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03
September
2011

DEAR GPG

An Open Letter, 8/14/11

Dear Guerrilla Photo Group:

I am now in my fifth year of conducting Guerrilla Photo Group.  We have been recognized as "One of Albuquerque's Best Arts Events" by the Alibi for two years running. We have been credited by numerous photographers, models and MUA's as the "launchpad" for their careers.  I believe GPG it is a valuable contribution to the photographic community (and the broader artistic community at large.)  Consequently, I'm very motivated personally to sustain it, and intend to do so for the foreseeable future.  Unfortunately though, GPG seems to have has wandered from it's mission.  It is an extremely heavy burden on my studio space, gear, time and pocket-book.  It has recently embodied too-little focus on the task at hand (photography) and too much focus on peripheral social activity.  Additionally, recent complaints about the event and it's format have brought several other issues to light.  Essentially, GPG must reduce its footprint in all of these areas.  It must return to being the community-oriented "photographic creative collaborative" that was originally envisioned.  As a group, it must be sensitive to its neighbors, self supporting, self sustaining and artistically productive.

Naturally, I blame no one but myself for GPG's "drift" away from its purpose.  I have been far too passive in the management and structure of my event, opting instead to allow it the luxury of structuring itself organically.  As of today, I will expect everyone who would like to continue reap the benefits of GPG to also make fair contributions of their time, energy (or other resources) to the collaborative.  Hopefully, this message will clarify a number of things, including this new set of expectations.  As a rationale for the new paradigm I'll reiterate the MISSION of GPG and share some details about what is required "behind the scenes" to make it happen.  Second, I hope to communicate the situation regarding the building and surrounding property.  Lastly, I will be instituting some new rules and a modified format.


FIRST: ABOUT GUERRILLA PHOTO GROUP

GUERRILLA PHOTO GROUP IS: "an ongoing CREATIVE COLLABORATIVE focused on making photographic art in a social, fun and safe environment.  It is open and FREE to photographers, models, mua's and stylists.  It's a live working studio environment designed to EDUCATE and provide a CREATIVE SPACE for photographically inclined individuals.  That's it!  The basic premise is that if you throw total noobs and working pros into a studio-shaped blender... giving them all full access to each others respective creativity, passion and expertise (along with lots of gear)... that out the other end comes fantastic photographic art."

GPG IS NOT: A COCKTAIL PARTY... or a frat-house, or a flop-house, or a warehouse that I'm squatting in.  I host GPG at my full-time business location (where I host CLIENTS the rest of the week.)  It is also my home.  GPG attendees are guests in my home.  I have neighbors.  I insist that both of these latter points be properly respected.

WHAT GPG COSTS (IN RWP STUDIO DOLLARS:) While GPG is free to all of you, it actually takes quite a lot to provide the space for your use.  I feel that the collaborative spirit, which is the core of the idea behind the event, is sorely lacking.  Everyone seems to gleefully participate in the consumption (of every drop of alcohol or piece of food in the house)... and the use of the gear... and the making of messes... and the annoying of neighbors... but when it comes to taking out the trash, picking up the parking lot, doing the dishes, mopping the floors, gear maintenance, replacing lights, buying backdrops, etc, etc... only a select few ever seem to end up "holding the mop."

  • Think about it: In addition to paying rent, insurance, electricity, laundry costs and a long list of other expenses you may never think about (AROUND $56/DAY)... I also pay out-of-pocket to purchase and maintain the equipment, provide expendables and keep my fridges full of food/beverages.  GPG has no gear sponsors.  It does not generate income of any kind.  Its costs are not offset by any sort of regular donations (though it is true that some people have occasionally contributed financially (thank you!))  Just so everything is clear: for five years running, the total monetary donations from all GPG participants combined has averaged less than $25/month. Some months, literally no one contributes.  Think about that the next time you look around the lobby on a busy Wednesday night... or step onto the paper backdrops (@$3.50/foot.)
  • Consider this: About $20,000 in equipment is placed at your disposal while at GPG.  The gear depreciation alone, if we assume a five-year lifespan, costs about $333/month.  Add in a (conservative) estimate of 6% annual maintenance costs and that tacks on another $100/month.  The depreciation and maintenance costs on the equipment alone are $433/month.  GPG (conservatively) contributes 50% of the annual wear-and-tear on my gear... or $216.50/month.
  • Did you know: GPG (by itself) burns through an estimated $600 in paper backdrops annually (even though we use them until they're shredded?)
  • Add it up:

EACH GPG COSTS ME $167 CASH (IN BILLS, GEAR DEPRECIATION/MAINTENANCE AND EXPENDABLES ALONE.)
Not to be dramatic, but:
IMAGINE ME STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LOBBY EVERY WEDNESDAY AT MIDNIGHT.
I TAKE OUT MY WALLET AND COUNT: 
EIGHT TWENTIES, A FIVE-SPOT AND THREE SINGLES.
I STACK THEM THEM NEATLY.
PUTTING AWAY MY WALLET, I PRODUCE A LIGHTER FROM MY FRONT POCKET.
I NONCHALANTLY LIGHT THE STACK ON FIRE.
I DO THIS WEEKLY FOR 5 YEARS, WEDNESDAYS AT MIDNIGHT.
THEN, I PITCH FOR BEER.  TOMORROW I'LL MOP.
...performance art?

WHAT GPG COSTS (IN EVERYONE'S TIME AND OTHER RESOURCES): It's not just me making a contribution.  The dedicated group that regularly helps-out works hard to make GPG fun and informative.  They are invaluable, and need your help.  One of the most rewarding parts of participating in a community like GPG is the opportunity to pitch-in however you can.  The "whole enchilada" is predicated on the idea of communal service to the greater good (a free studio collaborative!)

  • Consider this: It takes about 3-4 (wo)man-hours to clean and return my space to working-order after each GPG.  This means that if you're not cleaning up, you're making someone else clean up after you.  Incidentally, it's probably Becca, Shawna, Nate, Colleen, Nugget, Preston, Zack or myself (occasionally others) that picked up that can you left there that time... or that cigarette butt you flicked... and no, they don't get paid.  They've been cleaning up after their friends (and strangers) for long enough.  GPG has no employees, only volunteers.  Become one... or be gone!
  • An estimated $12,000 of alcohol was consumed at GPG last year.  If you partake, how much did you contribute?  Asking a friend to buy you a beer once in a while is cool, perhaps... but several beers every week for years?  I think not.  If forty people think "I'm just bumming a beer or two," that's 3-6 CASES that someone else paid for.  The same is true of cigarettes, sodas, food...
  • If you're new/learning, think about this: Many of the people who are helping/modeling/shooting you FOR FREE at GPG normally earn $100-250/hour.  Say thanks.  The experience you are receiving is invaluable to you (trust me,) and it's all they get for participating.
  • Then... then there are the hours spent fielding complaints, apologizing to people, dealing with the landlord, etc, etc.  Which brings me to...

SECOND: THE BUILDING AND PROPERTY

You may not realize that there are 20 other apartments/studios in the building at 500 2nd. St. SW.  I am pleased that several tenants regularly join us at GPG.  Note, however, that many do not.  These other tenants are real people who live in a building that GPG fills each week with out arts event.  They have difficulty finding parking when they come home from work.  They get woken up by noise in the middle of the night.  Flashes light up their homes through their windows at all hours.  People lean on their cars.  They step over cans and through cigarette butts to get to their door.  They are exposed to scantily-clad people hovering between their parking spots and entrance.  They have been very, very patient with GPG.  However, I do not wish to impose the burden of GPG on my fellow building tenants any longer.  These aren't "uptight squares" making complaints about minor details.  Many are fellow artists, intellectuals... understanding and tolerant.  They're cool people, with very legitimate complaints about GPG.  At some point, enough is truly enough.  They are rightfully bothered by the noise, litter, cigarette butts, outdoor shoots, car damage, nudity, parking difficulty and a laundry list of other things.   Activities that interfere with the neighbors (or their property) will not be tolerated.

THIRD: THE NEW DEAL

I think it is unfortunate that I have to officially make rules for things that should be common courtesy.  I will be implementing the following new rules in addition to the (very short) list of existing rules.

  1. GPG will have a NEW FORMAT
    1. I will continue to lecture each week from 7-8pm.
    2. The studio TIME SLOTS WILL BE 30 MINUTES long instead of an hour.  The 10:30 time slot will be reserved for cleaning, meetings, etc.  This provides an 83% increase in time slots, and should involve 83% more people in studio activities.  All participants will be present at least 15 minutes before they're scheduled time, or the time-slot will be forfeited to those on the waiting list.
    3. MODELS MAY NOW BOOK TIME SLOTS and then ask a photographer to join them (instead of only vice-versa.)  This still allows 1-hour slots for any specific model/photog combination that would like a longer shoot.
    4. Photographers will PUT AWAY ANY PERIPHERAL EQUIPMENT and "reset" the studio prior to the next photographer's time slot (except by specific agreement with the next photographer.)
    5. There will be NO OUTDOOR PHOTO SHOOTS after 10:00pm.
    6. There are no "closed/private sets" at GPG.   The whole point of the event is to learn and teach!  The studio is available for rental if you require a "private set" for your shoot.
    7. The EVENT IS OVER AT 2AM.  Please pack your gear and help get the studio back in order in a timely manner.  The gate will be locked promptly at 2:30AM.  Attendees will not lollygag in the parking lot.
    8. Activities/attendees that are not DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE MISSION of GPG will be minimized (yes, we will still celebrate birthdays, etc.)
  2. GPG will CLEAN UP AFTER ITSELF.
    1. At 10:30pm (After 1-hour of lecture and 5x Studio Slots)
      1. The parking area, and all areas inside will be policed-up for trash and dishes.
      2. All trash will be taken out (quietly.)
      3. All dishes will be done (use plastic cups to minimize)
    2. At 2am each week (After 6x Studio Slots)
      1. All gear will be organized and put away. (cameras, c-stands, flags, reflectors, gels, etc.)
      2. The lights/stands will be "soldiered" along the east wall of the studio.
      3. The backdrops will be rolled/folded and put away.
      4. The parking lot will be "policed" for cigarette butts and other trash.
      5. All trash will be removed from the space.
      6. The studio and lobby areas will be SWEPT AND MOPPED.
  3. Attendees will PARK IN THE BACK LOT on the east side of the property.
  4. DO NOT MOLESTE AUTOMOBILES that aren't yours (...sit on them, place items, drinks, bags on them, etc, etc.)  Really, I have to say this?!?
  5. NOISE WILL BE KEPT TO NORMAL CONVERSATIONAL LEVELS at all times.  Music will be kept at low levels.
  6. There will be NO OUTDOOR NUDITY on the property.
  7. THE HALLWAYS ARE OFF-LIMITS unless you happen to live in the building.
  8. ALL LOST AND FOUND ITEMS will be held for one week, then given to charity.
  9. All EXISTING RULES(below) are still in effect and will be enforced:
    1. NO one under 18 is allowed at GPG.
    2. EVERYONE works and learns for free.
    3. NO commercial work of any kind is allowed during GPG.
    4. We have ZERO TOLERANCE for physical violence, theft, drug use, underage drinking and other similar asshatting.

It is my hope that everyone will find the new format more conducive to making the art we all love.  It will keep GPG focused on fun & collaborative photographic education by involving more people directly in the studio and minimizing the unrelated activities.  It will also allow GPG to thrive as a "good neighbor" and a valuable resource... hopefully for many years to come.  If you have any questions, ideas, or input about how we can make GPG better, don't hesitate to contact me.  I'm definitely all ears.  C'mon guys and gals... LET'S GET SHOOTING!

Cheers,

Rip Williams Photography (website)
500 2nd St. SW
Suite # 9
Albuquerque, NM 87107 (map)
Cell: (505) 681-RIP1 (...that's "7471" if you have a fancy phone.)
Skype: ripwilliamsphotography

"Albuquerque's Best Photographer" two years running! - Alibi Magazine (2010, 2011)
Specializing in modern commercial, fashion and lifestyle imagery.

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