Wednesday, November 14th, we are hosting an exhibition by local photo collective 81 Bees. “Underwater” is a sister show to the exhibition on view at PhotoBooth, the Mission-based tintype studio, photography vendor, gallery, and all-around photo nerd watering hole. Here’s our interview with two 81Bees photographers.

Kim Sikora: 81 Bees seems to encompass a wide expanse of photographers. Some with a commercial practice, some in other photography-related positions… Can you explain how the collective was originally formed?

81 Bees photographer Clare Coppel: 81Bees Collective formed in June of 2008. 81Bees is made up of students from City College’s Advanced Black & White Darkroom Class and more people have joined over time.

81 Bees photographer Bob Nishihira: The advanced black and white class at CCSF is called Photo 81B. Four years ago, a number of students from that class decided to form the 81 Bees Collective soon after the semester had ended.

KS: How do you handle membership? Does your group continually grow, or are you interested in more consistent, long-term members?

81B CC: Our group is always changing and adding people. Some participate more than others, it’s very open ended.

81B BN: At first the only members were from the original class. Later, subsequent “graduates” from Photo 81B joined. Eventually, any CCSF photo student could join, usually by invitation. There is no membership cap at this time.

KS: As a group, what are your goals?

81B CC: Our goals are to create photography, share ideas and socialize. Sharing ideas is a big part of the creative process and for effective work flow. Not everyone is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. Each person is their own individual artist, with a collective there is community aspect that is really valuable and fun. Have other people to depend on and depending on you can be very motivational.

81B BN: Our goals are to have fellowship with other photography lovers, to share ideas, to advance photo skills, and to receive recognition for our photography.

KS: Is there any desire for unity of vision across the collective? Why or why not?

81B CC: We like the variety, yet we do many things together.

81B BN: We actually like the variety of work within our group. When we have a show, not everyone will enter photos. Some will decide that it isn’t compatible with their style or interest. The group’s variety encourages each one to explore new directions.

KS: Thinking about your work within the context of the collective, what are your thoughts on individual artistic vision vs. the group’s artistic identity?

81B CC: I think everyone has their own vision 1st and then we find common ground with in the group. It’s a balancing act because anytime one works with groups of people the group becomes its own entity, however each person is an individual and has different ideas to consider.

81B BN: The group identity is not content driven. Technical skill and professional presentation are the common threads that bind the collective’s identity. This loose group identity allows each individual to travel his/her own path of creativity without constraints.

KS: In your opinion, what’s the strongest argument for joining or forming an art collective?

81B CC: The chance to share ideas, inspire and network. Also food. Food is very important to us.

81B BN: The art collective motivates one to create, to produce. (Two heads are better than one, three better than two, etc.)

KS: In your involvement in 81 Bees, hat has your biggest success been?

81B CC: Maintaining the group over 4 years. The group communicates online. There are sometimes a lot of emails to keep up with. One great thing about a collective is that different areas of responsibility are taken care of by different people. It takes a village… A lot of coordinating is us reaching a time based goal together everyone is pretty self motivated.

81B BN: Gaining and maintaining friendships.

Stop by for the opening exhibition Wednesday November 14th, from 7-830pm. And keep an eye out for future shows and a possible photography book from 81 Bees photo collective.

A few member websites:

Yelena Zhavoronkova
Susanna Troxler
Bob Nishihira