Teachingphoto.com is about teaching photography, but not all teaching occurs in schools. Some photographers learn “on the job” by interning or assisting a working photographer. Others learn on their own by reading and working hard at what they do and love. But for most, finding a community and connecting with others who share a similar passion is important. That’s where non-profit spaces, camera clubs, and other such organizations come in.
Most of the time, organizations like these are started by one or more photographers who have tremendous energy, and an innate understanding of the need for such a community. Boston photographers are lucky to have just that sort of person in Banafsheh Ehtemam, who tells her story, the story of founding the Boston Photography Center, in this month’s issue. — Editor
After years of living in Boston, New York and Atlanta, I left the East coast for the West coast about 15 years ago. When I returned to Boston in 1997, everything had changed. Before, on a stroll down Newbury Street you might have seen small family-owned stores, grabbed a bite for less than eight dollars, and been inspired by the work of photographers at a number of galleries which were invested in photography as an art. But over the years, rents went up and these types of galleries moved to other parts of town, or more often disappeared altogether.
I soon realized that there were only a few places left in the city for photographers. Yes, there were assorted photography schools, camera clubs, lectures, and workshops, but I felt that Boston photographers needed a more interactive place that didn’t cost a lot of money, and nourished the creative mind. So, I decided to do something about it.
Using a Web site called Meetup, I started working to connect with local photographers and photo enthusiasts, inviting them to monthly meetings in local mom-and-pop type coffee shops around town. Though it didn’t come together immediately—no one showed up for that first meeting—I kept at it. Eventually, with lots of effort (and lots of emails!), I built a photographer’s Field Of Dreams— and they came, one by one.
In October 2004, I founded the Boston Photography Center (BPC) to share ideas and knowledge, mount group exhibitions, and promote the art of photography. In December 2006, I filed for non-profit status. As BPC has grown over the past few years, more and more members have joined and together we have been working to achieve our collective goals.
Currently, the Boston Photography Center is the most interactive photographic organization in the state. We are open to all people and all styles—digital and traditional, young and old, amateur and professional. In this regard, we are very different than camera clubs of the past. With locations in three Massachusetts cities (Boston, Worcester, and (?) and no upfront membership fee, BPC currently numbers over 300 members. For these members, we have have held five member-driven exhibitions, as well as numerous lectures, workshops, and relaxed gatherings of photographers exchanging ideas.
For me, running BPC has become more than a full-time job, but there is still work to be done. In the future, I would like to see a “photography week” in Boston that promotes amateurs while celebrating the work of some of the city’s masters—a sort of still-photography Sundance festival.
Whatever happens, my goal is to open up the community so that photographers can have a home, whether they are pros or dedicated amateurs.
Banafsheh Ehtemam is a documentary and fine-art freelance photographer. Born in Tehran, Iran, she left at the age of 15 and spent several years living and studying in Europe before moving the U.S. to continue her education. Her images have been exhibited in galleries in New York, California, New Mexico, Paris, Belgium, London and at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She can be reached by email at Marmoolac@aol.com.