Many people think photography is a one-man job, but it doesn't have to be. The art of taking pictures can be a shared experience. The photowalk has long been around since the late 19th century, an activity done by early photography clubs such as The Camera Club of New York. The Lomography Community was incepted upon the discovery of the LC-A out of a flea market in Prague. We think it's time to revisit the purpose of the photowalk and what it means to our community.
Photography as the Social Experience
The Lomography Community is no stranger to photowalks and is one of the photo communities that encourage photowalks. We've recently collaborated with photographer Anil Mistry for a special Berlin Kino Photowalk in the hip city of Brighton, England. It is also through Lomography in which known community member Julia, known as waggrad00 experienced her first photowalks. Julia was an active participant in Lomography's workshops that took place in the former Lomography Chicago Store — one of the activities was the LC-A Walk in February 2013. However, her fondest memory would be the first time she initiated a photowalk with fellow Lomographers @rwins and @stevenboo in Wicker Park, Chicago.
"Steven sat on abandoned furniture to "model" for us and he and Rachel taught me about long exposures. As a new Lomo nerd, it was an incredible experience."
The Community is filled with creatives of will and initiative. Berlinonfilm founder Noemi, a.k.a. oh_nooes has always been a photography enthusiast who started out late with analogue photography. After learning the technicalities of film — from loading a roll to dropping a film at the film lab — Noemi began to crave human interaction to make analogue photography even more interesting. Noemi started to hunt for platforms of inspiration, subjects, tricks, recommendations, photo spots, and meetups, wishing to have some friends to learn photography from.
"At the beginning of autumn, I decided to take action. Cold but sunny days in Berlin looked like the good occasion for a meet-up. But not a standing (or worse, sitting) meet-up, I wanted to frame the meeting as an opportunity for participants to put into practise and get in motion with their art. Via various social media, I contacted some film photographers based in Berlin. They liked the idea to walk our vintage cameras and shooting some autumn leaves, together. They accepted. Five people showed up at the meeting, cameras around their necks. They were all very different from each other in terms of background, age, profession, nationality. We spend the whole day together, with no feeling of awkwardness - just happy to be free to talk about our common passion, which nowadays is not exactly common shared."
Thanks to the Internet, we get to meet people from different walks of life and share a common love and experience through photography. Such is also with LomoAmigo and photographer Martin Smith a.k.a. westen30 when he first experienced the photowalk when he met up with fellow photographers on Twitter, back in 2017. For Martin, the photowalk helped him see what other kindred spirits see:
"My friend Sandeep and I know quite a few photographers through Twitter and decided to organize a photo walk in London for the 24th June 2017. It was great there were about 12 of us on the day and we worked our way through the city to Shoreditch. Photowalks are great for seeing what other photographers see. Quite often I’ll not see anything I want to shoot, then another photographer will suddenly dash take a shot. They’ve seen something I hadn’t and it makes me look at things in a different way."
Involving in Communal Enrichment
The beautiful aspect of the photowalk is how it is shared. Some incidents that one may have never experienced had they trodden the path of photography alone. Passionate photographers all equally get attached. When the Lomography Chicago gallery store closed down, Julia admits it was more challenging to find photographers to schedule photowalks with. The strong sense of friendship within Lomographers makes it more difficult to part. Fortunately, things do not need to end on a sad note. Keeping the same old bonds, but also taking initiatives to reach out to other photographers have been a creed of hers.
"So many of us are busy with work and life that it's hard to schedule a time when we can meet, but I say send out a random mass text or e-mail and try to get your friends together to shoot. I know there are photo communities online with meetups, but I can't attest to those personally. Also, be open to asking people who you meet who don't necessarily shoot if they'd be open to going on a walk. This has worked for me a few times. Finally, reach out to Lomographer's when you are heading to their town. Most recently, I did a photo walk with a Lomographer @etienne_despois from Paris, France when he visited Chicago. It was so awesome!"
Since Martin's very first photowalk, he has become eager to share what he himself experienced. In hopes that other photographers would engage in the activity, he opened Photowalk.me, a platform for planning and organizing photowalk meetups all over the world:
"I thought it would be nice if there was a tool for photographers to use to find and organize their own photowalks. In February 2018 I launched Photowalk.me and to date, there have been 90 photowalks organized through the site and it has nearly 500 members. Although most of the photowalks have been in the UK we have had a few in the US, Canada, and Australia. I would like to see photowalks going on all over the world."
As an organizer, Martin is responsible to keep track of attendance and sending updates to attendees. In the future, he plans to add galleries so that members can share their photographs from the photowalks they attended. Noemi has also become a spearhead of her own since her pilot photowalk. She decides a time and place to explore, then invites people personally through her own Instagram account for film photography. For Noemi, the sense of unity and amicability makes analogue photographers so keen on connecting with fellow film lovers.
"I cannot really say . but I have an idea of why people like to participate in photography walks. It is not only for the feeling of belonging or chorality but also because they feel they can actively practice a passion that is difficult to pull out on the outside. A person who goes out to take pictures is basically already recognizing himself as a photographer. Gathering experience by doing and by learning from others at the same time is a very powerful way of practicing and elaborating around a passion."
How do these photowalk enthusiasts make the experience worth an incredible story? Lomography has always emphasized on capturing the beautiful, fleeting moments of life, but most of all, always follow your own instincts. Martin prefers sunny autumn or spring days with some clouds over the scorching summer sun. He also likes to go beyond the intimate and shared aspect of the photowalk to nobler and exciting causes.
"A little bit of competition is always good or like we did on our first photo walk we printed everyone’s favorite shot from the day and sold them to raise funds for charity."
Julia and Noemi believe in the boundlessness, allowing destiny to take its own course. They believe that any day can be ideal, believes in the element of spontaneity and surprise. Sunny, cloudy, autumn, summer, winter -- all of those can possibly create memories worth keeping. As for plans? Make them, but don't be too roped in to strictly follow steps one to two. Settle your expectations, and just go with the flow.
"There is no perfect weather condition or stars alignment which makes the walks happen: it is all based on route planning, enthusiasm and a pinch of luck. But not without any effort from my side: in the beginning, my side job has been targeting as many Berlin amateur analogue photographers as I could on Instagram, Lomography, Meet-up, Facebook. It took me months. Setting up our own Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Berlinonfilm) and a dedicated Instagram profile facilitated the gathering of interested people and the organization of bigger walks and events."
There will be problems here and there to be encountered -- the location may not have that "spark", or the weather or sunlight do not fit the aesthetic you're going for -- take advantage of these moments and learn something new. The key to enjoying photowalks is to be open to organic experiences that will happen. One of Julia's fondest memories during a photowalk was one out of spontaneity.
" By far, one of my favorite photowalks I've ever participated in was when the plans of the photographers and I had fallen apart. The area where we wanted to shoot was closed off so we found some abandoned train tracks, and while there the sun was beaming and we shot amazing portraits with natural light. It was incredible. I think the skill and mindset you need for a great photo walk is to be open to what comes your way and then create!"
Julia also suggests approaching strangers and initiating conversations. It's a perfect tactic to get their permission for a portrait shoot.
The photowalk experience inevitably does something special and unique — binding creative, kindred spirits. Being able to be with your analogue soulmates, forming a mutual understanding. We get to express ourselves freely and see things we haven't seen yet, through the eyes of others. Friendships are made during a photowalk, friends meant for keeps. It's like finally reuniting with a family you've been missing for so long.
We couldn't agree more. Maybe you already belong to a pack of artists, yet to explore the world together with cameras. Maybe you're still a lost pup in need of a family. Reach out. Don't be afraid to connect with fellow artists. As Noemi would put it: "Many amateur analogue photographers consider themselves 'lonely wolves'. I have been very happy to prove many of them wrong." Photography doesn't have to be lonely.
We would like to thank Martin, Julia, and Noemi for sharing their unforgettable experience with this communal activity. Got a thought bubble after this piece? Don't forget to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section!