Using Photography to Foster Community

About 5 years ago, a small group of co-workers and I put up a photo exhibit in a big empty room (the ‘Purple Room’) at our work, featuring a theme of “Nature”. Our goal was just to highlight work by the few of us that regularly take photos, and add some visual interest to a big empty space. We thought it would be a one-time thing, something fun to do since there was lots of wall space left unadorned after a building expansion.

But the space was large, and there were initially only 6 of us who knew we had work that fit the theme, so in the spirit of wanting to fill the space, we invited everyone in the company who might also have a nature photo to join us. We were pleasantly surprised when a number of other employees submitted work, and together we showed something like 30 images! Little did we know, but we started something GOOD!

Our first exhibit, focused on Nature

We followed the “Nature” show with one featuring Architecture, and another group of employees joined us! It felt like we had hit on something that was really resonating, building morale, and providing another reason to get together once in a while and celebrate each other.

Attendance at our exhibits is always great!

A year later, we had had 3 exhibits and there was a buzz around the building when the shows would open, and a curiosity among everyone as to what theme would come next. It was an exciting time!

Then, some of my co-workers nominated me for an award for the work I did to establish regular exhibits, including building a photo committee, reviewing all the submitted photos, ordering prints, helping folks with matting and framing, making tags and promoting the show internally using our own in-house social media. Basically, creating something everyone could participate in, in some way, either as a photographer or a viewer.  And after back to back nominations (two years in a row), I was honored to win the annual IDI Billing Solutions IDIology Award!

Me with my IDIology award

Fast forward through the years, and as our building was renovated, IDI’s leadership team decided to carve out a dedicated gallery space, with a proper rail-hanging system and spot lighting, just so we could continue showing our work! On top of that, almost half of all employees have participated in at least one exhibit, and we’ve exhibited a variety of themes, including Travel, Animals, People, Black & Whites, Action Shots and Seasons. The gallery is even featured on the company website as one of the perks of working at IDI!!

A couple shots from recent exhibits in our new gallery space (at left, “Animals”, at right, “Black and Whites”)

Then last year, we were asked to expand our exhibits to another wall which is part of IDI’s entry area and visible to all visitors. We’re using this space to focus on individual employees, calling it an ‘Artist Spotlight’. So at any point in time, we have two exhibits going on, the greater gallery group show and the mini individual show! And now that we’ve had numerous exhibits, fellow employees have started to develop bodies of work, noting the themes they are most drawn to, and improving their skills by taking more and more photos.

Me with my mini Employee/Artist spotlight exhibit at work (November 2019 to January 2020)

And just last week, we installed our 9th exhibit, featuring Macro images, and it looks fantastic! Leading up to it, groups of us met at lunch time to talk about taking macro images and to play with macro lens attachments for our phones, and most of us ended up making new work just for this theme. (Themes are suggested by and voted on by all employees….)

A group of us at the soft opening of our 9th exhibit, “Macros”

I am grateful for my fellow committee members, without whom these exhibits wouldn’t happen, and hugely thankful for the support of our company; I feel lucky to work at IDI, and for these experiences which are so fulfilling, allowing us to get to know each other better. Photography has provided us a way develop a sense of community  and a connection beyond the regular comradery of just working on projects together. And I look forward to the next years as we continue to come up with new themes and encourage even more employees to get involved!