Too Many Street Photography Collectives?

What’s with all these street photography collectives!? I’m losing count. There’s iN-PUBLIC, the longest street photography group, there’s Burn My Eye, Observe, APF Collective, Full Frontal Flash, The Street Collective, Berlin 1020, EyeGosBananas, Superluna (just learned about this one), New York City Street Photography Collective Italian Street Eyes…Okay I’m getting exhausted. I’m curious to know what their purpose is, besides being all passionate photographers that formed a group and shares a similar vision on street photography? Other than the members admiring your photographs, are there any other qualifications you must pass? Are you required to take an “initiation beating”? I’m joking.

I attended StreetFoto in 2017 and there was a panel discussion from members of in-PUBLIC. There were 4 to 5 of them, I don’t remember exactly, but someone in the audience asked a question something along the lines of “what benefits are there being in a collective?” The answer went something like “well we have a group chat from time to time and we send over our contact sheets and photos to one another for feedback and that basically helps our editing process…” Really that’s it? I do want to mention as well that many collectives are born with the idea to sell a workshop(s), which is sad.

Anyway, all these street collectives really need to stop promoting themselves and figure out a way to “Make Street Photography Great Again”. Many of the collectives have a number of big name photographers in their groups and have a lot of weight and reach, but I don’t think many, if not all, of these collectives really know what the purpose of having a collective is. What is the mission? If you can’t answer that then you should reconsider putting any time and effort into your collectives. I feel like some of these collectives especially the ones that have been around for much longer can do much more by combining all of their talents (not just street photography talents) to do something with impact. Something memorable. Perhaps give value back to the street photography community.

Street Collectives

I propose that there should be some kind of organize street photography Olympics. One representative from each group all gather and discuss in trying to put something competitive together. Figure out a way collectively to give back to the street photography community (oh wait did I say that) instead of each group taking turns highlighting the same individual…it would be a win, win for everyone.

I also feel that some of these collectives are bringing in new blood into their group at a very high rate, especially within the last year or so. There’s no doubt that the male and females that have joined are phenomenal photographers, but I do think it makes the group less special. Maybe limit it by only accepting one person per year. I understand it’s a marketing strategy by bringing a high profile photographer into the group and I’m sure reviewing not only their body of work is part of the process, but how many Instagram followers that person has will eventually determine the fate of whether or not that particular person gets included.

From my observation, I look at some of these photographers associated with these groups and I don’t think they need to be a part of the collective. They’re good enough, with a large enough following, to be independent. If a group were to ask me to join, I’d negotiate hard and really try to maximize my opportunities and see where we could both benefit each other. It’s gotten to the point where street photography collectives are so saturated. The one benefit I see in being a part of a collective is to be recognized by my peers, but then what happens after.

All in all, is it worth being a part of a collective? I mean it doesn’t hurt to have a group of photographers that support you and possibly free marketing doesn’t hurt either. But if this is the case, I would be selective and wait for the right group to reach out to you.

*** Berlin 1020 is a unique collective like NYC SPC because all the photographers are located in the same area…

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6 Replies to “Too Many Street Photography Collectives?”

  1. Man, here is your controversial Blog ! Nice one. I had the idea to write something similar but didn’t have the guts… You’ve got balls ! 😉 Now write down the “Most overrated Street Photographer” Blog ! Come on ! Do it 😉

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  2. You’ve reminded me of the street photography “meet-up” I attended here in Seattle at Pike Place Market in 2012. Of the 20 – 30 people who signed up for it, only 5 of us showed up, talked to each other for a few minutes, then wound up going our separate ways. I suspected as much was going to happen, as most art forms are singular pusuits, and street photography especially is. Can you imagine being with people pointing and shouting, “Hey, get a shot of this!?” I looked into joining a collective back then, but most of them seemed to be elitist snobs, closed to new members. So, I considered starting my own Seattle street photograohy collective and came to the conclusion that it would never happen. There are several photographers here, one of which I know personally and we run into each other now and then and chat for a couple of minutes, then we’re on our separate ways, pursuing our very different individual styles. Meanwhile, in Seattle, the general public is so ignorant of photography, in general, let alone street photography, that there is a rumor about me being an “undercover cop” or the FBI/CIA/NSA, which has circulated for about three years or more, now.

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