The Power of Community

In more than a couple of portfolio reviews the folks that I was sat down with have asked me about my community.  Who are the people around you that are able to share in the trials and tribulations of creating work?  The people that can support you when you venture beyond what is safe and encourage you to go further.

What does your community look like?

Hopefully it will be diverse.  You will have the never ending cheerleaders who will support and encourage you regardless of what you’re doing.  You’ll have the people who will pick you up when you’re down.  The ones that know just what to say to penetrate the negative self-talk that many of us can slip into all too easily when we’re way outside of what we think we know is good.  Finally you’ll have the people who will give you straight forward and direct feedback.  Having a good balance of these groups in your life really helps.

As an aside are you like me and hear the whisper of the critic more clearly than the shout of the supporters?  I’m not sure why that is but it does seem to be a pattern repeated time and time again.

Having regular interactions with your community so that you all benefit is what makes communities work. Mostly you need to show up and participate.

I’m also finding that if you are to grow from those interactions you need to ask good questions.  Perhaps this is an obvious to you, but it hasn’t always been to me.  As I’ve grown more sophisticated as a photographer I wish that the questions that I’ve asked have also grown in sophistication but they haven’t.  All too often I look for approval – is this good? do you like it? Does that sound familiar?

Better questions lead to better answers which in turn allow you to move forward.  The simple question ‘Do you like it’? almost demands a simple yes or no answer. A more involved question such as ‘what do you think of when you see this image’ or ‘what could make this stronger’ requires more of the viewer and may well result in more informative feedback.  The associations that people may surprise you and suggest ways in which you can extend the work.

I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on community – how to build community, how to sustain it for the long term and anything else you want to add to the conversation – add them in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Community

  1. Many good ideas and thoughts in this post. From where I am there is not much mention of community. But there is friendship born of common interest. Support comes from many places. On the whole most do not welcome criticism. So I follow the guide to praise the good and smile if it is not.

    • I agree that most people do not welcome criticism – it can be hard to hear that what what you think is good isn’t. In those cases your approach is perfect!

      It’s fun to find, or develop, a group where you can be vulnerable, perhaps fail and yet be supported and encouraged.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I worked in retail for a Christmas season and learned quickly that people like affirmation. It is hard to put into words, but I learned quickly how to read people as they stood in front of the mirror beaming at their own reflection, not to tell them they needed a bigger size. It wasn’t about lying or making a sale, it was about understanding that we all see differently. I think it is much the same with art and commenting on other’s work. Encouragement is ALWAYS preferable to criticism, in my world… and encouragement can be very instructive. 🙂

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