What was the process for starting Following Boston?
In the summer of 2015, I was presented a unique opportunity to "go out and start something, “a media bubble of sorts.” I wasn’t excited at the thought of shooting a traditional short or documentary, both with extremely limited window of interest.
Part of this “experiment” was to see if I could create something with no end, something uncooked and undefined. The documentary series was formed around the two words, Following Boston. The focus of the series was to view the city through the lens of local social photographers.
I’ve had a passion for photography from a very young age. Many years ago on a family vacation to New Mexico; I photographed a Native American woman at the Taos pueblos with a disposable camera, and to this day it’s still the best damn frame I’ve ever taken. I’ve been chasing that sense of freedom and not giving a fuck about what people think ever since. I never expected anyone would ever see the damn thing (Following Boston) it was purely the experience first, and if you were lucky enough to take home a few snaps, total bonus!
From the beginning Following Boston was always a mindset to me, a sense of style and interest, from mutual content shared and consumed in the bubble of like-minded individuals. Once the “uncooked “concept spilled from the screen to Instagram, it opened new possibilities to the project. I never anticipated the content from a low budget documentary series would translate in this way to other platforms.
The biggest surprise to me is the success of the Instagram feed, considering I never asked anyone to post anything. It literally just happened, and these things can’t be ignored. The Instagram community truly is the pulse of this project. This exposure brought us partnership "live events" with Kimpton Hotels and Leica Store Boston and opened up many other brand possibilities.
Michael Kalish’s Following Boston project first caught my attention via the collection of photos his Instagram curated and promoted. On the surface, Following Boston, appears to be a feature account, but is actually so much more. Founded on the production of short films about local photographers, the project now represents a community of photographers who are connected through their passion for creativity and connection.
Originally a resident of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, filmographer Michael has founded and shepherded this project, starting with making the first short films himself, and now taking on the role of producer and overseer of the larger community. Following Boston has over 20,000 followers on Instagram and continues to grow as it crosses over into community events and collaborations with notable brands such as Leica.
On your site, you mention diversity being an important factor in your organization. How has that been implemented in your process?
The definition of what it means to be a “photographer” has dramatically changed over the past few years. It’s no longer reserved for those who just shoot film, or receive a paycheck to do so. Diversity was a necessary ingredient in the DNA of this project. I felt in order to accurately tell the stories of this incredibly talented community; I needed to dig deep in terms of background and skill level.
One of the more interesting findings of this experiment is the fact we have people with 100K followers showing their work along others with less than 1000 and that doesn’t matter in the slightest. We also have artists shooting with the best equipment money can buy and others using iPhone, with all images “playing well” together. This speaks volumes to this project, the current state of photography, and the impact it plays on social media.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever heard?
"Anything worth doing… is worth doing right". Hunter S. Thompson
“I never anticipated the content from a low budget documentary series would translate in this way to other platforms.”
Who are some artists that you feel have impacted your own practice?
What many folks are unaware of is this social photography experiment stems from the creative openness and community formed by the Grateful Dead and the endless inspiration they provided to their fans.
In regards to cinema, Stanley Kubrick. Clockwork Orange single-handedly defined “cinema” for me, while at the same time shattering my innocent suburban existence. And then there’s David Lynch, he's got it all. He is constantly pushing the boundaries of not only the medium, but also storytelling. Nobody does mood like Lynch.
What have been some of your biggest strengths and struggles during your career so far?
Focus and passion for new creative endeavors has pulled me through many uncertain times. Always have something cooking in the pot. Also, protect your ideas and protect them from people who either don't understand them or don't have any of their own. These "road bumps" can completely derail the spark of someone's enthusiasm, nothing worse for the creative spirit.
Where do you see Following Boston going in the future?
This experience has turned me into the producer I wanted, knew I could be, but nobody was going to hand it to me. The opportunity was created around the necessity to tell stories in a brand new way. Once the spark was set, I got out of the technical way and brought on some of the most talented cinematographers in the city to join in the fun. This is when the documentaries, and storytelling in particular shifted gears.
In the near future, I see Following Boston becoming an actual "place", as well as a mind-set, art center of sorts. A place with opportunities for networking, growing artists, and educational resource. I want to build a collaborative environment that connects everyone in the industry from students to professionals.
I can't begin to explain how much Following Boston has changed my life since it began two years ago this month and lately I feel it's just getting started, so I'm all in. Buckle up!
What's in your margins?
Aside from Season 2 opener, the hosts of the Following Boston documentary series have been selected with the same process. I gather 15-20 Boston photos from my Instagram feed that truly spoke to me, this was the early stages of developing the "Following Boston" look and feel. I then print the photos and remove any identifying information like handles and followers then I toss these in the air and watch the season unfold. You could immediately begin to see a thread between certain images, glimpses of stories waiting to be told.