By nature, blogging is communal — we write publicly and interact with readers. Some people, like Cee Neuner at Cee’s Photography, have built communities around their sites. Cee hosts weekly photo challenges that not only encourage people to practice their shooting skills — they provide a welcoming space for bloggers around the world to connect. Here, Cee talks about her love for photography and what motivated her to launch challenges on her site.
What is your philosophy around photography?
I am a visual person, so being behind a camera and looking for beauty and color is in my DNA. I take photos because I enjoy it. The world comes alive. I love looking through my viewfinder: I see life so much clearer than I do without the lens. I am fortunate as I have a natural ability for composition, and that makes taking photos so much easier.
When did you realize you were looking for more online — that you wanted to build an active community around your blog?
My first experience with social media was when I joined Redbubble. It is a place where photographers can market and sell their photos. They have several groups you can join and some host challenges. The challenges are much like what I have now — no prizes are offered, but it is just a fun way to share your photos with others. Over the few years I was part of that community, I hosted several different groups, and all my groups had various challenges. I left that community because I wanted more.
I decided to blog, and that is where I found WordPress.com. I wanted a place where I could talk about some of my day-to-day life. I was in the early stages of recovery from having had Lyme disease for over 30 years. I yearned for more contact with people, more than what I felt Redbubble had to offer me.
Blogging offered a way for me to communicate more with people and be more social. I wanted to have more fun with photography since it was becoming more of a lifestyle for me. I wanted to take photos of anything that caught my eye. It’s my way of talking.
I wanted to take photos of anything that caught my eye. It’s my way of talking.
Can you describe the process of developing your first challenge?
I was thrilled to see that WordPress.com had its own weekly photo challenge, so naturally I wanted to start my own since I had run so many challenges at Redbubble. I started Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge first. This challenge was really easy for me to get up and running.
The second challenge I started was Share Your World. I wanted a place where people could answer safe questions about themselves and their lives, and I hoped it would be a place where I could grow a unique community. I wanted topics that encouraged the unity of people around the world. Blogging is an international activity, and that’s how I chose the name, “Share Your World.” I love that we can come together and appreciate each other, no matter where we live. It kind of blows my mind sometimes.
I love that we can come together and appreciate each other, no matter where we live.
From your experience, what do people need or want when they seek out a blogging group or online community?
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Because of my illness, I was isolated from people for so many years. I had no friends left because I didn’t have the energy or the mobility to do things with them. A lot of people feel the same isolation I do, for so many different reasons. And each reason is valid. People crave being part of a community. That is simply who we are.
Online communities have helped me to not feel so isolated. I wake up, read the words of my friends and see their photos, and feel like I really know them. It’s as if we live in the same town. Some of us have really gotten to know each other. If I were a world traveler, I could literally write to one of my blogging friends and not feel alone in any country in this world. How many people can say that?
Online communities have helped me to not feel so isolated.
Why did you expand into multiple challenges? What needs were you responding to?
I think readers want to be heard. Many bloggers over the years have told me that they go out looking for specific photo opportunities, just because of participating in my challenges. They see the world differently now. I’ve seen people grow from being a semi-adequate snapshot photographer to being extremely adept at photography. I’d like to think I’ve been a part of encouraging that kind of passion and creativity in their lives.
Is photography for everyone? Heavens no. But my hope is that every blogger who participates in my challenges just have fun.
Have you built a community around your site, or are you part of one that you really enjoy? Share your experience with us.