Group Photowalks And Why I’ve Never Taken Part

I’m a huge fan of the photowalk – wandering around and exploring with a camera to find and capture compositions I find beautiful and interesting.

But when I read about photographers who deliberately meet up with other photographers to collectively go on a photowalk, my feelings veer between horror and bewilderment.

Why would you do that??

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You see, for me the photowalk is a wonderful opportunity to escape from most, if not all, of civilisation and retreat somewhere quiet.

Somewhere I don’t have to make conversation or interact, just slip into my own solitary, personal photographic flow.

If I was with other people, it wouldn’t offer that same quality of experience.

Their constant presence would prevent me from finding that silence and rhythm.

I love to ramble at my own pace, which varies depending on my mood, the weather, the camera I’m using, and the variety of (or lack of) photographic opportunities.

If I was with other people, there’d be a compromise of this pace.

Someone might be too fast for me, I might be too slow for them, or vice versa. They might want to venture down one path, I might want to head off along the other.

Then, from what I’ve read, even worse, these kinds of photographers then go somewhere for a drink and chat afterwards, to discuss and compare their gear.

I’m not all that chatty in person, and greatly dislike pointless small talk. And I’ve done enough discussing and comparing of gear to last the rest of my life.

No thank you, these days, I just want to get out and enjoy the kit I have to its fullest.

On my own.

As you can tell, a group photowalk to me sounds like an absolutely terrible idea.

But perhaps that’s just me…

What about you? Do you take part in group photowalks? What do you enjoy about them?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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40 thoughts on “Group Photowalks And Why I’ve Never Taken Part”

  1. I can understand this. I’m not into photography particularly, however I can relate to this on a ‘writing level’. I want to be alone. Isn’t that what Greta Garbo used to say? Well that’s me. I can be the social butterfly, the hostess extraordinaire and person who can be relied upon to keep conversation easy and flowing and guests happy …. and yet, it exhausts me, utterly and completely exhausts me. I need time then to ‘recover’ for want of a better word. When I am writing my book, I can’t do it with family members breathing down my neck, asking questions and wanting my attention. I need to escape from the house and be able to be surrounded by only my own thoughts. In truth, this is driving me mad at the moment. My husband is off work for a few weeks and I’ve lost my solitude. I should be delighted but my routine is lost, my writing has stopped and I’m feeling tetchy because of this. I’m not really into star signs, but he is very typical of a Leo; the big alpha male of the pride of lions and constantly demanding of attention. Crikey, sorry I’m having a rant. But yes, suffice to say I can completely understand your need for solitude whilst taking photographs.

    1. Yeh I know exactly what you mean Katie. There have been times when I anticipated having a chunk of time to myself, then for whatever reason plans have changed and I’ve not been able to.

      A related factor I think is if you’re on your own you can just do what you like. You don’t have to justify or explain it to anyone, you just get on with it. With people around you don’t have that freedom, even if the person/people with you isn’t actually making any demands of you whatsoever.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. I actually do feel the same way, I like the solitude and independence. But every now and then I will join a group for the social aspect. My regular friends don’t always appreciate the same things I do. So it is nice to join a group just so I don’t feel like I am a crazy camera lady. Plus they often introduce me to new locations or themes I can try by myself another day.

    1. Ha, I think I’d quite like to be known as a crazy camera lady!

      Good points about themes and locations, but I’d just rather do the research and exploration for that for myself. I really like discovering my own places.

      Thanks for your input.

  3. Ditto. Nottajoiner, me.
    Pictures: on the arts side, init? But not of the improv-troupe, folk-dancing, orchestral, drum-circle kind. Even there, it’s your soloist makes a difference.

    It takes two to Gestalt, but only one can Primal.

  4. I 100% AGREE!!! Sometimes I think “oh maybe a group photowalk would be a good idea, to get to know more people”, but I really hate small talk as well, I really don’t like doing things with other people (I do most things by myself, including going to the cinema), and I actually really dislike pubs now too lol. Photography is an escape for me as well 🙂 and especially if I’m having one of my “pain days” (I get quite bad lower back pain, sciatica, and arm/hand/wrist pain), the last thing I want to do is put up with other people. When I focus (pun intended) on an image, the pain briefly goes away. I would not be able to focus as well if I had other people waiting for me or standing near me or trying to talk to me.

    1. Glad to find another loner Mel! Thanks for your thoughts.

      Do you feel you’re getting less sociable as you get older? I certainly do. Or, perhaps put a different way, I feel I need my own time and space more than I did when I was younger.

      Your comment about going to the cinema reminded me that I did this some years back in Paris. The whole trip was a major adventure for me, going away all alone for the first time ever. It included a trip to a cinema to see a rather eccentric French film. In French of course. It was a memorable experience.

  5. A solo photowalk and a group photowalk serve two entirely different purposes. The former is as you describe. The latter really is about connecting with other photographers while you do something together.

    While I vastly prefer the solo (or with-my-wife) photowalk, I’ve considered starting a group photowalk here. I’d like to continue to build the film-photo community.

    1. Jim, thanks for your thoughts. Is there a film photography community in your part of the world you’re already aware of? Or is this a new venture? It’s an honourable goal, and I admire it more because it’s not something I think I would ever do – my photography time is too precious and I’m too selfish!

        1. Yep, it comes down to priorities, so some stuff has to slide. Maybe in the new year you’ll be able to give it some more time if it becomes important enough. Perhaps something that’s not too regular and requiring too much organisation could be set up to get the ball rolling.

  6. I couldn’t agree more Dan, same with cycling for me. I have studiously avoided the local group rides in my area. If I had to worry about keeping up with a bunch of other riders it would totally spoil my ride. I socialize enough all day at work, my hobbies are “me time”. I do enjoy kibitzing with other riders at the local bike shop though.

    1. Jon, yes I think it would be even worse with cycling! The groups I’ve seen around here all have very flashy bikes and very colourful (often matching) lycra. Not my scene at all on either count. Even riding past other cyclists on the road, it’s amazing how many of the lycra types don’t even acknowledge a fellow cyclist.

      1. Yes, here they are called “hammer heads”. I have noticed a define relationship between the amount of Lycra and the likelihood that folks will return a simple greeting. Odd.

        1. Yeh I think in any sport or hobby (especially with a prominence of males) there are those kind of groups that are all about the right kit and clothing and look down on anyone who doesn’t fit their criteria.

  7. I have been on a few photowalks. Most of the time I shoot alone. Sometimes it is good to see how other photographers approach a similar subject. I can always learn from someone else. If I go and I am not comfortable I just excuse myself and go on my own. There have been times I have met someone that I am comfortable in having a good conversation with, not small talk. I do not enjoy small talk either.

    1. Yes, I enjoy a deeper and more meaningful conversation, and appreciate that sometimes with someone new we have to start with small talk to get any deeper. I still avoid it mostly though!

      Thanks for your experiences Steven.

  8. Dan, one of my favourite photography experiences was going with a group of photographers to the beach locally. I am like you Dan and had no idea how I would cope but it was wondrous. I could come and go from people in the group. I learnt how others worked and what took their interest. Even now I have vivid memories of the photos I took and many of them were of the people in the group doing their thing. so yes I would go on a photo walk with a select few others xoxo susanJOY

    1. Susan, thanks for that, sounds like it couldn’t have gone better!

      I expect there might be some groups I could join and enjoy them, but for now I’m too immersed in my solo walks to want to try it.

  9. I went on just one group photowalk, years ago in Central Park in NYC. I spent the whole time photographing the other photographers in the group as they were photographing the other people in the park. It must have annoyed them. I wasn’t invited back.

    On the other hand, my wife often accompanies me on my photo outings (and always appears somewhere in any picture I show that includes other people I don’t know). She is scrupulously careful to avoid commenting on the subjects I am photographing and the way I am approaching them.

    1. Doug, I would have loved to have gone on a photo walk in Central Park in NY. It was a dream of mine to go to Central Park but unlikely to happen now

    2. Doug, I expect your photographs of the other photographers were more intriguing than any of the images anyone else made!

      Yes I think if we have a partner who doesn’t share or understand a hobby, it’s best if you can come to agreement that they have their hobbies, and you have yours, and accept them (and the fact they are done because they’re enjoyable), even if you don’t understand them.

  10. Forgive me for my ignorance, but didn’t know there was such a thing. There again I’ve never been involved with any photographic clubs and my immediate thought was I’d find it distracting with others working around me.

    1. Martin, yes, it’s a thing! I’ve read photo blogs in the past where they’ve arranged them now and again, and they’ve seemed to be popular. But then thinking about, generally these would be more gear obsessed blogs where you can imagine a group of photographers sitting around a table stroking and purring over their machines more than getting out and making art with them…

          1. I think it’s one of those words where the original definition has been altered by common (mis)use.

            Film and digital are easier definitions I think when it comes to photography. But then if you use digital means to scan and share your film photos, then it’s become digital.

            Anyway, this is for another post and conversation I think, ha ha!

  11. 29 replies and counting. You’ve tapped into something … basic here, Dan: the paradox, the dynamic tension between the solitary ‘doing’ of the art and the joyous, communal sharing of the banquet.

    That’s the thing: it’s reclusive. And it’s almost evangelical.

    And all very well met here.

    1. Thanks William.

      Of the art forms I’ve dabbled in over the years – writing, poetry, painting, music, photography – that solitary aspect has been crucial.

      But yes all of the resultant works I’ve shared in some way with others.

      I think we can be (and have to be!) evangelical about the power and benefits of photography, but we can be equally unequivocal and insistent about the need to do it alone.

      The only other art I can think of that hasn’t been solo is dancing, specifically salsa. With that there is very limited joy to be found dancing alone, however much one might enjoy the music. The partnership, and how two of you plus the music and the motion can transcend the sum of its parts, is essential.

      We were also involved in rueda, which is multiple couples dancing in a circle and continuously swapping partners. Learning to not only dance rueda, but to be able to call it to (ie lead and call out the moves) was a whole other kind of experience and pleasure, and at its peak, could transcend even the best couple dance, for me.

      So strangely this was an act where you’re creating and sharing simultaneously, to the others you’re dancing with, and anyone watching.

      And with salsa, for me the music didn’t mean much on its own, it was almost entirely just a vehicle for us to travel upon, or a stage to dance upon, the real joy came from the act of dancing itself.

          1. Aye. Seen that minor deity w’me own eyes…

            Michael Flatley – Lord of the dance finale – YouTube

  12. I have to disagree wildly as I enjoy photo walks with my camera club immensely as I socialize with like minded souls, as I feel photography is a social thing I mean after all whats the point of a photograph if we don’t share it with others and get feed back. My photography improves from feed back from friends I do the walk with. and we always end up in a pub after the walk for more socializing.

    1. I don’t think it’s necessarily something to disagree about, everyone has their own preference. Some people prefer to shoot alone, some don’t.

    2. I’m glad it works so well for your Christopher. I’m just not particularly social anyway, and photography is one of the ways I have to escape people, so doing it with others would be the opposite of what I needed.

      I think the feedback is separate aspect. Someone doesn’t need to be with you when you take a photo to provide feedback on it, especially in these hyper-connected times. Some of us might not know anyone in person who we respect enough photographically to get feedback that would be meaningful. Another plus of the internet! : )

  13. I’m conflicted on this one. My most rewarding photographic moments tend to be when I’m on my own – those fleeting feelings when you’re in the zone, and just blending with the scene. But I would miss the company if I never went on group photowalks. They push me out of my comfort zone, which spurs me to take my photography in new directions.

    My most recent photowalk was extremely rewarding. Very mixed abilities, I found myself able to mentor some of the beginners, and I certainly learned from the most experienced photographers. And I took one of my best photos of the year. I’d never have been in a position to take that particular shot if I hadn’t been out with a group of people.

    But at the end of the photowalk, I enjoyed sitting in a coffee shop by myself, reviewing the photos on my camera screen.

    1. Alex this is an excellent example in a few paragraphs of the benefits of shooting in a group, and alone.

      Whilst I completely understand the benefits you talk about, somehow for me they are outweighed by the compromises I feel I would be making by not being on my own. But brilliant to hear how well this worked out for you.

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