In the summer of 2016, I felt stuck with my work. I felt like I had plateaued and I couldn't quite find my way forward on my own.
So when I moved to Nanaimo, one of the first things I did was sign up with the local photography club - Harbour City Photography Club, or HCPC. In hindsight, this decision was one of the best I have ever made when it comes to pursuing any of my creative endeavors. Not only did it connect me with the larger group of photographers in Nanaimo, but it also led me to joining a small Special Interest Group (SiG) about evaluating photographs.
This group has made a world of difference in the quality of my work. I see differently after 1.5 years in this group. I learned more about Lightroom in the first 6 months in that group than I had known in the years before joining. I found a place to share personal projects that need an audience, but a small, safe audience. A place where there is gentleness alongside feedback. We meet twice a month and those evenings are some of my favourites. I'm always excited to go and share what I've been working on, but as time progressed I became more excited to see what everyone else was doing with their time. I've watched the other members grow alongside me. It's been a truly special experience.
Other benefits of joining HCPC: being part of my first ever print show in 2017 (I had three images in the HCPC Photo Salon), going on photo outings organized by the club (means I can explore new places without always wandering around the woods alone), being exposed to different approaches, participating in learning seminars, getting to socialize. The list goes on and on. In fact, I haven't found a negative yet.
In part, I think my positive experience stems from the people that make up this club. Everyone is generous with their time and knowledge. Everyone is kind. And everyone loves photography.
If you're feeling stuck - why not see if your town has a club? Your mileage will vary based on the quality of the local organization, but it can't hurt to check it out. Most clubs will allow you to attend a couple of meetings for a small donation, so you don't have to sign up right away.