I have taken many different personality tests and all of them have me somewhere on the introvert scale. Now some have me borderline extrovert, but never a strong extrovert.
On the Myers-Briggs test I am a INFP.
INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.
What I have found that while not all of my photojournalist friends are INFPs, many are introverts.
Being a freelancer and an introvert combination can make life extremely lonely. I know friends and family support me, but having someone who can fully relate is invaluable.
My Involvement with Groups
For most of my life I have been organizing small groups. While in high school I loved to play chess so I formed a club that met at my house.
Later I worked on the staff of the Southern Short Course, which at the time was the oldest photojournalism conference in the country based in North Carolina.
I also hung out with fellow photojournalists in my first job at the Hickory Daily Record.
When I went to work with Don Rutledge in Richmond, VA with The Commission Magazine we had people from all over the world coming in regularly to meet Don Rutledge and Joanna Pinneo. We often went to lunch and talked shop. This was one of the most rewarding times of my life where each week I was meeting with people in the same career as myself and passion for our work.
When I went to seminary we started the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference which has run for 25 years. Also during my time in Fort Worth, TX I was part of the Christians in Photojournalism group that met in the metro area.
I would later start a CIP group in Atlanta and then help transition this group to become FOCUS.
Yet all of these formal groups isn’t enough. I continued to join affinity groups because so much of my day is spent alone.
Start with just one person
I can tell you without my close friends in the industry I could not have survived. Robin Nelson and I get together for coffee and talk about our story ideas.
Another close friend is Bill Bangham. Whenever we get together we just pickup from where we left off. So often these conversations today are on the phone since we live in different towns.
Another good friend is Ken Touchton. Ken has given me some of the best business advice I have ever had throughout my career. Ken also challenges me all the time. When I first left a staff job and went freelance, Ken called me once a week to ask what I was doing and my plans. Then the following week he called to hold me accountable.
Another wonderful couple is Vivian and Gary Chapman. They have been good friends through the years. I often call Gary for advice and love how transparent Gary is about his work.
The one person who really taught me to have an open door policy was Don Rutledge. He was open to meeting with anyone as long as he had time, or he would make time.
Don would take me to lunch with some of the most famous photographers and not so famous photographers as well. Ever person was treated equally. Don listened and asked questions. Don also loved to tell stories on himself where he screwed up. He taught me how to laugh at yourself.
What I hope to communicate today through this blog is that is is imperative to the successful photographer to be in community. Not just to participate in some meeting planned by others, but to go out of your way to plan those events for others as well.
I highly recommend joining a Facebook online group and not just troll the posts but actually contribute. Post photos, ask questions and contribute by commenting on other photographers posts. Create community.
Here are a few Facebook groups you might be interested in joining. Be sure you are a good fit. Don’t just try and join every group. Join those where you truly are amongst your people. If you are not a photojournalist then don’t join that group. Maybe join the Nikon or Canon group.
There are many other groups to join on Facebook. The cool thing is many of these groups organize events locally for you to participate. Besides joining a group then take the time to develop those closer relationships where you go to coffee or lunch with just one person.
If you are just going to see what you can get out of something you will not get very much at all out of anything. However, if you go to not just get something, but rather give then you have a better chance of benefiting. When someone tells you of their projects be sure and follow up and ask how their project is going. Ask to see it and offer constructive criticism if they are open to it.
By the way the person who got me started in photography was my uncle Knolan Benfield. He worked with Don Rutledge as well and the two of them taught me so much and made it possible for me to be where I am today.