I went on the Cinstameet walk with many other local photographers Sunday morning to explore our Covington neighbor. I’ve been to meet ups before, but this one was different; there were a ton of people, more than I’d ever seen at one of these gatherings, walking and socializing with one another. I saw familiar faces while also meeting new people with whom I either wasn’t familiar or I knew but had never previously met outside of the Internet. I’m a rather socially anxious and awkward person in reality, focusing my attention to those I know well and actively avoiding strangers, but at the Cinstameet I felt more at ease because the people there were the ones I see online every day and we share a common interest that sort of absolves the awkwardness of not knowing which conversation you should have with them. It also helps that there wasn’t an unfriendly face among them.
As we walked around, I spent most of my time observing the behaviors of the other photographers. I normally shoot alone so it was fascinating to see other people crouching and twisting their bodies to get the perfect angle on something most people would otherwise overlook. With their varying degrees of expensive equipment in hand, they were continuously analyzed by confused Covington bystanders and myself alike. Photographers were lying in the street to get the gritty detail of a double yellow much to the chagrin of approaching vehicles, propped themselves up on stone walls to see over a bush, scaled muddy hills for a wider view of the land around them, and found little alleys in which to capture the minute details of a forgotten series of bricks and fire escapes that an architect long ago placed there to facilitate daily life.
The thing I love about these walks isn’t the chance to do photography but rather how social they are. In fact, I didn’t take too many quality pictures in Covington that day because I was so focused on the dynamic element of the situation: those people aren’t always in that same location at that same time and I took advantage of that opportunity to actually speak to them instead of focusing on me and my photography. The buildings, graffiti, landscape, and everything else would be there tomorrow. Cinstameet, for me, wasn’t so much about the art I love so dearly; it was about the people behind the art I see on a daily basis and the camaraderie therein. I could converse with these people normally instead of through small comments and “like” buttons for a change. It gave me a chance to be a human around other humans instead of just a 2D avatar. That’s important in today’s increasingly digital world.
And that’s the thing that sort of struck me the most. While everyone’s art is shared throughout the internet, it’s important to remember that the only reason it even exists in this digital space is because of an analog source. None of this photography would be possible without a human in the actual, physical world taking the time to craft it. It’s that person that makes the art truly matter. Sure, a photograph or painting or other piece of art can make you feel something and you can easily disassociate it from the artist, but I think it’s important to remember that behind every work that makes you feel something is a person pulling the strings to make you feel. It’s because of them you experience nostalgia or dread or some other emotion while observing and interacting with that piece. It’s something they’ve done, a relic of themselves in that moment in time, and a reflection of their creativity that makes you exercise the muscle that defines your species. It’s all because of them. A meeting of people who create this art on a daily basis is important because you’re forced to remember that behind every blue sky Roebling bridge, sunset city skyline, Over the Rhine 19th century Italianate façade, and Carew Tower observation deck shot is a photographer with a vision and a desire to capture that moment for a reason and purpose personal to them.