Using the crowd patronage website Patreon, locally-based Scott Church has opened up his studio (and his calendar) to photographers seeking to grow their craft.
Who is Scott Church? A longtime professional photographer who operates his studio and offices in a downtown Lebanon building adjacent to the Farmers Market. Church is a regular host of First Friday events, such as with the Art of Horror exhibition and concert scheduled for October 5th.
“I’ve been teaching classes and workshops since 2008 or 2009,” explained Church. “I really enjoy them but it’s a really limited exposure to the people that I’m working with.”
Feeling he could offer more, Church sought to turn his informal network of photographers he mentored into something more formal.
Church had been using Patreon since 2016 posting personal work, and was happy enough to use it for the first pass of the training program, although don’t be surprised if Church moves the effort to a private server in the future (as using a “software as a service” product like Patreon comes with a lot of benefits but other costs like security risk and a revenue share).
With 20 mentees at present on the site, Church is able to spend substantial time focusing on advancing his participants own goals.
Church’s Patreon packages range from $100/month to $500/month and include benefits like preferred studio access, invites to private shooting sessions, discounts to other studios, weekly mentoring calls with Scott, and opportunities for travel classes and shootouts.
Church graduated from “VoTech” (now formally called Lebanon County Career and Technology Center), where he became acquainted with now-deceased local photographer Bill Simone (born in Lebanon and proprietor of Simone Associates)
“It was totally inspiring to me as a high school student that you could become this,” explained Church. After Simeon died in 2012, he says it was important for him to do the same for other up and coming photographers.
To help fill this gap, Church has added a new $75/month offering catered towards younger photographers.
“For a high school student looking for an artistic career, you find very few things to one help get you prepared for an art school or art college education, and two virtually nothing to help you get started and jump right into the world.”
The family and student level pricing of $75/month includes the whole family, so that students and family can interact with Scott and his Advanced Team on critiques, portfolios, or other photo topics. There will be another Facebook group setup to handle this. Given Scott’s background in adult photography, he’s ultra sensitive about keeping the content in the program all age-appropriate.
In testimonials posted on Patreon, outcomes range from photographers getting their first commissions, others claiming their work improved dramatically in minutes, and one who says his goal is now to get published in a major magazine.
Church joined the Navy after high school and actually got his start doing photography for them, what he views today as an alternative career path.
“By working and learning in a stressful environment, like the military, and becoming self-sufficient and good at what I do because I had to be—it pushed me forward in a different path than you’d get in an art school or college education focusing on art.”
Church’s goal is to create the type of non-traditional learning environment that simulates the quick feedback loop that characterized his own early career. Not the military as much as that ability to suck as much experience as possible out of whatever you’re doing, while maintaining your own creative identity.
Church notes there are a lot of ways to maximize your time as a creative person even at an institution like VoTech or a college, but at the end of the day, “photography is supposed to be about what you see, not what someone else is telling you to see.”
“There’s so little in this world for kids looking at that path in life,” explained Church. “A career in the arts, any sort of artistic endeavor, it takes up every aspect of who you are.”
With the student mentorship program, Church hopes he’s able to help students better visualize their own path. “It’s not just about turning this into a career right now, it’s about helping kids be better prepared and understanding the system.”
Church expects that enrollments will begin around October or November, and hopes to find a few aspiring photographers when he visits the VoTech later this fall.