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Developing the [fa] Fine Art Photography FB Group

This post is a continuation from the previous post. If you want to know exactly what I am referring to in this post, read this:http://fappgblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/the-birth-of-the-photography-butterfly-effect/
When I created the group, back in June, I was the only person administrating it. I posted and commented on the group every day, several times a day. I was really excited and wanted to share the excitement by interacting with as many people as possible. I remember feeling great and energized. As I tried figuring out things that should be done on the group, I sought ideas from other groups. I began modeling the group from others. I asked people to post their fine art images and to let us know if they wanted constructive criticism for their image from other members. I learned this from the other groups and loved it but I wanted more. So, I began asking people to title their images because titles give a story to them and help the viewer understand what they are seeing. Some images are very obvious in what they depict but there are others that are not. Some people really did not want to title their images and even though I explained the reason, they could simply not understand why. I decided to not make it a requirement and just require people to either title their image or state if it's untitled. This seemed to be a more acceptable trend! 
As the months passed, many more photographers joined. Quickly, it was noticeable which photographers were committed to the group. It began to be easy to tell the core group of people who posted weekly or daily. I began to put personalities with names and image styles as well as to put a face to some of them. Suddenly, group friends began adding me on FB as friends. I felt delighted and at the same time nervous because now my profile wasn't only for my family and friends. Now, it had become a more public page where these photographers could learn about my life and see my work... which by my standards wasn't anywhere as good as theirs. How embarrassing! Yet, I kept adding and adding new photographer friends. By this time, I had come up with something new for the group. Monthly Challenges! Now, each and every month, we (as a group) would come up with a theme and each volunteering participant would create an image according to the theme and enter it into the challenge. Every month I created an album in the group, I would post a first image (that never counted) and let everyone know so that they could post it there. At the end of the month, I would remind the group members to vote for the challenge images by clicking "like" on the ones that they wanted to give their vote to. Participants were able to vote as well... they could vote for their own image but they also had to vote for at least on other image. On the last day, I would count the "likes" and announce the winner. This became very exciting and photographers loved participating. It wasn't only a chance to be recognized by others but also a chance to expand everyone's portfolios and have fun. By then, I thought that I needed a bit of help and decided to ask one of my new friends, Gina, to help me with the administration of the group.
People simply loved to participate! ...And then, the second month... after one of my correspondences with Brooke Shaden... she agreed to participate in the challenge! OH MY GOODNESS...how stoked was I and all the other members of the group! Everyone got super excited and got their gears going! Several more people decided to participate in this challenge. I remember Brooke entering the challenge and stating that she "couldn't be more in [her] element" -- 'pun intended". This was a self-portrait and elements challenge! So... you can understand why she said that! It was a close call but you guessed it... Brooke ended up winning! Nobody cared though! We felt more honored to have her participate in the group than anything else!
This was the image she won with:
We had so much fun with this that I asked her to collaborate with us again! For our forth challenge, she decided she would give us one of her self-portraits and post it in the group so that we may take that image, edit it any way we wanted, and enter it for the challenge.
This is her image.
Soooo many photographers jumped on board. Many that had never participated in the group before did so then! Everyone was super excited and super nervous! Slowly, as the month passed, the album became full. It was time to judge and of course, the judge was Brooke.
These are snapshots (print screens) of the images entered.
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This is the email sent to me from Brooke!
"Okay so I've been looking at the images all day on and off and really making sure that my heart was content on who I think the winner should be. After going through them time and time again, I continuously go back to one image that I think is a great balance of creativity and technically skill - Kellie Wilson.
"Kellie's image takes us to a new place without actually moving the subject - an approach that was subtle yet striking. The red of the leaves helps to bring color into an otherwise dull image while not overdoing it. This image is all about balance: matching the expression with the surroundings, matching colors but not creating chaos, and transporting the viewer to a new place while keeping us grounded in reality. Because the subject was not moved the lighting is consistent, and the shadows that were added from the sticks and leaves are very believable. The OOF leaves are a lovely touch and add depth to an otherwise flat image. There are subtle editing techniques implemented, like the hair extensions, which look natural and add to the fairytale look of the image.
Everyone really shined in their creativity and unique visions. I commend everyone on going after the "impossible" and having FUN with art..as it should be. Congrats Kellie!"
 This is Kellie Wilson's image:
After this challenge, stronger friendships began to be forged between group members. The core group became closer and more and more people kept joining the group and participating in it. Hundreds began posting, asking for constructive criticism (cc), and not only titling their images but also posting stories behind the meaning of their piece. Gina would help me make decisions and would give me advice. Then, I began putting my eye on several special people from the group... the ones that participated the most. I, especially, had my eye on a very special woman that I knew would be amazing to work hand in hand with. A few weeks passed with this in my mind. 
October came and it was time for me to travel to Puerto Rico to visit my grandfather, whom I hadn't seen in a few years. I announced it in the group and stated that I wouldn't be very active for the week. To my very pleasant surprise... that special woman whom I had my eye on for a few weeks messaged me and told me that she would love to help me out and hold the fort while I was gone for the week! Well... whaddaya know!!!!!???? Dear Mrs. Caroline Brown Rutland was instantly hired! I quickly made her an admin in my group. And trust me...that was a feat for me... this group is my baby and I had not let anyone touch it! However, I trusted her so much that I didn't even hesitate when she messaged me.
From that point on... the group took an even greater turn! 
But that story is for my next post!

Where The [fa] Group Is At And Where It's Going

From Day One To Today