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How To Sustain A Creative Collaborative Group & Make It An Award-Winning One

Tractor Brewing Company - Pyragraph
Photo courtesy of Tractor Brewing Company.

Guest bloggers Rip Williams and Shawna Cory talk about their ongoing community-based photography collaboration project—and share details about a photography show they’re putting on this Saturday at Tractor Brewing Company in Albuquerque, NM. 

When we originally began meeting in 2006, we called ourselves “Wine-Guzzling Guerrilla Photo Group” (WGGPG). We were a bunch of drinking buddies with a photography problem. A few years in, photography began to be the focus and the wine drinking fell to the wayside. We still like to have a beer or two, but when we dropped the “WG” from our official title, it was pretty clear that this was going to be a successful venture.

Several years ago, we addressed the challenge of what to do with all of the gorgeous images being produced.

Guerrilla Photo Group (GPG) is a FREE weekly creative collaborative group focused on making photographic art in a social, fun and safe environment. Founded in 2006 by Albuquerque-based commercial photographer Rip Williams, the group is comprised of dozens of photographers, models, makeup artists, hair stylists and fashion designers of all skill levels—from highly-acclaimed working professionals to people just getting started. The group provides each participant with the opportunity to learn new skills, teach others, and engage in synergistic (often organic) educational and social environment.

Although GPG has some aspects of a seminar, looks like a social mixer and happens regularly like a class, it’s none of the above—it’s truly a creative playground for grownups. The basic premise is this: If you throw total noobs and working pros into a studio-shaped blender once a week—giving them all full access to professional gear as well as each other’s respective creativity, passion and expertise—out the other end comes fantastic photography.

We meet EVERY Wednesday (for over 400 in a row!) evening between 5:30pm and midnight at Rip Williams Photography (located at 500 2nd St. SW, Suite 9, Albuquerque, NM, 87102). An educational lecture is usually presented from 5:30-6:30pm. After that, studio time slots are 30 minutes long and available from 6:30-11:30pm. Models and/or photographers may book slots ahead of time via Guerrilla Photo Group’s website or in person. GPG does not allow commercial work—however, the images produced can be used to supplement portfolios for photographers, models, and MUAs, or submitted to one of our many art shows.

Tractor Brewing Company - Pyragraph
Photo by Anthony Evans.

Several years ago, we addressed the challenge of what to do with all of the gorgeous images being produced. Aside from the models and MUA/stylists that participated, few other people got to see the final results of the shoots each week. Producing regular art shows was a perfect solution to disseminating our work to the public! It also allows photographers to “complete the circle” in the photographic process—not only can they hone their skills during a shoot, but they’re learning how to print, mat, and frame their photography.

The intangible benefits of being involved with a constantly growing and evolving group of creatives are innumerable.

Currently, GPG’s members produce between four and eight photography shows a year, thus providing a means by which our upcoming and established artists can regularly display the results of our uniquely-inspired experimentation. These include three larger themed shows, an annual gala for our sponsors, supporters and participants, as well as several “pop-up” shows.

Art shows have also positively affected the group’s overall productivity. Can’t think of a concept? There’s always a themed show coming up! Sometimes themes focus primarily on technical aspects, or primarily on creative content—but they’re most often a combination of the two.

The constant flux of new energy combined with GPG’s members keep ideas fresh and exciting.

Guerrilla Photo Group is made possible by the help of our Sponsors and Supporting Members, as well as other generous donations of time and effort from participants.  Also, our Advisory Board meets regularly to help address participant concerns and make other operational decisions.

In terms of maintaining GPG financially (each weekly event costs almost $200) costs are absorbed by our host Rip Williams, along with our donating members, Advisory Board and other Sponsors. Sponsorship starts at $25/month and comes with several perks—such as one’s logo included in our print advertising. For $50/month or more, there’s also a bunch of free studio time included ($400 value). This support goes a long long way towards providing the necessary expendables, backdrops and equipment maintenance!

The intangible benefits of being involved with a constantly growing and evolving group of creatives are innumerable—but it still means that someone has to be there every week to open the studio doors, keep the schedule running smoothly, help set lights for a new photographer, help direct a new model, etc. There’s also an Art Committee, whose members assist in planning all of our art shows. For those who participate regularly, GPG is a labor of love! And it’s totally worth it.

“There are no strangers here: Only friends you haven’t yet met.” —William Butler Yeats

This piece was co-produced by Pyragraph and our sponsor, Tractor Brewing Company.

GPG’s (Guerilla Photo Group) next show is at Tractor Brewing Wells Park in Albuquerque, NM, and it opens this Saturday March 21 at 6pm. There will be live entertainment and an opportunity to meet the artists! Check out the Facebook event page here!

Tractor Brewing Company - Pyragraph

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