Thinking about (online) Community

There’s been some concern over various online communities we use to talk to one another in light of possible purchases. Problems finding an online community for film photographers are nothing new.

Over 20 years ago, I can remember posting film photos on Deviantart and getting flamed for using film by the digital crowd. In particular I remember a guy who was a photographer for a museum who used a scan back on a large format camera, obviously common gear, who said that enjoying film photography was the same as licking birdshit off of sidewalks.

I always wondered where he came up with that oddly specific comparison.

On the other end of the scale, I can remember being belittled by the geezers on APUG for using a non-mechanical camera or not diluting Rodinal the way they thought I should. The forums were full of gate-keeping and condescension. There were gems of wisdom to be found, for sure, but the signal to noise ratio was far out of balance and I never went back.

I think if I had been looking for any external validation, I would have probably stepped away from photography again. I wonder how many film photographers did?

Other platforms are just as prone to problems. Facebook is probably more full of gatekeepers than any other site has been, never mind the rabid political environment over there leaking in to everything.

Instagram is a non-sequitur. People tell me there is a community, but I have never been able to find it. I think I’ve only had a few discussions with Eric (@conspiracy.of.cartographers) and Ribsy (@newclassicfilm) while on there. The other 90% has been pay for follower solicitations, cryptocurrency schemes, and NFT solicitations. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, I just haven’t been able to get much out of using the app.

Flickr used to be awesome. If I wanted to see what a particular emulsion looked like, I’d punch it in to Flickr and look at the results everyone else was getting. The only gripe I had back then was when I would punch a lens in to see the results people were getting with it only to be swamped with pictures of the lens itself. It’s pretty much crickets over there these days. Fewer and fewer people active and fewer and fewer images posted.

YouTube has promise, but requires a significant time investment. Making videos takes time. Watching them does as well, though to a far lesser degree. Sometimes you just want to read the info, get an answer, and move on. Videos of film road trips make me smile and inspire me in a way noting else does. It’s too bad the site is so white dude centered. We are missing out on so many other, diverse viewpoints that could be opening up entirely new aspects of the world to us all.

Twitter. Ah, bird app, I have so many feelings for you. Parts of you I want to love and nurture, other parts I want to set on fire. It’s only when that Venn diagram overlaps that I want to leave. I’ve received so much good advice on Twitter, commiserated with other photographers when problems arose, swapped stores about great shots, told jokes, and encouraged each other during the pandemic. It’s the best online film community I have ever found. The possibility of the billionaire takeover has encouraged racist trolls, misogynistic assholes, and rabid shitweasels of every stripe to surface and do nothing but cause problems. If this is the future, the signal to noise ratio is going the wrong way.

What’s the alternative? The best one is to make our own home, but that can get expensive and time consuming. There’s a local group that uses a Slack channel and that looks promising. I’m not sure how to fix this, but I don’t want us to lose what we have.


  1. May 30, 2022

    I feel ya. I thankfully haven’t had to deal with jerklike behavior on ABUG or DeviantArt. I hold Instagram at arms length, it’s good for some things but not ALL things, and too many photographers have put too much into that basket.

    Honestly, I think flickr is the best bet. No, it’s not going to be like the halcyon days of 2004ish to 2010ish, but it is not dead by any means. I see lots of fresh photos daily on my feed, and upload many photos to it. It seems like people are trying to reinvigorate the community aspect that was killed under Yahoo’s neglectful watch. And the best part is that it isn’t owned by jerks anymore. I’ll admit that some of the things SmugMug tried to do when they took over didn’t sit well with some folks, but they had to do what they had to do. And they actually didn’t do all the bad things they thought they had to do either. I got sick of the people who got the one free terrabyte –TERRABYTE! of storage bellyaching about the fact that they had to pay again. Do you want Facebook, er, Meta to buy flickr instead?

  2. Viejarras
    May 31, 2022

    I like the community at 35mmc, you can find light stuff like the ‘Five frames with’ series or deeper -technically and artistically speaking- articles. The people is really helpful and I haven’t found any gatekeeping, check it out if you don’t know it. BTW I love your blog, I think I never commented before!

  3. Earl Dunbar
    May 31, 2022

    I agree that the Twitter film community is one of the better options. I left FB years ago and only open Instagram one a week, or even less. There are photographers I follow there who post really nice work, but for general community there is now far more dross than gold. For specific information (a particular lens, film, technique, etc.,) I do a search and sometimes find myself on an old forum where I can sometimes find answers or information.

  4. June 7, 2022

    Some great thoughts here. I keep posting to Flickr, but possibly for my own archival purposes than anything else. I do participate in a few (still) active communities on there, though, as well as doing some admin duties for a few. I keep wondering when it will become hip again.

  5. July 16, 2022

    I’m still on Flickr too, it’s just about enough online community for me. I’ve joined a lot of Flickr groups lately, and I’ve really enjoyed the photos I’ve seen from people. It’s just cool to see peoples’ work when they are regularly shooting film. Not every image is perfect, but I like seeing the arc of their work. I get really excited about photography again each time I visit, and it makes me want to shoot more film too. I’m not really looking for an online platform that makes me want to spend tons of time staring into a computer or phone screen anyway–it takes time away from photography! So I kind of like it that Flickr doesn’t give me that urge to doom scroll.

    I also like that Flickr has a much wider geographical range than Twitter or Insta. Lots of photographers from Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan regularly appear.

    Thanks for your blog! Hey, why not mention your flickr handle? I’d be curious to know, along with anyone here who is on Flickr. As for me… lots of bike photos here 🙂

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