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Cool Clique is a mostly Negative Subculture

When I first started paying attention to the film photography community on social media it seemed an inclusive bunch of people with a common interest. But over time I’ve realised there are cliques and gangs just like any other group dynamic. Large Formatters. Black & Whiters. Lomo. Technicians. Leica fanboys. Collectors.

Self portrait with brolley

All cultures are made up of sub-cultures that push and pull against each other to support the general group ideals. Think of culture as the glue and sub-cultures as the mix of chemicalia that makes that glue a particular type or style of glue. Over time, a negative chemicalia (sub-culture) can quite easily affect the style of the glue (wider culture). As can positive chemicalia in the opposite direction.

So, as an example, I invest myself into the film photography culture and enjoy buying the odd camera, shooting a bit of film on a semi-regular basis, sharing them online (as ordinary as they usually are) and sharing film photography documentaries on Twitter. I have a science degree (an undergrad degree in computing) so I find scientific answers important when bold claims are made about technology that should be questioned. The older I get the more relevant history (and science) becomes. This is the sub-culture, or over-lapping group of sub-cultural interests and groups, that I fit into.

I’m not into hanging out on forums and I don’t have the money for beautiful objects and I certainly don’t belong in the cool gang. There’s always a self-imposed cool gang in any group of sub-cultures. By that I don’t mean popular. That’s another thing. I mean that group of kids at any school in any country who would make up stupid mottos to call not cool people stupid. Often it included some crap about “Who’s going to ever use Math anyway?” Often cool kids grow up to imagine themselves as cool adults in their work and social environments. Surprise, surprise.

Which brings me to my point. The cool gang, and people who aspire to the cool gang, sprout little mantras. You’ll hear them say “Film photography isn’t analogue… ANALogue… ha ha ha.” Or, “It’s not digital capture… like you haven’t captured a tiger inside your camera.” Duh. Or “Real photographers don’t call (insert X term) they say (insert y term),” implying everybody else is not a real photographer.

That’s the cool kids. Why read a book when you can sit on a wall in a little gang pretending to be Cartier-Bresson or Avedon. The sayers of what is and isn’t by decree. Is anybody having a flashback to their high school canteen days reading this?

Here’s the funny thing about the cool gang. You will rarely ever see a cool gang member get very far in that field BECAUSE a limitation of that sub-culture is self-defeating from the outset. It’s about supporting a small group at the expense of the larger group. That’s what the mantras are about.

Every time you read one of those (sigh) outraged mantras on social media it’s either cool group or aspiring cool group. Often the blind leading the blind through social intimidation. And it’s not me being persnickety, it’s just how that particular sub-culture dynamic works. In every school and workplace. Like butterflies, once you know how to see them they’re easy to recognise.

The best sub-cultures in any community or organisation are those inclusive ones. No mantras trying to exclude the uncool and stupid. Just plain old “Hi, my name is John and we share a common interest or objective.” Something to consider.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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