Collaboration: unlocking a fresh burst of creativity

Think about it for a moment. Collaboration is common in many artistic disciplines, for example; music, film, theatre.  And whilst there are examples of photographic collaboration (Hilla and Bernd Becher, Broomberg and Chanarin…etc) they are few and far between. Our image of the photographer is mostly of someone working alone.

Yet those of us who have attended workshops know from personal experience that we don’t only learn from the instructors. Some of the most valuable lessons come from interactions with other class members. How they see, how they shoot, how they talk about their work. How their images are so different, even though we are all in the same location.

We’ve witnessed this again recently on our two Leica Meets in London. We covered the same territory and even while walking and talking together chose to shoot differently. The images from those two days show a fascinating diversity and the atmosphere is one of a mutual appreciation for each others’ talents.

I’ve tried to take this one step further by actively collaborating on projects with other artists.  From visualising haiku poems through triple exposing film with photographers in other countries to visual conversations in which images are exchanged which seem to ‘go with’ one another.  The first resulted in a print on demand book. The second goes on Kickstarter in November. The third is still a work in progress. Every time I’ve benefitted from listening to the artistic sensibilities of my collaborators. Hopefully they have also gained from my input too.


Confluence: triple exposed film with Ramya Reddy and Shayne Lynn

As photographers we are constantly trying to control every variable; from aperture and shutter speed to ISO, not to mention framing, lens choice and of course those great demons, editing and post processing. Well, we’re talking a new experiment in creativity here, so how about we throw all that out the window? What if all those variables and any others you can think of, were the subject of discussions between you and another photographer?

The two of you are bound to disagree right? Yes. That’s exactly the point. Collaboration shakes up our routine approach to shooting. Being deeply involved in a project where you are constantly revisiting and shaping the creative outcome is very different than shooting on your own. Just like the great art movements of history, making art based on dialogue is exciting. The process itself is highly creative and engaging. It reflects a larger point of view. It uses our collective intelligence. We all gain.

When the collaborative project is over we return enriched. Whether our original aim was to break through creative block or simply to challenge ourselves to do differently or to do better our own work gains from the exchange.

wavelength 3

Wavlength: combining analog and digital with Eileen McCarney Muldoon

But it isn’t all necessarily peace and light. Collaboration calls for a high level of trust. It can dissolve into discussions of authorship, recognition and copyright. If there is sufficient interest I can cover these off in another post. But for now, I’d be interested in hearing if any members of the Leica Meet group have tried collaborative projects and how it worked out? You can reply to this post or feel free to write up your own experiences as a separate post. Just send them into us here at The Leica Meet.



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