, contextualizes the reader in the monochromatic tradition, and even teaches us about alternative print formats. I totally recommend it for people who have even the slightest interest in digital black-and-white photography.

Playful

-          Roland Barthes - Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

This book is quite funny (at least, I found it so) and is perhaps one of the most oft-mentioned documents in the world of contemporary photography. It is not a treatise on photography as an art, nor is it a book on the history of the photographic discipline. Barthes approaches photography in a contemplative way and seeks to decipher the expressive symbol. He tries to understand the artistic object as such. He takes as his starting point a handful of photographs in order to discover "a new science". It may seem like a rather complicated approach, but he knows how to do it in a playful and digestible way. The most important thing I learned from this book were the two valuable concepts of "punctum" the "studium" for reading an image in a contemplative way.

Philosophical

-          Walter Benjamin - On Photography

To me, Walter Benjamin is the philosopher who has approached photography with the greatest passion of all (Theodor Adorno also approached it, but didn't dedicate a complete book to it). He wrote an essay called "A Short History of Photography" in 1931, and his book "On Photography" is an approach to the medium from a much wider perspective.

In this book, he discusses everything from commercial photography to the scientific uses of photography. Benjamin began talking about photography when he postulated his theory in "The Work of Art in its Technical Reproducibility", which analyzes the differentiated nature of photography – which lacks the "aura" of a unique work – compared to works of art that cannot be reproduced.

Photo books

-          Mary Ellen Mark - 55S

For me, photo books are for me (and for many photographers) the summit of any photographic career. To see a work printed in a compendium that covers all the intentionality of the discipline is a delight.

This is the type of book that we as photographers should invest in the most. This one, published by Phaidon, presents the artistic intentions of Mary Ellen Mark as expressed through the photographic medium. For photographers like myself, who love social and documentary work, this book is a jewel. Each image is generously captioned to give us an idea of what was happening in front of Mark’s lens. Her work is a symbolic narrative that leaves us breathless – and more importantly, invites us to think like few photographers in history have caused us to do.

Easter Egg

-          Magnum Contact Sheets

This book is the Holy Grail of photography for me. The greatness of this book (which is immense) is that it transparently presents the "behind the scenes" of some of the most iconic photographs ever taken. It does this not only through text, but with one of the most useful tools of the editors: the contact sheet. Through this book, we can feel less guilty for not capturing transcendental images in a single shot, which we have naively come to believe is possible. We all tend to think that the iconic images of Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others were the result of the sublime ability of each photographer to capture scenes with a sort of magical, highly efficient photography. In fact, our belief is not completely accurate, and this book helps us see this fact for real.

I’m not saying we should be comfortable and simply stop looking for the "decisive moment". I’m just saying that we mustn't feel guilty for not being able to achieve iconic images with a single click, as we think the great masters were able to do every time. In this book, we can see photography in a more human way. Of all the books on this list, I consider this one absolutely essential.

Originally Published at Light Stalking