Community means worlds of difference as an artist – or really in any creative endeavor. While some like to boast of not being aware of other artists, a majority of others will benefit in myriad ways from not only looking at art, but by being involved with other artists.
I find I enjoy having artists around. Not only do I appreciate the interaction, but also the input, fresh eyes, different perspectives and support. Sometimes it’s easy to get tunnel vision as an artist, or to fall in love with a piece and not be able to judge it correctly. This is when other knowledgable eyes and minds come in to play.
Even in just the medium of photography, the groundwork of history is laden with community. Photo League, Group f/64, The Camera Club of New York and many other groups were immensely influential to photography. Fellow students and professors have communicated with each other since the beginning of organized photography education, influencing numerous careers and the overall direction of photographic art.
Arnold Newman was friends with or came to know numerous other artists through his career, deeply influencing his body of work. Henri Cartier-Bresson was involved with Surrealist artist, and considered himself not a photojournalist, but a surrealist. Inspection of his compositions reveal the influence. Edward Weston associated with many other artists, no doubt influencing his work.
One fear or downside I’ve noticed is that sometimes fellow artists can be less accepting of different work, or perhaps it becomes too easy to play in the same sandbox. Sometimes it can be stifling if someone is too acerbic, or deflating if another has greater success while one struggles. However, I find these instances rare and not to be justification for cutting off important input.
Universities communities have influence on photographers and other artists. One of many examples is Rochester Institute of Technology’s class of 1956, bolstering Pete Turner, Bruce Davidson and Jerry Uelsmann. The distinctive styles of the three also help enforce the idea that drastically different styles can exist within a community. Texas A&M University - Commerce also has a long history of strong ties in its photography community.
Groups are alive and well in modern day photography. Strobist.com, FStoppers, Luminous Landscape, Photo.net, and many other web-based communities help promote creative thought, help with problem solving and help shed light on other artists. Flickr, 500px, Instagram and Facebook also promote community interactions among other photographers and artists.
While it is not always possible to have an in-person interaction with a fellow artist, some kind of sense of community is available for those who seek it. It can help an artist at a dead end find a direction, or an input can move work forward.