The Art of Collaboration: Six Shooters
Four years ago, six friends had lunch. During the meal, we discussed how being a photographic artist is a singular experience, and so much of what we create is done in isolation. We wondered how we could construct a project that would allow us to be visually connected and have a conversation through our photographs. We considered the idea of creating a visual train of images, where each photographic selection was reliant on the image that preceded it. We assigned ourselves days, for example, my work always appeared on Fridays, following the work of Heidi Lender, and later on, Bootsy Holler. As many of us are film shooters, we decided that we would use our archives and not make new work for the project. And so, after several months of discussion, building a website (thank you Ashly!), and determining how it would work, we launched The Six Shooters on February 20th, 2012 with Nancy Baron’s photograph of the Hollywood hills.
For 18 months and approximately 500 images, Nancy Baron, Noelle Swan Gilbert, Cat Gwynn, Heidi Lender, Aline Smithson, and Ashly Stohl connected photographs through color, light, gesture, concept, and imagination.
After a year and a half, Ashly and Heidi moved on to other projects, and we welcomed Bootsy Holler and Eleonora Ronconi to the project, which continued for another 500 images. The new members shifted our conversation in unexpected ways, as each photographer brings a different sensibility and archive to the mix. Over the years, we have had several exhibitions of this project, and we were amazed by the audience engagement, each person trying to discover our visual connections. What we didn’t expect is that Six Shooters would allow us to know each other’s archives in a significant way, and at least for me, begin photographing subject matter I had never considered before being involved with the project.
This past Fall, Nancy Baron stepped out for a few months to promote her book, The Good Life – Palm Springs, so we used the opportunity to invite four photographers to bring new points of view to the conversation. Jennifer McClure, Andi Schreiber, Barbara Peacock, and Tomiko Jones each week brought something exciting and new to our visual chatter.
On April 30, 2015 Bootsy Holler posted our 1,000th image. We looked at that marker as a time to take a break and consider what is next in our careers. It has been an incredible journey, and we are so happy to have shared the experience together. Thanks for coming along for the ride. To visit the entire conversation, go to our Conversation page and scroll down to the beginning.
Each member shares a favorite string of visual connections and speaks to the Six Shooters experience:
Ashly Stohl’s favorite week: March 5 – March 10, 2012
“I love this week because it shows a common thread between us – we all shoot portraits. Each portrait in this group represents us as a photographer, and in each, our personal style is apparent. This week was at the beginning of the project, and we were just starting to figure it out. Over time, we started responding to each others posts in a more conceptual way, which are some of the parts of the conversation that I really love, but looking back, it’s nice to remember the bonds that pulled our group together at the beginning.”
Bootsy Holler’s favorite week, June 19th-June 25th, 2014
Being invited to working with the Six Shooters was exciting, fun and challenging and who doesn’t like that. I enjoyed having a weekly reason for looking at images and digging into work I haven’t seen in years. The challenge of bouncing off another persons image each week, for me it was Cat, forced me to think differently if it was not a super simple follow. My favorite thing to do with Six Shooters was to push out of the theme and try and turn things around during the week.“
Noelle Swan Gilbert’s favorite week: May 24 – May 30, 2013
“Six Shooters has been an incredible exercise in communication, learning how to read Nancy’s (and our four guest shooters) images, and figuring out what I wanted to say in response, while at the same time moving the conversation along. I loved being a part of this interesting, often witty, sometimes confusing, always engaging visual conversation.
I chose this sequence because the bold pattern of black and white stripes combined with straightforward portraiture ties the six images together in a strong visual narrative unlike any other sequence in the entire conversation.”
Cat Gwynn’s favorite week, August 1st – 7th, 2014
Over three years ago when we devised the idea of playing a visual game of telephone, it was exciting to form this collective and make an ongoing body of work together. It became so ingrained to have this weekly assignment and deadline to post my images. I loved the challenge of figuring out what I’d follow with and wondering how it would change the conversation, which I’d see the next day when either Heidi or Bootsy would follow after me. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this collective and have hopes that someday we’ll be like the ‘hair bands’ of the 80’s and have a Six Shooter reunion tour.“
Nancy Baron’s favorite week, July 24th – July 30th, 2014
“The conversation in this series illustrates the path of most of my conversations with like-minded/active-minded friends – especially my friends of Six Shooters. That is; there is a discernible thread, but it’s not linear. One of the last images, posted by Noelle, of the girl lying down leaves a lot to interpretation. There were a few instances in which we would talk, off camera, about connections but, for the most part, it was left to the eye of the beholder. I’m a visual thinker, so I’m grateful to have had the chance to communicate in this way with this group of photographers. In addition to the camaraderie, I loved watching the flow and the challenge of keeping it moving in a meaningful way.”
Aline Smithson’s favorite week, August 11th – 17th, 2012
<“There are so many weeks that I love. One particular follow that I was very excited about was following Heidi’s image of a painted elephant trunk with an image of a painted palm tree, but I picked this week because it ended on a Thelma and Louise theme, and I loved creating that narrative.
Six Shooters has been a remarkable and rich experience. It’s made me shoot differently, taking the time to photograph things I would have never considered before, just in case I might need an image of a pile of tires or a man carrying a shopping bag. I looked forward to it every week and already miss that weekly visual spark that allowed me to revisit my archives with excitement.”
Heidi Lender’s favorite week, April 5th-April 11th, 2013
Eleonora Ronconi’s favorite week, January 20-26th, 2014
“My experience with Six Shooters has been so rewarding. It pushed me to go through my archives and see in a completely different way: isolating elements I can identify visually, but also listening to my gut instinct without overanalyzing the image I had to follow. We all had very distinctive styles, so it was a challenge every day I had to select and post an image. I picked this particular week because it is not only one of my favorites but also one that shows how we all think so differently. It starts with a landscape, and it ends with a self-portrait of mine, which I never take, except that I thought it would be a good image for Six Shooters. I often found myself taking images that I would never take if it weren’t for Six Shooters. I love how the conversation followed color, patterns, and subject matter. “
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