With everyday conversations in which references to TV moments seem to outnumber recollections of actual memories and YouTube allusions usually overtake verbal attempts to share real experience, it’s easy to feel swept away in the fast pace of the moving media world. And with the percentage of Americans’ time spent interacting with video media increasing exponentially each year, the visual art scene stands little chance of slowing down anytime soon.
But amidst this whirlwind of multimedia activity, StillOut LGBT Photography Club, an open group of photographers meeting monthly at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, remains centered on the art of still photography.
Members of the group say still photography still has true value.
“I think that a picture truly is worth a thousand words,” says Mike Blizzard, a photography and StillOut member. “[With still photography] you can get people to look at something and to draw their own conclusions from it rather than having the media tell them what to think….It’s more personal.”
In 2009, Charlotte native David Lari founded the club in response to his desire for an open and affirming artistic environment. Lari, a committed LGBT activist and winner of the Don King Community Service Award, had participated in several photography clubs in the past and desired a place where he “could be free to be [himself] without having to hide being gay.”
After volunteering with several organizations such as OutCharlotte, the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and even serving as an official photographer Pride Charlotte, Lari decided that the task of capturing the life and movement of the Charlotte LGBT community was not one to be taken on alone.
Today, operating as a unique group of artists dedicated to documenting the “LGBT history of Charlotte through [their] lenses,” members of StillOut work on developing their photography knowledge and skill, building portfolios on the club’s free webspace, and forming strong, supportive professional and personal relationships with one another.
“It’s been great getting to know everyone,” Blizzard says. “It’s really nice to have a group of people who have the same interests but are also just really good people. I know I can call on them for anything, a lunch date or anything I might need.”
Even casual conversations, Blizzard explains, serve as a great learning opportunity for developing his skills; in discussing various events and shoots, he can pick up little “gems” and trade secrets with talented photographers in the group.
StillOut is calling out to all the creative snap-shot minds of Charlotte with an invitation to join in their next monthly meeting on Saturday, Feb. 19 from 11 a.m.-noon. No experience? No problem. StillOut welcomes photographers of all experience, knowledge and interest levels.
“One of the great things about the club is the diversity of photographers and skill levels,” says Lari. “We have everything from beginners to seasoned pros. And the thing is, you might be surprised to learn new tricks and techniques from even the newest photographers. So, there is a lot of sharing of ideas.”
Blizzard, who was one of the “point-and-shoot beginners” when he began attending, reinforced that claim, explaining that the expertise of other group members helped him tremendously in figuring out the technical tricks of cameras and photo shoots. The club extends maximum accessibility to potential members, accepting all camera types and even arranging carpooling for members who may need transportation. They also hope to hold additional meetings during the week to accommodate anyone interested who may not be able to come on Saturdays.
With past field trip events such as trips to the Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C. and coverage of the best Pride Charlotte events, StillOut exudes an appeal exciting enough to attract oldies and newbies alike. Be on the lookout for exciting shoot opportunities coming up this spring, including a photographic exploration of Uptown Charlotte and a night photography session. The group will soon be gearing up for their second annual gallery show held at the center.
For more information, visit the StillOut website at stillout.org, become a fan of StillOut on Facebook or call the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte at 704-333-0144. The center is located at 820 Hamilton St., Suite B11. : :