Last week marked the launch of Shuttershy.org, a new site dedicated to a probable minority: the pony fan enthusiast photographer. “That’s a bit niche” is probably your first thought, but as an on-again off-again professional photographer, the thought of such a construct intrigued me. After all, there’s splinter fan sites dedicated to so many obscure pony fan interests that it was only a matter of time that one geared towards photographers would crop up.
While it might uniquely be for photographers, Shuttershy is one of many pony fan sites aimed at narrow interests. How could a site like that serve the community at large? Read on to find out.
Only The Equine Eye Focuses Faster
As a fellow photographer, I can say that ponies and photos haven’t exactly crossed paths for me… at least, not directly. The show’s an animated property, and the subject matter is entirely fictional. The closest you’ll get to photographing a Little Pony is to go to a toy store. But if you broaden your view a little bit, there’s definitely some paths that photography and fandom intercept. The fandom is rife with cosplayers and people who make tangible items, all of which need to be photographed to be appreciated by others not in their presence.
Think about it: How many lousy pictures of cosplayers have you seen? No matter how nice (or terrible) their outfits might be, having a good photograph will let you judge it on its own merits, without the quality of the photo interfering. Same goes for toys, plush dolls, sculptures and so on. A good photograph can help bring out the best of a work of art. Not to mention that everyone’s seen lousy convention photos—what about helping raise the skills of those that will document this phenomenon?
Nothing disappoints me more than plushes or custom toys that have poor photographs. Even with a point and shoot camera, it’s not too hard to take a good photograph. Like most things in photography, lighting and composition make ninety percent of the image. An inexpensive lightbox and light set could vastly improve the photographs these artists take, but they might not even think to seek out a resource or tutorial for help.
With that context, the idea of Shuttershy comes into clearer focus. It’s not a site dedicated to the narrow focus of just hosting photos relating to ponies, though it does that. Recognizing that a site with just photos of cosplayers and conventions for a pony show might be too narrow, it aims to form a community. Think of something like The Luminous Landscape, by noted nature photographer Michael Reichmann. A blend of personal writing and a touch of theme separates it from more gear oriented websites like DPReview.
Given how broad this fanbase is, you’ll find people of all stripes subdividing into their common interests and hoping to bring non-fans into their fold. While Shuttershy is obviously catering towards the brony market, there’s no real reason why a general purpose photographer couldn’t join their forum or Flickr group and get critique or just enjoy some company. So long as they don’t mind the theme, I’m sure there could be some very interesting gear debates at the least.
Nothing Escapes The Eyes of Fandom
My groan-worthy Minolta puns aside, there’s non-photography things to be gleaned from such a launch. The idea that the fandom could support its own splinter groups isn’t quite new, after all, there’s vibrant traditional art, music, and writing communities distinct from the general purpose communities in the Friendship is Magic fandom. I won’t deny that there’s overlap between the specific and broad communities, but there are people that aren’t involved in both sides.
At first glance, you might think that Shuttershy is just a blog by one person, but that’s usually how these things start. Having a platform for one’s ideas and thoughts is the first step to getting your word out, and it’s remarkably similar to how we decided to start up The Round Stable.
My opinion on the validity of the subject matter is that author Natasha Lockhart manages to make the issues surrounding the fandom and photography accessible to non-photographers, which is a commendable act. Her series of articles about convention photos range from trip reports and galleries to critiques on how conventions handle their photography policies are well written and thoughtful.
As the fandom continues to grow and evolve, these niche items will continue to pop up, and it speaks to the accessible nature of the show. Maybe a site like Shuttershy would have been unthinkable a year ago, but the forces that draw people to the show are also the same ones that drive people to create. FimFiction, various subreddits like MLPVids, and the Artist’s Training Grounds all have a unique flavor that isn’t quite the same as a more general community. Shuttershy joins the ranks and shows us that just because you may be niche doesn’t mean you can’t be appreciated by the fandom in general. ■