The Rise of Photography Collectives
It’s not easy to be a photographer. The competition is steep, the work is often solitary, and the financial realities of working in the industry can be difficult, to say the least. In recent years, these challenges have driven a growing number of young photographers to form collectives to increase their community and visibility. As a result, we’ve seen the birth of multi-personality, collective artmaking in which joint authorship is celebrated—and opens new artistic, intellectual, and economic opportunities for photographers.
Noticing the shift from the notion of the individual artist as a genius, curator Lars Willumeit created CO-OP, a new exhibition of photography-based collectives at the sixth edition of Amsterdam’s Unseen Photo Fair, which closed on Sunday. Willumeit’s concept of a photography collective is broad; the show includes siblings who work together, artists from different countries who collaborate entirely online, and groups of photographers who live together. Below, we bring you seven you should know.
In 2015, shortly after their arrival in Brussels for a study abroad program, four photography students from France, Poland, Tunisia, and China fell in love with each other’s work and formed GUSH collective. After starting a small fanzine together, Marion Tylec, Han Chen, Justyna Wierzchowiecka, and Ichraf Nasri have come to see photography as a feasible group activity; sales profits are split between the four creators, who each provide a different technical skill set and cultural background to draw from. Chen, who came to Belgium by way of China, described the collaborative experience as a way “hold up a mirror” to his own artistic goals, style, and way of working. Across the collective, working collaboratively feeds each artist’s respective independent photography practice, and on a social-emotional level, helps combat one of the toughest elements of the solitary artist’s lifestyle: loneliness.
Twin brothers Reto and Markus Huber had established separate artistic practices before joining forces to form huber.huber in 2005. At the age of 27, they enrolled in art school together and found a fresh start by collaborating as a duo. “It’s easier to work as a collective because you can reflect together and discuss new ideas,” said Reto. “The art world is a rough business, and as a collective we can handle it much better.” Apart from sharing artistic inspiration—and providing emotional support in the face of rejection—the Huber brothers often divide production tasks, making their practice more efficient and their output greater. Working closely with a sibling can also make giving criticism easier by decreasing the fear that harsh words or disagreement could end an artistic relationship. After all, they’re still family. Photography Collectives Are On the Rise—Here Are 7 to Watch