It has recently come to my attention just how isolated I am from other photographers in Cape Town. Not intentionally isolated, mind you, but rather because of having to concentrate on my own “hustle” and focusing on my own career in order to survive and make a living (this is a story for another day).
I’ve been shooting, in some form or another, for over 20 years now. I even remember having an old Ricoh film camera with me on my first trip to New Jersey and New York City almost 19 years ago. (I wonder where those negatives are??) I digress.
So in the two decades that I’ve been taking pictures the only times I’ve socialised with other photographers were the times when we all happened to be at the same gig shooting the same thing. Never for the mere pleasure of each other’s company, nor for the benefit of the collective wealth of knowledge and experience that would undoubtedly be present in a room filled with creative image makers. I’m starting to feel like this has been a long series of missed opportunities.
Of course Facebook and Instagram (oh, don’t get me started on Instagram) have made, us as local photographers, aware of each other…whether it’s just seeing a new post from Paul Overmeyer, or checking to see what new car stuff Jason Williams and Dylan Curry have shot…not to mention the editorials from Nishaam Ebrahim, Nicholas Abrahams and the RaceWeb crew.
I could go on and on listing names of photographers I know who live literally within 20km of me. So much talent, creativity, stories, potential, and so many lessons that could be learned from each other, and yet we’re never in the same room at the same time (unless they’ve all been meeting and not telling me about it)!
There’s a quote that I recite to myself whenever I meet new people….I’m not sure where it’s from or who said it but these are words I try to live my life by:
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”
Roughly translated… While most people prefer being the “clever guy” or the most knowledgeable person in their circle, this never opens the door to learning more than you already know, or grasping new ideas that you never considered before. If you constantly surround yourself with people who have nothing to add to your knowledge, understanding or appreciation of a particular aspect of life, then you’re missing an opportunity to be in a “room” where there are people who can add value to how you see things and understand concepts.
Being the guy everyone listens to, admires, and goes to for advice is fantastic for the ego…but that’s about it. Being that guy is like a brick wall for any kind of meaningful development and progress as a creative (insert any profession or skill here).
Don’t get me wrong though…I’m not saying don’t ever help anyone….heaven forbid!
We all have that one thing that we do better than anyone else (as far as we know), and it’s our duty to help our peers “level up”, as it were.
What I am saying (in a much more drawn out fashion than anticipated) is that we as sensitive and vulnerable creatives tend to seek out situations and circumstances where we’re closer to the upper end of “in the know”…situations and circumstances where we feel safer and less likely to have our feelings hurt (see aforementioned “vulnerable and sensitive creatives”).
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” as I understand it, simply means: go out of your way to be among people who know more than you do. You rarely learn new things from people who are waiting for you to show them new things.
Where was I going with all of this?….ahh yes, photography clubs.
What do you guys think of starting a small,manageable, no pressure, “let’s see how it goes”, photography club? A nice social meeting maybe once a month over coffee and donuts to talk about the creative and technical aspects of what we each do. It could be a time and a place to ask questions in a “safe space” and maybe share new techniques and processes we just found or learned.
What are your thoughts? and is anyone potentially interested in something like this?
Let me know in the comments.