Friday Inspiration: Ninety Degrees Five

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It seemed appropriate, given where my head has been in the last few weeks, to look at the collaborative group Ninety degrees Five this week. One of the questions that I’ve been asking is ‘as a beginning photographer how can you accelerate your improvement’ and realized that being part of a working group can greatly help. While I was thinking about that I was also wondering once you ‘make it’ whatever that means to you then what. Does the group that you’re a part of still work for you, do you move onto a new group that are more aligned with where you’re currently at? Where do the modern day masters go for feedback?

It was interesting then for me to come across Ninety Degrees Five, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway, Christian Fletcher, and Michael Fletcher. These four photographers and a film maker are in essence a group of modern day master photographers who are working together in the way that I described in my blog post earlier in the week. The image above of Dampier Salt Flats is by Les Walkling and is from the Pilbara Project. The projects that the group has completed include ‘South West Light’ and ‘2016 Shark Bay – Inscription‘.

One of the things that came out of the Impressionists was a group sensibility within which the individuals still had a indue voice. I think that could also be said for this group too. The work hangs together as a whole and yet they clearly have distinct voices. Check out the videos below for more about the Pilabara project and South West Light.

The Pilbara Project from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

52 Weeks On: A Pilbara Project Exhibition Trailer from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

South West Light – A Photographer’s Perspective from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

ND5 – A photographers Perspective – ‘Come on…..really! are you serious?’ from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Artist’s Communities vs Mastermind Groups

I continue to ruminate on the idea of artist’s communities and in particular what does it take to build and sustain an effective group. I was surprised to find relatviely little written on this topic until I asked, and answered for myself, the following questions:

  • What do you get out of it?
  • What do you contribute to the group?
  • What is the optimal size of such a group?

How would you answer these questions?

For me this kind of group would provide both support and accountability. It would provide me with access to experience that I currently don’t have, to feedback about current directions that I’m heading in and provide me with the impetus to keep going.

In addition to being generally supportive of others in the group I would imagine that in such a group everyone has overlapping skills but expertise in specific areas. Each member could as requested teach and share their unique expertise with the rest of the group to help all move forward.

I always feel as though if you are at dinner with a group of more than 6 you really only interact with your nearest neighbors anyway, ~ 5 others, so this is the right number for a dinner party for me and it feels about the right size to me for one of these artists groups.  Small enough to be able to really know the other people in the group.

After unpacking this for myself I realized that what I was describing was what is now commonly referred to as a ‘mastermind group’, something that most people trace back to Napoleon Hill’s book ‘Think and Grow Rich’. I read this book 15 years ago and had a quick skim through it again when I was writing this. The language is archaic, making it hard work to get through.

Hill was of course focused on how you can accumulate money and the mastermind group was a tool that would let you develop and vet your plans with a team of people that complemented your skills. Not quite what I had in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of ‘to help you develop mastery and achieve your goals‘.