Portrait

Leica Meet: a lesson in organic photography communities

All images © Leica Meet, published by Blurb

After three strangers met on London's Southbank, Leica Meet was born - an online photography community with more than 6,000 members

Some strangers met at London’s Southbank on an autumn’s day.

The founding members of Leica Meet, Gavin Mills, Olaf Willoughby and Stephen Cosh, had met on Flickr. They started sharing images, realising they shared a passion for Leica-based photography. Then they met up, Leicas in hand, to photograph their environments together. The mutual appreciation and support for their work spurned a friendship between three men who had never met before. They decided to turn it into a regular meet, and to invite other Leica members.

Some of the most valuable lessons come from interactions with other class members, Olaf Willoughby says of the early meets. “How they see, how they shoot, how they talk about their work. How their images are so different, even though we are all in the same location.”

Over the course of the year, they expanded their admin team to include Eileen McCarney Muldoon, a fine art photographer in Rhode Island. Muldoon, Willoughby says, was able to balance the team with a feminine perspective and enable US representation for the group. Together, Leica Meet spread from London to Paris, New York and Boston.

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Leica Meet has become a case study in organic online community building. The Lecia Meet now has more than 6,000 members on Facebook, from over fifty countries, and 10,000 unique users to the website every month. At the New York meet, Ralph Gibson joined the fray.

Each member has been drawn to the group by a passion, and a common kinship, for the distinct photography the camera tends to create.

Their images are readily shared. There is no teacher or student relationship; rather, experience is pooled, tips are offered.

The variety in the type of photography produced is remarkable, Willoughby says. “We covered the same territory and even while walking and talking together chose to shoot differently. The images from those two days show a fascinating diversity and the atmosphere is one of a mutual appreciation for each others’ talents.”

One of the members, Johannes Huwe, says of Leica Meet: “I feel a connection with other Leica owners that I haven’t felt with other brands. It’s like Apple in the early days.”

The pictures shared to the group have now been collated and turned into a hard cover, fine art photobook, running to more than 100 pages and featuring 90 of the group’s most engaged photographers.

Join Leica Meet now and buy the book here.