Social Media is an important part of the internet these days. It’s a buzz word that you probably hear at least every day, and not without its merits. Thanks to Social Media, news seems to travel faster, we learn about events and new products 140 characters at a time and frankly, it’s a great way to source the opinions of your peers. While I’m a self-diagnosed Social Media junkie – I’m always learning and trying new platforms – I don’t think I fully realized it’s potential in the creative world until I happened upon a Flickr Group called Get Pushed!. The group, like our own, is actually a sub-culture within Flickr. And it is now very apparent to me that it’s the sub-cultures that really have the most distilled benefit to us creative types. I am of course going to introduce you to the Get Pushed great sub-culture, but I hope that through this introduction, you will learn about how such sub-cultures can benefit you as a photographer.
The “Get Pushed” Concept
I was introduced to the Get Pushed Flickr Group by Rachel Melton, who’s work we featured here earlier in the year. She is one of the six admin for the group and helps to handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes work (of which, as you will see, there is a good deal). I can’t remember if she specifically invited me to the group, or if I saw some of her contributions to the group…but somehow through her, I stumbled upon it. However it happened, I’m glad to have found the group.
The concept behind the group is fairly simple. It’s not unlike a challenge group, except that it’s a little more personal. There are challenge rounds – for lack of a better term – where everyone signs up for a given round. When the roster gets large enough, typically around 100 people, you then get paired up with other participants. The admin track all of the pairings so that you hopefully won’t end up with the same person twice (and with 771 members as of this writing, that isn’t likely to be commonplace). Each participant spends some intimate time with their partner’s photostream to familiarize themselves with their work. Then they offer a challenge to their partner. A challenge can be anything as simple as “photograph a specific subject” to “capture movement in your photograph”. Many of the challenges I’ve seen are quite interesting. But the goal is two-fold: 1) The more personal approach helps to introduce you to other active and influential individuals. 2) The challenges are intended to push you slightly outside your comfort zone. The benefits to each person aren’t so obvious…
As a participant in now three challenges (with a fourth on the way), I have truly met some interesting and talented photographers. The three individuals I’ve been paired with are of course an inspiration unto themselves – and I follow each of them and their works now through Flickr. But to see each of the participants overall add to the group pool, and to see how they responded to their respective challenges, is really inspiring. See, as part of your submission, you’re expected to at least outline what your challenge was so that viewers have an understanding of your thought process. It’s the thought process I’m most interested in learning about, and I’ve seen some incredibly creative ways to fulfill such challenges. Moreso, if you’re just browsing through thumbnails of the group pool, you may find an interesting photograph, view it full screen and then you can truly learn the thought process behind it and learn why it’s such an interesting photo. Sometimes, the case may simply be that their partner proffered a great challenge that pushed the photographer to think outside the box. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
How I Was Pushed Outside The Box
Each of my challenges thus far have forced me to think differently than I typically would. From a technical aspect, I consider myself quite comfortable with my skills. But it’s the inspiration and concept stage where I feel I’m weakest. That’s where I see the most benefit, personally, from the Get Pushed Group. For example, I’ll turn to my first challenge, the results of which are shown above: I was paired with Diana Susselman, who is a bit of a veteran of the group. She’s responded to 17 challenges overall and so she knew her way around a challenge. After viewing my photostream and finding that I very often work with darker emotions, she challenged me to create a photograph illustrating the feeling of hope. Hope, as you may know, is not really an emotion that is frequent in my photographs. My emotive portraits, my self portraits especially, are often quite dark and sometimes even Macabre. So at first, I found the challenge to be very uncomfortable and daunting. It’s not that I can’t think that way – I can. It’s that it wasn’t a direction I wanted to go with my photography. But then I got to thinking and I realized that “hope”, as an emotion, can come in many forms. It can sometimes be misdirected. So I came up with the concept of a man who is hoping for a journey beyond this life. And so I took a long lunch break one day and visited a nearby cemetery with a historic chapel at its center, and I started capturing myself laying literally on top of someone else’s grave. It was as if I was trying out a new bed. Albeit, the finished product could have been considered morbid and it was uncomfortable for some (both on and off Flickr). But the point is that I was able to think through the challenge in a manner that both appealed to me and my body of work as well as the challenge. It’s that thought process that really set me down an interesting path, and I truly think that this photograph – which is now among my favorite self portraits – deserves some thanks from Diana as well as the group as a whole.
Now I don’t believe that Diana truly expected me to respond in this way. And I don’t expect that everyone feels I successfully responded to the challenge. As one commenter pointed out, the emotion of hope isn’t plainly obvious. While I disagree, I can see that side of the argument. But that’s beyond the point, really. The point of the group and the point of the challenge was to introduce me to an aspect a little outside my comfort zone. And I think the group, the challenge and my follow-through truly did that. It forced me to think differently about my self portraits, and I’ve now done a little more planning for each of them. I’ve even started sketching out some yet-to-be-completed concepts in my sketch book, complete with key elements and lighting setups. So I guess the intent of the group and the challenge was fulfilled, and no debate will sway me from my opinion. Bottom line: I was inspired and I learned something by this – and every – challenge that was bestowed upon me.
How You Can Get Involved
Get Pushed is a Flickr Group, and as such would require that you are a member of Flickr. If you aren’t already a Flickr member, this is one of those little gems that should be cause for you to join. Collaborations and challenges from a group like Get Pushed will feed your photography drive and creative cloud more than I can describe here in words. Once you are a member of Flickr, all you have to do is visit the group’s page and join up. On the group page, you will see a brief description, and a few forum posts that outline some of the guidelines to the group. You will also see forum posts calling for sign-ups for whatever challenge round is upcoming. And if you’re eager to get started right away, there is also a rolling challenge thread in which you pose a challenge for the next person to respond and you personally respond to the challenge above you in the thread. You should have everything you need right there to get started and there will be good times to be had.
Of course I offer a caveat. You only get out of the group what you put into it. And if you’re going to get involved in the group, and the challenges especially, you should be prepared to sink some time into exploring another person’s photostream each round. More importantly, you should do your best to come up with tailored challenges so that the experience is equally as good for you and your partner. And once you receive your challenge, you really should put a lot of thought into responding. This is an opportunity to experiment, and you have the excuse to do so under the muse of this group. So give it your all and push yourself outside the box as much as your partner will try to as well.
So what are you waiting for? Visit the Get Pushed Flickr Group now.
My involvement with the group has come at a good time. It just so happened that I recently took a trip to my favorite site, Eastern State Penitentiary, where I intended to continue working on my ongoing project, Falsely Accused. The project is all self portraiture and it’s based on and shot within the historic facility. Of course, my first two challenges at Get Pushed put me in a good frame of mind for that visit, and I used my newfound wisdom and experience in the conceptualization of some of the portraits I planned and captured during my last visit. My point is that a challenge group like this has a tangible benefit to you as a photographer. And so I would encourage you to join this or any other social sub-culture as it will ultimately improve your work.