When an ambitious camping trip turns into an annual creative retreat for photographers.
This annual creative retreat for a curated group of young photographers that has garnered millions of followers since I started it in 2009. The event has been free of charge for the talented folks selected thanks to repeated corporate sponsorship. The tight-knit community that has come from this event series is something I'm very proud of.
What started as just a photo-geek camping trip with dozens of talented strangers at a California state park has turned into something of a photo cult. When I published the photos and the story of the first weekend, folks took notice. Since then, we’ve done a total of four Phoot Camps, at different locations all over the US, with campers from all over the world.
Beyond the antics and photo fun, what has kept me going is the friendship that has come out of Phoot Camp. There is little I enjoy more than connecting people through shared passions.
“Described by some as the best photo workshop ever, Phoot Camp is an invite-only creative retreat hosted by Laura Brunow Miner, founder of Pictory and former editor-in-chief of JPG Magazine.”
Every story starts somewhere. This one starts with the economic crash of ’08. Shortly after that fateful market collapse, I lost my job as editor-in-chief of JPG Magazine when the publication lost its funding. I did a lot of casting around the following year, trying to figure out what was next. One day I was tuning up a blog interview with Paul Octavious when I realized he wore the same green sneakers as another old favorite JPG contributor, Steph Goralnick. They told the same kinds of stories about learning to shoot in graphic design school, too. They needed to meet. They all did. So I contacted any of the JPG contributors who seemed potentially game for something as silly as a photographer’s weekend in the woods, and boom. We were off.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy. We had a lot of fun with portraits and photo scavenger hunts and s’mores making that weekend, but it definitely started off a little awkward. Yet, we each saw what we had in common (the joy of photography and friendship) and could tell it would all be well worth it in the long run.
It’s funny to think back to those humble beginnings, sharing Costco hot dogs and nervously drinking Tecate around the fire. In the years since, we’ve slowly becoming something of a photo cult. I’m consistently humbled by the way this group supports each other professionally, personally, and creatively through ups and downs.
Phoot Camp has been featured in Dwell, Design Sponge, Good, American Photo, the Etsy blog, the 20x200 blog, and many other publications. At last count, the group cumulatively had 2.5 million Instagram followers, and the Phoot Camp accounts on Tumblr and Twitter had 600,000 and 200,000 followers respectively.
Learn more at phootcamp.com.
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Next, read about a retreat for leaders in the food community I co-founded.