A creative collective based right here in the Okanagan.

Recently we sat down with Mitchell Fowler, founder of Cameras and Coffee YLW, a community of photographers, filmmakers and artists that host regular meetups in Kelowna. Here is the full interview:

Can you talk about your background as a photographer? When did you start shooting and what would you characterize as your style?

MF: My background as a photographer is very much as a hobbyist photographer; however, I have started to build a portfolio to become at some level a professional photographer. Early on I was shooting because I enjoyed shooting cool frames or there was a beautiful sunrise in the fall on my way to UBCO. I would tend to show up to campus quite early, and if I was not reading or studying, I was capturing photos.

I started shooting photos about four years ago. The camera I first truly started shooting with is something we all carry; my phone was the first camera I used and which showed how much I appreciated photography and how much I wanted to capture moments. Then I was gifted a Canon t5i Rebel. That is when I went out with my friends more and became a big fan of portrait photography. I also loved shooting street style photography when I went to the Netherlands. When I got back, I spent a lot of time doing portrait work. I would characterize my photography style as environmental portrait photography. I love meeting people and having interesting conversions… I love to represent a person through the story we can create through a photo.

Can you describe the community of photographers, filmmakers and artists in general in Kelowna and the surrounding Okanagan region? How is the arts scene here for creatives?

MF: I cannot describe the community of photographers, filmmakers and artists as a whole but what I can talk about is the people I have met or I have talked to. The community that I have met want to create. We are a community that is wanting to connect and work on projects together. We are a group of people that if we run into each other in the streets, we can go shoot and hang out. We are a community that is willing to teach each other how to use a camera if you are newer or have a new system. We are willing and excited to show one another what we do best. We all have this passion to create but we all have different skills. We all excel in different styles of videos or photography.

For me, as I have said, I love portrait work and I have brought photographers that have wanted to learn how to do portrait work on a shoot where they can learn. Other people in the group have other specialties such as car photography. People just want to create and learn and it is wonderful to learn from people that live in the same place as you. We live so much in a computer world it is nice to have a community around you. A place where someone can have a coffee with the person they want to learn from. Nothing against a good YouTube video on photography, I learnt many things while watching Peter McKinnon videos.

When did you start Cameras and Coffee YLW? What inspired it?

MF: We started Cameras and Coffee at the beginning of June. When we started it out there was only four of us. It was a small group with little expectations. What I wanted is to create a space where people could meet other creatives. In our time it is so common to only know or follow each other through social media. We may have our favourite artists or photographers on Instagram that live in our area but the closest we get to connecting with them is on our feed. With Cameras and Coffee we can meet people that inspire us to create.

I had just purchased a new camera in May I wanted to go take photos as much as I could. I tried taking photos everyday. I had friends already that were in the creative field and I had brought up the idea to one of my better friends and he loved the idea. We are in the Okanagan that has many car lovers. There are always car shows or cars and coffee. That is where the idea for the cameras and coffee came from. I saw people love their car they had a passion. I saw that passion and saw that same passion with photography. As I have said, I had many creative friends so I knew there was a base of people we could create this group from. I also met some people on the street who had a camera and I mentioned the group and they were happy to meet other creatives. Like minded people who just want create. What inspired the group was the idea that I could be inspired [myself], I would be able to hang out with people that just want to nerd out about cameras and I would continue to just get out and create.

What are you currently hoping to achieve with Cameras and Coffee YLW?

MF: Simply, I want to create a community. I want people to be able to connect and have the opportunity to create the content they want to create. I wanted to move away from the realm of social media and move towards a closer community. When I thought about this group I envisioned a place where people felt comfortable to talk about cameras if they are new to photography or meet people that they would want to work on a project together.

Photo by Mitchell Fowler
Photo by Mitchell Fowler

What's coming up for Cameras and Coffee in the near future?

MF: We have meetings every two weeks. Nothing particular is set for the future. I wanted, with creating this group, to establish a networking system where people can introduce themselves to other creatives. I wanted for people to be able to connect and create. The meetings get us away from Instagram conversations. The meetings lead to people collaborating and working together. I want people to meet people they want to learn from and work together with. Just because we only have meetings once a month, it does not mean there are not things happening. People can always meet up and work on projects.

What are your long term plans? What would you like to see Cameras and Coffee YLW become in a few years?

MF: The long term plan for Cameras and Coffee is not clear right now. We are still a fairly new group. From the beginning, I just wanted to create connectivity within the community. I wanted to move away from my phone and social media. I wanted to create a group where I could have a cup of coffee and talk about my passion. I would love too grow the social media page where we could have creatives highlighted and represented. I want people who visit the page to see the people in their community and where they could see people they would want to create with. I would love to build the page where a few of us could do photography challenges or meet up and do a photographer/ video shoot. We all talk about what it can become and what we can do with this.

Where can people find out more about Cameras and Coffee YLW?

MF: People can find out more about Cameras and Coffee YLW on Instagram or though Cameras and Coffee Okanagan on Facebook. With Instagram, for the moment, it is a place where people can find out about where our next meet-up will be. The Facebook page is another place where meet-ups are talked about, a place where people share their photos they have taken during our meet. It is also a place where people can tell the group they are going downtown and ask if anyone would like to go shoot with them.