Connecting with people online before you meet them in person can feel a bit dodgy. Even more so if your primary method of discovery is through swiping, but this is not about that. What this is about is the particular social mores that have sprung up for photographers on Facebook. Thanks to Facebook’s obscure algorithms, there’s really no way to track who sees your public posts.
They can be anywhere. Similarly, you’ll find stuff in your feed from people you’re not even directly connected to. Rather, there are degrees of separation. Perhaps some of these people are photographers. You’ve seen their work, you have a sense of their style, and you find that you like what they do. There’s something about it that makes you want to know more, not just about the work but about the photographer, so rather than follow, you add them as a friend on a whim. What you’ll find is that more often than not, they’ll confirm your request.
In the last year or so, my network of photographers has grown largely because of Facebook. Threads that friends have commented on or pictures from people I don’t know would occasionally appear in my feed, and after seeing these photos and reading long, winding debates about this or that aspect of photography, I’ve come to know plenty about people before we ever actually started talking. In the process I’ve gained friends whose images and outlooks on photography have helped shape my own work and deepen my understanding of the craft. Some I’ve interviewed for this site, such as in the cases of Pierre Belhassen and Fadi BouKaram.
This process of adding people before you’ve met them isn’t necessarily one-directional. Occasionally, you might find yourself getting requests from people you’ve never met, and after some quick research, you see that they’re photographers, too, as I have. Unless you know the name, it’s important to do some quick research, as you should in all aspects of life. Facebook, among other online platforms, has become something of a digital watering hole across artistic mediums, and in my experience, it’s particularly strong for photography.
All of this is to say that if you’ve established yourself as a photographer online, and you find the works of others popping in your feed, don’t hesitate to add that photographer. If not, you could always follow them, but there’s something considered about adding. It shows intent. Of course, it’s on you to build that connection, and you’ll find that the photography community online can be very welcoming and a great place for discussion, providing you don’t have a penchant for exploding in arguments. A little civility and respect can go a long way, and you’ll be all the better for it.
Don’t be dismayed if your request goes unanswered for a considerable period of time, or denied in some cases. No one is in any way obligated to confirm your request, and if they don’t, that’s okay. You might meet them at some other point in time or you might not. The connections you are able to make, however, are ones worth cultivating because it’s increasingly important to have photographers you trust as friends. They can help guide your work, and you in turn, should the opportunity arise, can help guide theirs, if only through helpful commentary.
So, if there’s a photographer whose work you like on Facebook, add them. You might just make a new friend.