This week we’ve been working away on a mission statement for the Real Life Community. Yes, I acknowledge that is backwards, something we should have done at that first planning meeting in 2015. Drilling down your intent in a succinct way is DAMN hard, which is likely why we avoided it for so long. Fortunately, three years in we have the privilege of being surrounded by women who not only want to be part of the community, but want to help shape it as well.
The cadence of the mission, it’s tone, it’s flow, the order of the points could be tweaked for years. In fact as I write this, we are doing just that. I am happy to share though that we have finally drilled down, and what has emerged is 5 pillars. 5 principles that are the most important, that require bolding, and will guide this community as we move forward. I am not the one who is finessing these ideas into a representative paragraph, so I am going to share them with you in the rough, somewhat clunky, but passionate way they have taken shape in my head.
The idea for the Real Life Conference came from Erika’s desire to get more women on stage at photography conferences. As we have grown, this has expanded to women, non-binary people, and minorities all wanting an opportunity to initiate and guide the dialogue (pillar 1) in the photography world. The conference format also met Erika’s desire to grow and learn (that’s pillar 2) from photographers from different genres with diverse perspectives.
When I joined Erika planning the conference, I was just leaving a space that felt staged and phoney. The idea of real life beyond our social media presentation spoke to me, I wanted to make in person genuine connections (#3) with people, and I wanted our community to be a catalyst for members to make those connections as well.
For me personally, our Facebook community has likely had the most significant impact on my education as a human being. Our fourth pillar, one that arose from our community, is choosing courage over comfort and challenging personal bias (#4). This is the stuff that drove some of those really intense conversations in our Facebook group, and the stuff that was rich learning material for many of our silent members. This was the stuff that left some members hurting. And this is the place where I fell down. Hard. Our Facebook group lacked clear purpose, guidelines, moderators, which were all problematic, but my choice to protect privilege over listening and learning from minorities was a massive fuck up, and it’s important I own that here. We have done work on this particular pillar in the past 4 months, and we are still humbly listening, and educating ourselves.
And finally, over the past 2 conferences we have met some remarkable people, speakers, attendees, and facebook members, who devote part or all of their work to serving others (that’s the 5th pillar). This theme has really just become clear to us over the past few months, and we are excited for it to be a guiding principle as we move forward.
So with that, we have ‘unpaused’ the Real Life Facebook Community. Inside you will find a new team of moderators, a clear mission statement, in-depth guidelines for how our Facebook community will run, and a brand new Real Life Blog.
I want to take a minute here to thank all of people who have contributed their time, and a special thanks to Carrie Swails from Social Justice for Creatives, for giving us her time, templates, and expertise so we could find clarity and communicate that to all of you.
We are looking forward to connecting with you in our group, and hopefully sometime soon, in Real Life.