I recently moved to Paris from Cape Town, South Africa. I don't speak French yet, but I have made some friends here due to the photographic industry mixing with the fashion and beauty industry quite a bit. I decided that I needed to get out and meet some photographers and maybe learn and share what I know while having a good time. So as any person would do, I went online and searched the Facebook groups focused on photography in Paris, but it didn't give me anything I felt I wanted to join. What I did find, however, was insight into a photographer's life in a big First World city, so I joined an event and had an epic day.
What I used quite regularly back in South Africa was Meetup, a social network based on the premise of meeting others and doing stuff together. There is a group for any interest you might have, be it photography, video production, getting financing for a startup, or just going for a historical walk through the city.
By using this app and its network it's very noticeable that the photographic community in Paris is a powerful one. The statement can be made that it's like that in all the metropolises across the world, but this is Paris, with its buildings commissioned by Napoleon and designed by Haussmann, the large sidewalks, its tree-lined streets, the Seine River that flows through the city, and generally well-dressed people all over the place.
I joined a group, the Paris Photography Meetup Group with about 4800 photographers as members. I confirmed that I would attend the next event on the calendar, which was Film Photography in the City.
The Day of the Meetup
We all met early on a Saturday morning on a bridge over the Seine River that runs through Paris. This event was about film photography, so everybody had their film kits out and showed off their chosen film stock and shared the advantages and disadvantages of their cameras and their lenses. My Nikon FE2 was jokingly criticized for not being manual, and that I wouldn't be able to shoot without the battery, but I could correct them and defend it by showing the that if the battery was done I had a ninetieth of a second shot I could take mechanically.
We were a group of about 15 people. The leader took us down the steps to the river bank and we just photographed whatever we wanted to. We could chat, or walk ahead if we wanted.
What's the difference?
What's amazing about this is that when you travel with a group of friends, not everybody has the same passion for photography. It's a little strange to tell them that you are going to walk ahead now or stay behind because you want to get a specific shot. It's not usual. But if everyone in the group has the same interest in photography it's quite a freeing feeling to share the morning with a group but be free enough to go and shoot whatever you want to.
There we were, all unique in vision and interest, no one flaunting their professional photography business successes, but rather just going out to shoot and have fun.
We finished within about 3 hours, and had something to eat together where I could tell them about my experiences during my first couple of months in Paris and they could share their stories. We later took our film spools in to have them developed. I've collected my developed negatives and scans and I'm quite impressed with the shots I got. Within the Meetup website, we could all share our favorite images and have some constructive criticism.
I've made some new friends by joining in, which is important when you move to a new country and city. It would be my best advice if you are at a new place in your life and need to see the sites around and do it in a way that lets you get out the camera.
If you want to see what your city has to offer you can download the app for mobile and subscribe, or you can use the website. It's free to view the Meetups coming up, although some might charge through third party booking sites. You will need to pay if you want to arrange a Meetup event although it's not expensive to do and it can be a good way to gain credibility and influence in the photography industry.