Film Shooters Collective

In Conversation, Film

Several years ago I heard a rumor about a new group just for film photographers.   I remember my heart skipping a beat as I looked up Film Shooters Collective and sending Cameron my submission asking if I could join.  When that email came back with yes I may have done a little happy jig in my living room.  If I had known what I would learn and how my photography would be pushed, it would have been a much bigger happy dance.

When I first started shooting film, I did not know anything about it.  I know that sounds extreme, but it is true.  Every step of the way, FSC has been there for me answering my questions and helping me troubleshoot.  When I needed help with my first medium format camera, they were there to help learn how to load it.  When my scanner was acting up, they were full of suggestions on how to solve my problem. And when I am ready to start developing my own color film (yes, they already have inspired me to develop my black and white film), I know they will be there with help and encouragement.  But above all of that help, there has been the inspiration and opportunity.  They push me to publish my work, to show my work and write the very dreaded artist statement.

For the last year, FSC has been a closed collective and has not taken on any new members.  Starting today, they are accepting new portfolio submissions so that others can join and become part of this amazing collective.

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I asked Cameron if he would talk to me a little about what FSC is, what it has done, and where it is going.

Why did you start the FSC? 

Well, there were a lot of reasons, really, but in retrospect I think that it boils down to community. I was on Instagram for a while and I enjoyed being a part of it quite a bit, but they made a change to their terms of service which caused something of an exodus andI wanted to create a safe environment that would allow people to share their photos without worrying that some corporate entity would steal them. I also wanted a space where serious photographers, the people who live, breathe, and die photography – as well as those who were just learning – could mingle. 

As photographers we spend so much of our time in isolation. I know that we do photowalks, meet ups, etc. . . but for me my serious shooting happens when I am alone. I think I’ve grown a lot as a photographer in that way, but it’s also very lonely. I think the FSC serves to bridge that gap, at least for me. The relationships in the FSC are very much based on what you give and so I feel that with a number of the people in the collective I’ve grown really close to them, and to me they feel like family. 

When the collective was created I had hit a wall of sorts I think in terms of submitting work to various outlets and the process of spending money to be rejected got tiring. Photography is in my blood and I think that somewhere in this path is my true calling and so instead of just giving up I wanted to create a space in which we could make our own opportunities. 

What are some things FSC has done that you are proud of?

I am immensely proud of everything we’ve done and of everyone who has helped us to get to where we are. Our group show in St. Louis, Missouri this past summer was probably our greatest achievement to date. In a way, I think I’m most proud of having been able to provide the opportunity for others to grow and have experiences we otherwise couldn’t have on our own. I love that through the collective people have been empowered to step outside of their comfort zone and do things bigger then ourselves. 

It’s difficult, I think, for a lot of photographers to step up and ‘own it,’ on a daily basis. But, from everyone I’ve talked to they have a far easier time reaching for goals when they’re doing so on behalf of the collective. If you ask anyone who has been a part of our projects I think you’ll find that to be true; they have a hard time being a photographer, but an easier time being an advocate on behalf of the collective. Walking into a gallery  and saying you want to rent it to show your work is scary, but walking in and saying you want to rent it and show the work of 48 other photographers from around the globe, I think that’s a lot easier. Creating that environment is what I am most proud of, and the same goes for our creation of our books. 

We’ve been able to create four print books thus far, and they are all really, really beautiful. I beam every chance I have to show them off and I’d like to think that everyone else does as well. Steidl is not knocking on my door this year, and I don’t know if they ever will, but what I do know is that when I see my photos in print alongside so many other artists whose work I love I feel this sense of fulfillment. It’s hard to explain and something I wish every creative could feel. 

After being a closed group for over a year, why are you excited about re-opening the group now?  

This is a great question, and one that gets me so excited that my heart actually pounds thinking about it. The last four years of the collective have been an experiment in how to make all of the pieces fit. We started very small, then grew very large, and then trimmed back to a size that was manageable before closing the doors to sort out some growing pains. 

In moving forward this year I have a really clear vision about what makes the collective experience so powerful, and I think a better idea about what it is that people really need to succeed. It’s of course impossible to please absolutely everyone, but I think this latest incarnation of the collective is going to do a couple of things. First, a dues system is now in place which is going to ensure not only that everyone who is in the collective is in as an equal partner in the project. For a long time I wanted people to write for us and I begged and pleaded before finally realizing that not everyone is a writer and this gives those people an opportunity to help out in a way that they couldn’t before. 

Second, and this is really the thing that gets me excited, is that we’re able to bring in some fresh talent. We’ve got people who have followed along patiently for the past year and a half who have asked how to join and I’ve never been able to provide a clear answer. Now, I can tell them: you pay your dues, submit your portfolio, and you’re in. Everyone still has to abide by the rules which are what make the collective feel like family, but it’s now a clear pathway for people to join us. 

We’re going to turn our online community into some real world opportunities that everyone can take part in this year, and I’m looking forward to the chance to provide new members with these opportunities. 

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Like Cameron, I am so excited about FSC and where it is heading.  Are you a film photographer looking for a community?  Consider joining us today by following this link and submitting your film portfolio.

~Staci Lee 

*All photos are of me shooting with some of my favorite film cameras.  All photos were taken by my husband, Andy. 

4 Comments

  1. We’re all going to be doing a happy jig this year as we move forward, Staci, and I’m glad you’re going to be a part of it. Thanks again for the opportunity to do this!

  2. It’s such a great group and although I had over committed myself and had to gracefully bow out of being a part of it all, I have LOVED watching where it has gone and done!

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