Today I want to talk about the importance of friendships and maintaining them. The thoughts contained within this article are purely of my own and are not applicable to all. However, I hope they provide some positivity for you. I have broke these down in to separate areas to make it simple enough to follow. So let me tell you a story, sit back and relax…
It’s strange, I was sat there 9pm at night and my mobile phone rang (who actually makes a traditional call?). It was one of my street photography buddies from down south (check him out here as his work is amazing). We were discussing other street photographers and their styles. Their was laughter, a catch up on coping with COVID and a few more people for me to check out. Soon enough an hour had passed this made me think.
You see at the time I was enjoying watching a film and relaxing on a Friday night with some lovely real ale (my only vice alongside buying film). So you get the picture – I put my friends first over enjoying a film. Now this might not always be the case, but this pandemic has really taught me how much I miss my mates. It’s not like they live around the corner or can see them regularly, thats just life. But to talk the old fashioned way over a phone was really nice. I’m one of those people who is infused by those around me, I don’t need illegal substances – friendships provide the endorphins I need.
Although this article is mainly aimed at those of us in this photographic community, it doesn’t have to be limited to this. Your friends are there for a reason, you chose them to share your life events with, to gossip and advise each other. Let’s not forget the one true important goal – fun, a mate will have your back and take the fun out of you too.
My friends have been there through my life, from sad events to highs. They have helped me build things in my home and imparted some of their knowledge. Throughout my time with photography it simply would not be the same without them. The shared experiences of using cameras, lighting, working on the streets or with models.
I can’t express how highly you should work with friends and learn together, it’s a much better feeling. Whilst I do appreciate sometimes we needs clarity, self expression and aloneness to create our art.
Friends have helped me with equipment, provided essential advice when working with film and in the darkroom. But also, they have recommended more people to my growing knowledge bank. I don’t believe my other hobbies have ever provided this same level of satisfaction, learning or enlightenment.
As part of my blogging work I’ve always enjoyed the community aspect of photography as well as experimenting too. I’m not just talking about techniques with cameras or equipment but with people. I have written a series i called “a walk with”, which was all about my first time meeting up with someone. It was something I really enjoyed doing, as it allowed me to show their work on the blog but get to know them in the real world. We have all missed the handshakes, hugs and company.
What really happened on these few occasions was pretty instrumental in the friendships. You get time to see the person which is truly more important that the work they produce. This provides you with an understanding of their character and gives you time to reflect.
I have to say I’m looking forward to meeting up with current and new friends during the later part of 2021. There was a few people who wanted to meet up for the first time and I will do my level best to make sure these happen.
Having a weekly podcast under my belt has another benefit. For those few guests in the UK, it can provide me with an opportunity to meet in person too. Once you start talking with a stranger, it doesn’t take too long to relax and be yourself. After this you realise you can keep in touch and turn this in to another friendship.
It truly is a rewarding experience on so many levels and I’m deeply affected by this. The only difference with this medium rather than say social media, is the number of people you engage with. If you think about it a weekly show limits you to 52 a year, but think how many people you can talk with in a Facebook group or a forum!
I think each medium has its benefits, the plus side for podcasting by yourself is you have a one to one opportunity. Again it’s been about learning more than anything but a massive upside has been the amazing people I can now call friends.
Talking about social media is always contentious, there are different factors that rear their head here. But I believe you can use the platform for positivity if you have the right attitude.
Stop thinking about promoting yourself and start helping others, provide a useful service. Don’t focus on climbing the ladders of likes, you will just chase another ladder. Most of my posts don’t use hashtags, that is not what I use it for. People who follow me are friends or want to know what I’m doing so I dont waste effort on anything else.
Places like Instagram are great places to meet people, introduce yourself and start an informal conversation. Whether its asking for advice, you want to work with them or get to know them. Social media is on our doorsteps, you don’t have to visit a physical store or queue to meet someone. It’s instantaneous, direct and can be fun if you let it. There has never been a better time to engage with someone and it’s never been easier.
So stop liking pictures on Instagram and leave a comment, get involved. Talk to someone, you can easily find out if you have mutual friends too. Use this medium for good, meet people, it’s a great starting block.
To zoom or not to zoom?
During this season of COVID (what else do we call it?) life has been tough on so many and oh boy do I feel for everyone. But this article is not about that, I’ve talked enough about COVID elsewhere. However, it’s worth noting we’ve moved into different territories to cope. The only option available during the lockdowns has been to use technology to keep our friendships alive. Sure we’ve always had mobile phones for the last decade or 2 but how many people actually make voice calls anymore? Can you honestly remember the last friend you rang?
To me it’s just a case of using what is at your disposal and is convenient for both. During 2020 and 2021 companies like Zoom have become very popular (as has Microsoft and Google too). They have provided new ways to engage with people from far off places to someone in your own house (remember some have had to self isolate). Video calls have been useful but they are not the same as being in person, you might suffer with lag due to poor broadband or bad lighting. This does ultimately affect your conversation and not something you can always control. However, you should embrace anyway you can to keep your friendships. I have seen some great uses for this in the last year, from live film development sessions to fun family quizzes.
Sometimes you need that support from a friend and you maybe can’t reach out or don’t want to. We all know there are going to be mental health repercussions due to lockdown behaviour, so it’s even more reason to keep in touch with your friends. There are many support methods, from the simple communication steps discussed above to helping out with charities. I’m no saint, I don’t have the answers, the time or energy to do everything. I try to do things for people where I can.
One of the methods I have been able to help was by forming a Facebook group for like minded people involved in photography. The idea was to have a place to come and chat, it’s not about gear or sharing images, it’s about the other side of life. You will see personal information about my life and how it’s shaped who I am and a few others have talked about their issues too. It’s not a counselling group, there are no experts or medical advice, but it’s just a small friendly group for anyone who wants a chat or let off steam.
An idea floated in my mind during March to try and actively start ringing members of my Facebook for a chat. The reason would be to reach out to those I’ve never met or interacted with much. I have started this approach and will get there, but will take time – mutual time slots are not always around.
When you should not help
One of the things we should always remember, it is impossible to help every time. There are occasions when you should NOT help. That may sound strange, but sometimes there are permitting reasons.
Some people have struggled through COVID or have personal circumstances that have affected them. They sometimes need space and we should always respect that. Not everybody likes phone calls or social media and being reminded of their problems. There are also those that prefer the reality of being in front of you to talk.
There are times too, where professional help may be the answer and you have to be careful about providing advice. Just to do what you can and provide support where you can.
Random acts of kindness
There are many ways to support your photography friends, which is something I try to achieve as much as possible. Here are a few ideas:
- Send them a book/magazine/zine
- Send them something to use
- Send them a print
- Tweet/share/re-post one of their social media stories/events
- Write about your friend
- Vote for their work
- Comment on their work
- Leave a review
All these items are so easy to do and achieve. During 2020 I went in the darkroom and made some prints for models and posted these through their letterboxes. On one occasion I made a print for a street image I had taken and managed to track the person down to deliver that!
Next time you buy a zine, why not pass it on to a friend or someone random in your community. I have done this with zines and a magazine to help people out – we both get something out of this. One of my podcast guests even sent me a copy of their book with a message – nearly cried!
It’s so easy to spend a few seconds sharing your friends work online or adding a comment.
For those who have worked with others in any capacity as a customer, guest or model why not leave each other a review. I do this for everyone I work with, usually on a Facebook page or through iTunes podcast reviews.
Sending each other items in the post has been great especially during lockdown when we cannot go to any shops. I have received some great zines (thanks Static Age) and one lovely guy sent me an infrared filter to use! It’s important karma to pay this back so do what you can, one act of random kindness goes a long way.
There is no next, there is no plan. I remember seeing a quote about friends are the people you choose to spend time with. It’s such a true statement and means a lot to me.
Friends are there for you when you have problems, so make sure you return the favour. Don’t forget to meet them and keep in touch, whether its by a hand written letter in the post or carrier pigeon, an email, a painting or printed picture, a phone call or video call. Each of them will mean something different to the person. Now since I don’t trust pigeons and can’t paint, I can assure you I will be posting prints, hand writing letters (poorly) and calling my friends.
Please do steal any of these ideas and get ringing your friends! You never know when they might need you.
Thank you to everyone who has engaged with me, you are all great. The continued support and comments I get mean a lot and help me plan my future. All i know is, my friends will help me get there and I hope yours will too.
I really tried hard through writing this not to mention or just single out any friends, so many are special in their own ways . I don’t need to mention them here as I support them.
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