Whether you’re more active in online photography communities, in formally established groups like The.Dot, or prefer in-person hangouts with colleagues over a cup of coffee, being a part of a photographic community is a wonderful thing. For a very long time now I have been a firm believer in maintaining a positive community but it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled across the #CommunityOverCompetition hashtag. Following the links, I was lead to a fantastic organization whose purpose is to actively promote a sense of community amongst photographers.
This got me thinking – what exactly does community mean to me? What does it mean to my colleagues?
Community is a place of support, a place to share knowledge and a place to be accepted regardless of who you are, what brand of camera you use or how long you’ve been in business. A community is a gathering of like-minded individuals who foster a sense of safety and belonging, it’s a place where you can develop friendships and be yourself without judgement.
Community is a give-and-take, you get out of your community what you put into it. Community is about giving back to those who have given to you. Do you have a longtime supporter on Facebook? Give back a few “likes” every now and then. Have an IG follower that is kind enough to leave nice comments on your photos? Write them back and leave them some love, too! Community is a series of interachanges and interactions between individuals that fosters both personal and professional growth; it is a 2-way street.
Community is when you support one another – actively and publicly. Community over competition is not only a hashtag that is rising in popularity but it’s also an ideal that we should be basing all of our actions from. Interacting with your peers on social media (liking, commenting, +1’s) will not make you lose clients – it will solely strengthen your bond with the community. Helping spread the world about awesome opportunities within the photographic community, like photography workshops, won’t lessen your own following of fans – it will simply identity you as a strong leader and supporter within your community. Being proud to publicly support others (and not just in private facebook groups) will not detour clients from booking with you; it will only show them how loving and giving you really are and will do nothing but encourage them to develop a professional relationship with you.
While I have encountered many truly awesome, active members in the photographic community in Toronto, I also know of so many individuals who take more than they give and who rarely – if ever – reciprocate. They’re the first to send you a personal friend request but then they’re never heard from again. They’re the ones who are booked solid (and then some) yet never provide referrals to anyone else. They are the ones who ask you to vote for them in competitions but won’t share information you’ve posted. It makes me so sad that these people have chosen to isolate themselves from their community – but as a proud member of the community myself I say to those people: It’s not too late to change your mind. You can still be a part of our community even though you may have turned your back on us in the past. Why? Because a community is many things, as I touched on above, but a community is also forgiving.