Shooters Shoot: A Look into Columbus Photography

In many ways, the power of an image fills the leaping holes in the crusade for fitting description. The responsibility or, more so, the “eye” to garner the essence of a picture is handled by few. Luckily, for Columbus’ mid-level personal bloggers, self-described models and public figures, there’s been a rise in photographic lore.

What’s emerged is a collaborative agenda to shape the culture within Columbus’ far-reaching boundaries by way of the art form.

Once a month, local photographers and other visual artists, which includes graphic designers, musicians and amateur models, meet downtown to exchange techniques of their distinct trade. In their minds, building one another is synonymous with the city’s forthcoming notoriety and their individual success.

Some photographers have vastly more or less experience than others. But among the circles of photography, each artists’ ideas are absorbed from their contemporaries. And though their competitive natures are still present, especially from the city’s top billers, these meetups serve as loosely-structured networking events.

The person behind these monthly meetups is photographer Andy Yates, who’s known by his peers as “Yatezy.” Noticing the growing number of photographers emerging locally, along with the dissonant relationships between them, he felt a stage for collaboration was needed. Yates’ efforts were to fortify stronger ties between the visionaries that make up Columbus’ cultural landscape.

“Honestly, I want to bring the community together,” said Yates. “I think we see a lot of creatives and their work every day but we just skim past it. I kind of want it to be like the music scene. Music always brings everyone together for venues and events, so I figured why couldn’t we do the same for photographers, models, dancers, painters, drawers, graphic people and clothing brands. I just really want to bring the community together as a whole; to bring the culture Columbus needs.”

Yates’ experience and leverage allowed him to connect with other high-ranking creatives. Other artists’ efforts have also contributed to his campaign for city-wide cultivation, one he felt was largely absent. With only two weeks of promotion, the first “Yatezy Meetup” — a name he claims his friends dubbed — was set September 2018 and generated 70-plus participants. Now it’s clear, Yates says, his peers’ past dissonance has evolved into eagerness for collaboration and, for many, larger opportunities.

“Honestly, everyone hates on the next in this city,” said Yates. “That’s why a few months ago I hosted my first photography meetup for people to meet new people, shoot [photos], find new artists, models or creatives. The photography scene this year really opened up a lot.”

In addition to swapping techniques centered on their crafts, local artists connect through each other’s contact information and social media pages. Often, leading them to build working and personal relationships. These connections, Yates says, has spawned collaborative projects and business ventures outside of his meetups.

“Meetups [are] a huge networking spot for creatives,” said Tyler Armstrong, a newly established photographer who participated in the first “Yatezy Meetup.” Since launching his photography page on Instagram and adopting the moniker, “TylerTookThis,” in August 2018, he says the number of photographers in Columbus has grown vastly. This increase, he says, is the bases for the growing ties between the city’s top talent, with Yates’ meetups as the source.

“Our culture is blossoming right now,” he said. “Since I’ve started, I’ve probably seen…I don’t know, it feels like a new photographer is popping up every three days. Columbus has a consumer base for it.

“We happen to have, right now, a culture where it’s really accepting. Everybody’s kind of open arms like, ‘Oh, you’re a photographer? Come hang out with us in Cleveland this weekend, there’s going to be 20 other photographers.’ All the time.”

Matthew Smith, also known as “Killr Aestethics,” echoes Armstrong’s sentiments, as he’s recognized the gradual evolution of Columbus’ creative scene. Artists, Smith says, have even started cross-collaborating, with artists intersecting their music, clothing brands and visual craftsmanship with one another. In turn,  expanding the city’s cultural standing on social platforms by posting each other’s work.

“The fact that we all like to work together is helpful,” said Smith. “I work with rappers and I know some of them have clothes they want to promote and, at the same time, they promote their own music and then they post my pictures and they give me credit. So, it’s like how we all work together. There’s a lot of people who are passionate about what they do, their art styles and how everyone collaborates with everything.”

In the end, Yates’ efforts have made a significant impact in the past six months. Since the start of his meetups, local creatives have adopted a new mindset. Now, Yates says, they’re aimed at uplifting one another through their aspirations for cultural recognition with photography at the base.

“I mean I just want to let everyone know I’m not doing this for just me,” said Yates. “I came this far and I want to do it for the city. I just want to make sure the community knows I’m taking my time and energy and doing this all for them and the state of Ohio. I want everyone to be seen and heard and be able to tell their stories too.”

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