I attended a workshop recently — it had been a while.
I was both excited and apprehensive going in because while I’ve been photographing weddings professionally for almost a decade and a half, for most of the last few years I’ve flown solo — working alone in my office or from a coffee shop, headphones in, podcasts on — without much conversation or input from anybody else. It had been a while since I was a part of a “group project”, and I had grown entirely comfortable in that mode. This event would stretch me. That’s what I wanted, and also not exactly what I wanted, if you know what I mean. Like the little angel and the little devil on my shoulders were in full “GO” mode leading up to the event.
Arriving there I kept mostly to myself. I attended a group shoot the first day, and sort of pretended I was there to photograph the gorgeous scenery, rather than have to interact much with the other attendees or the instructors and organizers. And that evening at the group dinner I found a pub table in the back near a corner and set up shop, quietly introverting my way through my Instagram feed.
That’s when they ruined it.
These two — this … couple just … ugh — just walked up to me and started … talking!
I couldn’t get away. I was trapped in this corner. There was nowhere to hide, and nothing I could do. I melted into myself like a warm chocolate candy.
No, that’s not true. What I did do was meet an entirely delightful couple who had driven halfway across the country with their adorable recently-adopted pup to attend the workshop. We talked for a while and they introduced me to some other photographers from their town, and our little group grew and grew over the course of the evening.
The next day I attended some of the scheduled shoots and made a few more amazing new friends. And the trend continued throughout the week, each shoot, each class, each dinner strengthening and deepening the relationships we were building together. And this manifested itself in some really cool ways. Some of the people who were there to learn and make photos also spent part of their time there as models for the shoots. So there were some great opportunities for creative collaboration and for our conversations of an evening to spill over into our shoot time the next day. We played off each other’s ideas, watched each other work, and tried new things based on what we were learning from one another. And the trust we were building with one another getting to know each other meant that we could push each other even further in our creative efforts.
It was, in my mind, the purest example of “the rising tide lifts all ships”, but is was also a bit of a gut-check at the same time. It reminded me that I also have a strong photography community back home, made up of some of the most talented artists I’ve ever met, and some of the most gifted and creative minds in the industry. It reminded me of all the days I choose to pass on the meet-up invitations or the group happy hours. It reminded me that I’d not been flying solo because of anyone else’s decisions or preferences, but because of my own. I wasn’t missing out on community and collaboration, I was choosing not to engage in it daily, weekly, monthly.
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”
Many of you may be in the same spot I have been in — alone in your office or your guest room or your patio or a coffee shop or wherever you get things done. Maybe it’s been a while since you had lunch with a fellow creative. Maybe it’s been even longer than that since you invited a photographer friend to come out and shoot with you, just for fun. Maybe you’re more ready to interact and be challenged creatively than you realize. Maybe it’s time for some collaboration in your life, too.
If so, make a move. Call up a friend and plan a lunch — feed your body and your soul. Tell them something you’ve been struggling with creatively and talk through it with them. You’ll gain so much just from the conversation, and even more from getting out and shooting together! You’ll get to see how they solve creative problems and you’ll get a taste of their world. And in doing so you’ll make your world just a bit bigger and brighter, more excited for the next time you spend time with them.
Go out and shoot with friends. Like, today. I think you’ll be glad you did.