Shouldn’t Supporting Photographers Be A Two-Way Street?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about support and what it means. Is it something you can ask for, but not give back? Are we obligated to return the favor, or is it even important to worry about that?

If you’ve had a photo project on Indiegogo, or, or Kickstarter asking for money, I wonder: have you contributed to other photographer’s projects?

If you’ve got a book-signing coming up, or have published a book, did you buy someone else’s book, or go to their signing, or for that matter, their gallery opening? If someone wrote about you on their blog, did you read it? Did you promote the fact that they wrote about you, or did you also promote the writer? Do you even read other photography blogs, or only when they feature you?

As much as I can say there is a photography community in New York, I find myself questioning how much of it is self-interest and how much of it is reciprocal.

Now I don’t claim to be perfect in this regard. I often fall short of my goal of giving as well as hoping to receive. Even when something benefits me, I don’t always hold up my end of the bargain and promote it as well as I should. So I’m not here to claim perfection.

But it does make me wonder: Do you believe in being a lone wolf only thinking about your own career, or do you realize and promote the value of community?


Today I was clued in to a piece on in which a photographer wrote something about iconic photos, without crediting ANY of the photographers. As I read to the end of the piece, I saw the photographer was asking for people to contribute to him because he had his gear stolen.

So he couldn’t credit the people who risked their lives to take these “iconic photos,” but he could ask readers to give him money. Wow!

Things are difficult all over; there are new challenges all the time. And I would never say that you shouldn’t be looking out for yourself. I’m just wondering if you realize the benefits of joining together in support of each other.

Sometimes self-interest has to be balanced by the greater good; the greater needs of the community. How else can we protect and promote what is great about photography? I don’t mean scratch each other’s backs, I mean help others (if you can) to achieve their goals as well as your own.

Photographers have always been thought of as loners, and for some people they revel in that. But it’s through networking, and getting out, and talking with others, and reading about what’s going on that can help to create a stronger and more unified community.

A perfect example of this (and an example of where I think I fell down) was the FlashForward Festival in Boston last month. I was invited, as were several photographers to speak and be on panels. But there wasn’t enough promotion by those participating or support from the people in Boston, including the media. And so, a really fantastic group of speakers didn’t get through to a really great audience.

Why weren’t all of us promoting this festival in all of our social media platforms — and that goes for speakers AND visitors? And if that doesn’t happen, why are we not asking each other “why not”?

Have we all become too busy (or lazy) to get off our butts and really engage? Why do we accept the current status quo (the “new normal”) without speaking out against it if we disagree? Why are we so willing to just take it and move on? Do you think things will get better?

Can’t supporting each other be a mutually beneficial thing? For all the time it takes for you to post to FB about your vacation, or your family, or something you saw on the street, you can comment, you can call people to account. You can add your voice to others.

That’s how things change. That’s how you take control of shaping the future.

About the author: Stella Kramer is a creative consultant who helps photographers with her careers. She also blogs about photography at Stellazine. This article originally appeared here.

Image credit: One way… by waitscm, Lone Wolf by CoowBooy

  • A.G. Photography

    Thanks for this article. I do believe in supporting the community and often share your stuff, and Kelby Training stuff, Matt Kloskowski’s stuff, ASMP, PPA articles etc, and whatever else I find that the “community” as a whole can benefit from. It is true though that a lot of people are in it for the “likes” of their own works and could care less about anyone else. I personally know of a few in this later category.

  • Theresa Z

    Good article! I love photography so I visit many blogs, sites and pages. There are some fantastic photographers out there, I love to admire art. I don’t always get anything back, no comments on my blog or flickr, I don’t go in expecting it, but, it’s a lot of fun when I see a new comment. I am kind of a loner when I go out to shoot, I socialize with people on the street but I like to concentrate when I get to my destination. Thank you for all of your work, I read your site daily. Have a wonderful week! = )

  • Theranthrope

    Aren’t you kind of putting the cart before the horse here?
    If you want the benefits of a strong community, you actually need a community first. To put it another way: if you want the “friends with benefits” package… (*giggity giggity*) you actually need friends first.

    Strong, tight-knit, communities can grow organically, but there needs to be a shared medium for it to grow at all; do you intend to propose some kind of method for providing this medium?

  • Grokular

    If PetaPixel comments are any indicator, the photographic community would rather crap all over everything they see rather than endorse a remote possibility of artistic merit. The photographic community is diseased beyond belief.

  • Bart Willems

    I always find it amusing on photography forums how people are shocked, SHOCKED beyond believe when non-photographers want to “cheap out” on photography services. “They have to understand, you get what you pay for, it costs money to run a business, I have to pay bills, etc, etc”

    Two posts later they’ll be asking for free legal advice, show off their self-designed (horrible looking) business card instead of using a graphics designer, ask how we like their self-designed (garish looking) website, etc, etc. Not to mention ripped of music, having no problem using copyrighted/trademarked material for their forum avatars, etc, etc.

    If there’s one group that believes “behaving ethically is for others not us” it’s photographers.

  • bob cooley

    I find that to be untrue. I’ve been around here for years – and for the most part the community, particularly the regulars at PetaPixel are supportive of good work and projects that are worthy of kudos and merit – but not every project posted here is worthy of Kudos (and unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of lower quality projects promoted here as of late).

    And there will always be trolls – we just need to be careful not to feed them (I too, am guilty of that sometimes).

    The regulars are a pretty honest and straight-forward group – they may disagree on some projects – but what we like to see is work worthy of being highlighted, not just ever random photo project that someone picked up a camera to create.

  • Grokular

    Disagree all you like, online photographic communities are full of horrible people.

  • bob cooley

    Simply restating your opinion does not make it more valid.

  • Pete

    Although I agree that the speakers at a festival, symposium, forum, etc would benefit themselves as well as the audience by promoting the fact that they are going to be there. I stop short at believing the potential audience should as well. The exception being perhaps a *camp where audience and speakers are indistinguishable.

    My job is in IT (photography is a hobby to me) so at risk of hijacking this discussion, I would relate the speaker/audience thing to my field. If I am asked to speak at an event it is in my own best interest to make sure there are bums in seats. However, attending an event where I am paying to be there and know the speakers and topics in advance, it benefits me none to promote the event, with the small exception of should it not be successful (i.e. not well attended) then it is likely not to happen again. 50/50 as to whether that is good.

    Again expanding in to my IT field, as a business partner to a large IT firm that might be hosting an event, I pay large money to be there to promote my product or service/the firms product. For the large IT firm to then aggressively pursue me to promote the event with no compensation also make no sense.

    Apologies if I went off topic, I know the word “festival” brings out the thought of “community” and I wrote mostly of corporate events, but I think they all inter-relate.