I went to my first-ever photography meet-up this year at Polacon NYC. As a girl from a small town, I’d never seen so many film cameras in one room. It was photo-nerd mecca. Everyone I met there was so nice and it was inspiring to see the wild of creativity in the community.
It was at Polacon, relaxing at a quiet corner table and taking a breather from mingling in the larger crowd when I met the dynamic duo, Chandler and Taylor Flanagan. Through our conversation we discovered that in addition to our mutual love of photography, we’re all Swifties and love getting lost in a good novel. I also learned that they’re the founders of the San Diego, California-based Not Your Grandma’s Camera Club.
Their tagline, “It’s about time for a camera club exclusively for female/non-binary humans” struck a chord with me. I think any effort to elevate and connect female/non-binary photographers in the community is a win we desperately need.
So, what better way to convince you to log off the computer, touch grass, and make some friends than to post an interview with two friends I made at a meet-up (who also happen to be the founders of a rad photography club)?
To the interview!
Let’s start by telling everyone a little bit about yourselves – How did you get started in photography?
T: My name is Taylor and I was born and raised in a little mountain town near Lake Tahoe, CA. I didn’t really get into photography until I met my wife. She encouraged me to take photos, even if they didn’t really align with what was thought of as conventionally beautiful at the time. I started with portrait photography at first and over time found my love for instant film and city-scape photography.
C: My name is Chandler and I was born and raised in the Inland Empire, CA. My love for photography flourished from childhood. My dad was big into photography and I was always fascinated with the entire process. I mostly shoot on film but dabble in digital as well. I love capturing moments in time and looking back on them.
What made you decide to start a club focused on in-person events as opposed to a Discord server or a feature page?
T: This came about mostly from attending other co-ed club events in the San Diego and Sacramento areas. We wanted to build a community and make new friends but also wanted a creative space to feel safe and welcoming for women and non-binary individuals.
C: After Covid, I felt myself in an artistic rut. I wanted to make art but had no drive to move forward, the photography community pulled me out of that. Just hanging around other artists really inspired me. When we moved to San Diego, we didn’t have much of an artistic community around us. The events we did find were mostly hosted by co-ed clubs and men made up the majority of attendees. We knew that there were women/non-binary photography lovers out there who perhaps didn’t feel seen or welcome in the current communities. We wanted to change that. Everyone deserves a space where they can connect and feel safe.
I have to ask (because I’m a fan), what was the inspiration for the mascot/club theme?
T: This actually came from our name: Not Your Grandma’s Camera Club. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we advertised with grannies doing very ungranny-like activities?” We wanted the club to come off as carefree and casual – What better way to do that than silly granny photo shoots?
C: Honestly, I loved the idea of “Rebel Grandmas.” Once we had the logo for the club ready to go I felt so inspired. In-person clubs sometimes feel like a competition and we wanted Not Your Grandma’s Camera Club to be the opposite of that. We wanted a silly/inviting/totally un-serious environment that people could feel relaxed in. After doing the first grandma shoot I was hooked. I would say these photo shoots have been the most entertaining and creative shoots I have ever done, and I don’t ever want to stop. As long as people are willing to dress up like grandmas, I will be willing to do the silly photo shoots.
How many meet-ups has the club had so far?
T: We’ve had two meet-ups so far and both have brought out amazing groups of women and people that were just happy to take photos and learn from one another while meeting new people in the process.
C: Both events were a smashing success and we’ve enjoyed meeting everyone who has joined.
I’ve seen you mention in posts that your events are introvert-friendly – can you tell me more about how that works?
T: We know it can be really intimidating going to a club event where you don’t know anyone and we’ve experienced it first-hand. You show up and everyone just hangs with the same group of friends they came with. We challenge our attendees to step out of their comfort zone and meet people through various icebreakers. We realize that chatting with people you don’t know can be a lot to take on, especially for those who are introverted, but we always keep the icebreakers short and simple.
C: I’m an introvert and hate going into large group settings where I don’t know anyone. I’m often deterred from going to meetups because I am so shy. I want people to come to our club and realize that everyone is scared/nervous and they’re not alone. We like to force people to get to know each other before meetups by having them answer small, seemingly insignificant questions about themselves. This helps get rid of the jitters and allows them to focus on making friends.
What are some challenges you’ve come across while organizing events?
T: I would say the most challenging part of organizing the events has been trying to stand out as a camera club. We want to defy convention, but we also know that people are used to camera clubs doing things like photo walks. We don’t want our meet-ups to always be the same activity but we don’t want people to think our club is boring either.
C: In my opinion, the most challenging part has been finding locations for the meetups. We’re just a tiny club with no funding. It’s hard to find a space to host when we can’t necessarily compensate for the space in return. However, the spaces we have been able to utilize have been incredible and we appreciate everything they’ve done for us.
What is one thing that surprised you or didn’t turn out as planned since starting the club?
T: One thing that didn’t really turn out as planned has been mini meet-ups in between our main meet-ups. We really want to foster a space where people can come together and hang out, do arts and crafts, or visit a museum. However, they haven’t had as big of a turnout as our main meet-ups, so we’re putting that idea on the back burner for now.
C: Our mini meetups! However, we may try those again when we have more experience planning our main events. We’re taking it one day at a time.
What is the long-term vision for the club?
T: We would love to see the club be known for being a fun, creative space to explore all that photography has to offer. We want women and non-binary individuals to come together and learn new techniques, teach alternative processes through workshops, take group trips to art museums, and just have fun creating art through photography without any pressure.
C: I want women/non-binary folk to feel welcome in the photography community. We make up such a huge part of the art form; however male photographers are always at the forefront. I hope the club can help change the narrative. Also, I would love it if other women would like to open their own chapters of the club in other states.
Huge shout-out to Taylor and Chandler for taking the time to interview with me. In addition to learning more about them and the origin of the club, I wanted to hear some real feedback from event attendees. So Taylor and Chandler were kind enough to put out the call to their club members. The responses were so overwhelmingly positive and unanimous, I decided to include them verbatim here:
“My partner and I felt immediately welcomed when we arrived at the NYGCC event at Balboa Park. It was so incredible to walk up to a group of womxn who were all there to support each other’s creativity. Chandler and Taylor are great at facilitating introductions and ensuring everyone feels safe and included. No matter what camera you have (or don’t have) or how long (or short) a time you’ve been into photography, you’re encouraged and supported. It’s not competitive—it’s collaborative. We had such a great time, learned some new photography techniques, and met some womxn we’ve stayed connected with. In fact, one of them is going to do family portraits of us and our dog soon!” –Kate
“I’ve had the best time at the Not Your Grandma’s Camera Club meetups! The camaraderie is incredible and it’s been fun getting to know new people and all their different styles of photography. I feel very safe and comfortable at these meetups and am never nervous to go, which is huge for me. I think it’s really important to have safe spaces like this for us to be creative and not worry about anything else, and I’m really thankful for this club.” – Emily
“Discovering a camera club focused on connection, inclusion, and the craft of photography felt impossible when I first moved to San Diego – until I stumbled upon Not Your Grandma’s Camera Club. The founders go above and beyond to ensure everyone experiences a warm, celebratory, and most importantly, safe environment at each meetup. Their thoughtful welcome strategy is vital. It levels the playing field for newcomers, making initial introductions far less intimidating and empowering individuals to attend even if they don’t know anyone. I can’t thank Chandler and Taylor enough for creating a space where talented women and non-binary folks can celebrate each other’s love for photography. These two are just getting started.” –Danielle
“I really love how welcoming everyone is and we had the freedom to go out on our own, but also connect with each other in passing. NYGCC provides a safe space and I love the various types of cameras everyone brought, from paper cameras, disposables, and film. It widens the perspectives of different folks from all backgrounds. I love that about this club!” –Jacqueline
“Something that I didn’t expect when attending these events was the instant feeling of safety and comfortability! Every single person that I interacted with was truly a pleasure. The overall environment is very positive and uplifting. So happy NYGCC exists! “ –Jessica
So, there you have it. If you want to connect with people who are into the same weird things you are, meetups are a great place to start!
If you’re a woman-identifying individual in the San Diego/SoCal area check out Not Your Grandma’s Camera Club’s next meetup on October 22nd, featuring a field trip to LA!
Not local to the San Diego area and still looking to have some fun? Search for meetup groups in your area. If there aren’t any meet-ups, groups, or clubs in your area, consider starting your own. Your loved ones will thank you for no longer lecturing them with riveting photography information.
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