Building and Enhancing Photography Communities in Korea: A Journey of Support and Growth

by Jason Teale, Host of the Sajin Photography Podcast


Hello, fellow photography enthusiasts, and welcome to another captivating post on the Sajin Photography blog. Today, I’m thrilled to delve into a topic that holds a special place in my heart – the evolution and empowerment of photography communities right here in Korea.

Setting the Scene

Over the years, these communities have undergone a remarkable transformation. What once served as vibrant hubs for insightful conversations have, to some extent, transitioned into platforms predominantly utilized for seeking answers and promoting events. In this post, we’ll explore strategies to reignite the spark of camaraderie within these communities.

Cultivating a Healthy Community

The essence of revitalizing these communities lies in nurturing a thriving ecosystem, rather than merely accumulating followers. I’ve observed a trend where new groups emerge, attempting to attract members by diverting them from existing communities. Let me share an intriguing incident – a group of photographers joined the Lightstalkers community I co-manage, but their perception shifted when they discovered we organized complimentary photowalks.

The Tale of Lightstalkers Photowalks

I extended an olive branch, proposing a collaborative effort where they could utilize Lightstalkers to plan their paid photowalks. This proposition aimed at harnessing our already-established member base. Surprisingly, their response wasn’t one of unity, but instead, they accused us of hidden agendas and departed, leaving negativity in their wake. Their intent seemed far from community-building, leaning more towards exploitation.

Spotting Self-Centered Patterns

This pattern isn’t isolated. We’ve encountered individuals within these groups who ardently voice opinions yet hesitate to take constructive action. In my personal photography group for Ulsan and Daegu, there were voices demanding more events in Daegu. However, these demands were accompanied by silence when it came to organizing such events. This disparity left Daegu members with limited opportunities, despite the vocal concern for more events.

Transitioning Towards Positivity

Let’s pivot from negativity to a positive transformation. How can we genuinely uplift these communities? It begins with a fundamental principle – assisting one another.

Contributing and Letting Go of Ego

Our tendencies often lead us to voice grievances without engaging in proactive actions. The responsibility of organization shouldn’t fall solely on one individual. This challenge becomes even more formidable considering the full-time commitments and familial responsibilities many foreigners juggle. Equally important is shedding our egos and purging toxic attitudes. Even I grapple with this – negativity can be alluring. Remember, fewer clashes of ego can only nurture the community.

The Hazard of Toxic Mindsets

Photography groups can suffer severely due to toxic attitudes and a lack of participation. The fear of criticism prevents new members or photographers from sharing their work, especially if they’ve witnessed derisive comments on others’ photos. To foster an environment of growth, we must champion one another and create a space that encourages creative expression.

Support and Encouragement as the Backbone

At the core, my emphasis rests on the bedrock of support – the very foundation upon which robust communities are constructed.

Sharing and Collaborating for Growth

Recent experiences have humbled me. Friends and colleagues have come to my aid in remarkable ways. Consider the case of my interview with Phillip Brett, who created an astonishing video showcasing my documentation of Ulsan. Phillip’s gesture of support and focus on community members actively contributing is a testament to the change we need.

The Bottomline

In closing, dear readers, I’ve shared my insights, my two cents. As we embrace the upcoming fall season, I encourage you to stay inspired. Until we reconvene, keep capturing those breathtaking moments through your lens and continue to preserve the beauty that we see everyday living here in Korea.

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Jason Teale 

Photographer, educator, podcaster

Podcast    Website    Instagram

Photographing Korea and the world beyond!