A thirty-foot banquet table sits boldly in the center of a white pine forest waiting for fifty dining guests to take their seats. In the distance, two vintage couches under strands of twinkling lights can be seen through the towering pines. A large crowd of people carrying camera bags, tripods and lighting gear are heard talking, laughing, conspiring and high-fiving.
If I were to tell you this scene took place on Long Island, would you believe me?
Early in December, Liandthe5 met at Prosser Pines in Yaphank for our tenth meet up. Liandthe5 which stands for “Long Island and the 5 boroughs” is a collective of creatives built through Instagram for the purpose of gathering people with like-minded passions. It’s comprised of photographers, videographers and models of all levels.
The idea for Liandthe5 came about in early 2018 when my friend Isaac and I saw that other groups of creatives across the U.S. and internationally had been initiated out of a need for community. Through those groups, we saw that it was possible to use social media in a positive way to inspire and encourage each other as well as create real, lasting connections.
Long Island at that point felt somewhat dull and uninspiring creatively-speaking, compared to the city or the illustrious West Coast. We always joked that when people thought about Long Island, the first things to come to mind were always a lighthouse, seagull or that beach grass that you seeing growing locally along the shore. It seemed, to us, as though all of the creators and innovators lived anywhere but here.
Boy, were we wrong about that.
In the first year, we watched our in-person meet ups grow from seven to fifty attendees, and reached over 1,000 followers on Instagram. We met at different locations including Long Beach, Coney Island and Chinatown and got to connect with photographers and models from all over the Island and the city. At this most recent meet up a year and a half later, many who have attended have become our regulars. We prefer the term “family.”
Every meet up has the basic premise of connecting with one another through games and conversation and then breaking off to let the creatives do what they do best. For this most recent meet up, the vision was to create a winter dream-scape that was perfectly primed for their photographs and videos.
During those few short hours the outside world seemed far away. A slow driving hip-hop beat could be heard reverberating from a large speaker tucked discretely between the trees. Vintage furniture courtesy of Lil Red Rentals gave models a place to sit while posing in front of the many cameras. Fairy lights and rugs complemented the couches and chairs giving an indoor living space feel to the great outdoors.
At the entrance of the forest, smoke billowed from the portable brick oven as pizza was being baked on location by Tony Mussumeci of Toninos Brickoven. Fresh hot pies ranging from sausage to arugula to Nutella entered on platters as hungry attendees took their seats at the long table.
Isaac caught my eye for a second, smiling and shaking his head and I knew we were thinking the same thing. We’re still blown away to this day that what started out as an experiment to see if we could find a group of photographer friends grew into a movement of people who felt the same way.
It’s so much more than the cool pictures or Instagram likes. I think it’s established an atmosphere for us all to live, create and dream. It’s that feeling you get when you see someone do something amazing and then say, “I want to do that!” It’s knowing that you can try something new, risking failure, and knowing it’s going to be okay. It’s realizing that people with similar passions can actually make each other better instead of walking all over each other. It’s knowing you belong.
Starting Liandthe5 has really shown us that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it becomes green where you water it. Even if it is beach grass.