Erica Reade was seeking a visual community in 2014. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she created it herself. “Looking at around the existing camera clubs at the time, nothing spoke to me,” she said in an interview with Foto Femme United. Part of the reasoning behind the club was to connect photographers who enjoyed experimenting with a variety of different cameras.
Reade initially listed an event on Meetup.com and was pleasantly surprised when eight or nine people showed up to the first meeting at a bar. From there, the group met monthly, and after a year, Reade approached five fellow photographers to help her found the board of Camera of the Month Club. The New York City-based photography collective meets on the last Tuesday of every month at Soho Photo Gallery, an artist-run gallery.
While in the first year, the group tended to have more male members than female photographers, it has grown to the point where men and women are close to equally represented. Traditionally, the club has held two shows per year – one in the spring and another in the fall.
In November, an exhibition held in Ridgewood, Queens prompted photographers to address what it meant to challenge the male gaze. Reade said the idea was borne from members’ experiences and the large amount of women photographers in the group. “It was a challenging topic and a great way to open the door to grappling with deeper issues in photography,” Reade said.
The group includes photographers from a wide variety of genres and experience levels. While some members are just entering the field, many others are full-time professionals. As a result, the club aims to provide guidance for beginners – such as help writing artist’s statements – and inspiration for those already established in their careers. “We are also trying to push people to the next level if that’s where they want to go,” Reade said.
For Reade, who describes herself as a fine art documentary photographer, the group has provided a sense of community and encouragement. In high school, she had developed an interest in photography and this passion grew as she progressed in her academic and professional careers. “I was shooting constantly when I was traveling, and I was really interested in photography and social justice,” she said, explaining she has used the medium in the past to empower teenagers.
Since the Camera of the Month Club was founded five years ago, she has developed two substantial bodies of work, including Beach Lovers, a black and white exploration of lovers at Rockaway and Coney Island beaches. “It has really opened my eyes to what’s out there in New York, and having a group of my peers looking at my work and giving feedback has been really helpful,” Reade said.
Curators of the Challenging the Male Gaze Show: CMC Directors, Huguette Ampudia and Jessica Middendorf.
Participating Artists/CMC Members: Annalisa Alosco, Huguette Ampudia, Despina Costalas, Taranita Costales, Alex Golshani, Ashton Gooding, Jessica Middendorf, Natalia Rudychev, and Dina Shirin.