Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On online communities

Recently, I've been in touch with some local amateur photographers whose work I discovered through the ongoing "Capture Indy" project, a photo collection campaign that The Indianapolis Star is driving to publish a book conveying not only what Indianapolis looks like in photographs, but also to display and expose some of the best work of talented local photographers.

I initiated the contact with these photographers because I'm interested in making make them subject/profiles of my monthly "Photographer in the Spotlight" feature here at "Photo Potpourri." Since Photo Potpourri launched in December, all of my spotlight subjects have been from out of my home state of Indiana. There was one from the Bahamas (Trish van den Berg), one from Canada (Tony Hadley), one from Minnesota (Ron Germundson) and two from California (Joo-chiang "JC" Lee and the most recent, Chris Harris). All of these except JC I met through Photo.net, where I maintain one of two public online photo galleries of my own. JC is a "connection" I made through the online business networking site "Linked-In," where I've made many other photographer acquaintances. I can't say that all of these people are close "friends," but I mention it here to say that each has played some role -- large or small -- into advancing my knowledge or understanding of photography, which is why I devote the time I do to develop these spotlight features. Each of these photographers' interviews has been informative to me, and my hope is that is has been for others who've read these question-and-answer features. Each "spotlight" feature has included some wonderful photographs from these craftsmen and women.

I joined Linked-In initially thinking it would help connect me to more people in the area of my livelihood -- journalism. But even though the largest portion of my Linked-In connections are writers or editors, Linked-In's primary benefit to me so far -- and by far -- has been the group of photographers I've come to "meet" (cyberspacially), and their discussions and comments I monitor closely in Linked-In group discussions. I've joined more than a half-dozen photograph-related groups alone at Linked-In, and three or four of them have discussion threads that are updated daily. Photo.net also has a bounty of informative articles and discussion topics and threads. I simply don't have the time to monitor all of them. But because it is a global community (as is Linked-In), Photo.net is a valuable resource, its articles (especially on equipment) and discussion threads are publically accessible even to non-members. If you're a photographer and haven't yet discovered Photo.net, you owe it to yourself to check it out -- not as a prospective member, but just to take advantage of the wealth of resources there.

The whole point of this post is to underscore the value of some networking sites. My success and satisfaction with Linked-In and Photo.net (the latter isn't so much a networking site as it is a global community) softened my resistance to create a personal account at Facebook, which several friends had prodded me to do in the past couple years. But I'm now a Facebooker, too, although ... I'm still so new at it that I'm not at the point where I can absolutely positively declare satisfaction with it to the degree I can with Linked-In and Photo.net.

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