Rather than take classes and complete homework assignments, local artists are choosing to learn photography in a different way.

Guerrilla Photo Group (GPG) is a weekly photography group that meets at Rip Williams’ studio on the corner of Coal Avenue and Second Street. Williams, a professional photographer and founder of GPG, leads hands-on instruction in many aspects of photography.

“Personally, I find the experience of learning and teaching incredibly rewarding,” Williams said. “Obviously, GPG has been great for that.”

Williams started GPG in August of 2006 in an effort to bring together photographers, models and makeup artists of various skill levels to learn from each other and build their portfolios in a safe and friendly environment.

“When I was getting started, I was very fortunate to have a good friend who was willing to mentor me,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘How can I pay that forward?’ Guerrilla Photo Group was the answer.”

Performance artist and educator Julian Wolf said she has benefited greatly from her time at GPG. Her work requires her to keep a portfolio and possess updated head shots, which she says she wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the group.

In addition to the weekly open studios, GPG hosts art shows at various venues in Albuquerque.

Art show director Shawna Cory is in charge of putting the art shows together, including finding venues and hanging the shows.

She said the art shows are a development for GPG, intended to teach members an aspect of photography that many professional photographers don’t do.

“A lot of people here, myself included, have spent a lot of time shooting and have never printed anything, framed anything or made that extra step,” Cory said.

The group typically plans shows every three months. Participants are given a theme, and shoot anything that falls under that theme during GPG events. The focus is to allow both experienced and inexperienced photographers a chance to shoot and see their work in a show, she said.

“We don’t want to limit people who don’t have the same amount of experience to not being involved in the art shows,” Cory said.

August’s upcoming show “Prints of Darkness” focuses on low-key photography. The shows have a grand opening, and hang for usually about a month, depending on what the venue allows. They usually feature between 10 and 30 pieces, she said.

“It sucks sometimes, because we have fantastic submissions and there are things that we just can’t accept because of space,” Cory said.

But GPG isn’t just about art, she said. There’s a social aspect to it as well.

“I came here for years before I started shooting,” she said. “It’s such a lovely group of people and it’s family.”

Carissa Cornell, a CNM student, first attended GPG about two years ago.

“I was really never into photography or modeling, but I really did like the people here,” Cornell said. “I’ve been more comfortable with myself and my body and who I really am. People here just accept you.”

Though she lacks modeling experience, Cornell said she helps give basic advice to new models when it’s needed.

UNM student Aaron Aguilar has been a member of GPG since the group began. He was approached by Williams during one of Aguilar’s stage performances at a BDSM night club, and after talking, Williams invited him to the studio to check it out.

“I had been flirting with the idea of modeling for quite some time,” he said. “But I had a pretty crappy self image at the time. I was pretty nervous about it.”

After working with photographers and learning how to model at GPG, Aguilar found himself feeling more confident.

“(The group) was really good for my self esteem and made me feel more in touch with my body and more confident in how I look and in my artistic abilities as well,” Aguilar said.

Guerilla Photo Group
meets every Wednesday
from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m
at 500 Second Street S.W. in Suite 9.
The Prints of Darkness art show will be hanging until Aug. 10 at the ArtBar by Catalyst Club.
For more information,