I was invited to attend the very first Phoot Camp in 2009 - however, that same month I had just moved myself to Los Angeles, so I felt I couldn’t justify spending the money to take a camping trip with a bunch of photographers I had never met. Boy, did I regret that decision. As soon as I saw the creatives who had attended, I instantly knew I should have been there. It was a group of go-getters, and many of them I was already familiar with their work through the early days of Flickr and JPG Magazine.
The following year I applied to be a camper, and have attended every year since. The relationships alone make it worthwhile. These people have not only become my professional peers - the group of people I can comfortable reach out to about industry questions or work related things I may be unsure about. They’re available for critique, and assisting on projects. However, they’ve also become some of my very best friends. There’s real power in having a group of people support you professionally and personally. Plus, now I have couches to sleep on in homes all over the world!
I think these sorts of retreats, camps, initiatives are crucial for the creative community. As photographers, the majority of our job could be done alone. We spend so much time editing, emailing, updating blogs and websites - it’s extremely valuable to be in one place together - to observe how others work, their process, their gear, their techniques. It’s learning, but it’s fun, and I think because it’s so much fun is the reason we all take so much out of it afterwards.
I know that I can struggle finding inspiration at times. It’s hard to constantly be pushing boundaries, and exploring new ideas. Getting together with like-minded creatives ignites a fire in me that I’m able to maintain year round, by keeping these friendships and connections. It inspires me to see my peers land great jobs, get new work published, or create a concept I’ve never seen done. I don’t ever feel competitive - however, I think it’s important to surround yourself with people doing inspiring things, if only to keep yourself wanting to do the same.