“The community there was really non-competitive. Everyone would go to shoots with one another. They would all meet up at bars and celebrate each other’s successes,” he said.
“What I found really difficult here in Denver is the industry… and the way it works now is really competitive. That exacerbates the loneliness of the job,” Rasmussen said, referring to the isolation of being an independent photographer.
“I hardly know a single person in our industry who hasn’t suffered from depression or anxiety,” he said. “That’s not really discussed very much." That is a big part of why he wanted to start Pattern Denver.
“We want to create culture around it [Pattern Denver] that is very much focused on getting rid of the competitive aspect. I want it to be a place where people can come share ideas, share work, have good conversation, and be around people who get it,” Rasmussen said.
“I find that you have the best stories at cocktail parties, but you don’t necessarily have a community that understands your experiences.”
He gave the example of being in a bad mood on a Saturday night after experiencing a difficult assignment.
“Others outside the business may not understand how you’re feeling,” he said.
In 2017, Rasmussen started talking to a handful of friends about the idea of Pattern Denver.
“What would it be like to work in the same kind of space?” he wondered.
After that conversation, as an experiment, those friends started working in the basement of Rasmussen’s Denver home.
“Those guys actually started working in my basement just to see if we could all be in the same physical space,” said Rasmussen. “I didn’t want it to be a clubhouse for just a couple of us, but more of a community space.”
At the end of 2017, with money from a couple of big advertising jobs and help from his wife, and her real estate connection, Rasmussen took the leap to buy a building near downtown Denver to start Pattern Denver.
Throughout the next year, with help from friends and family, Rasmussen converted the building, which was formerly used by a custom woodworker, and turned it into the gallery, photobook library, and community workspace it is today.
Rasmussen’s aim is to rent out workspaces at Pattern Denver. Thus, he and his partners won’t have to monetize anything else, which allows them to host free community events.
One such example is the recent Projections Event, where Rasmussen sat down at a table with his laptop hooked to a projector ready to show his recent work with those attending.
Before a photo hit the screen, Rasmussen welcomed the group, which included me and around 25 other people. It was a mixture of photographers, filmmakers, educators, producers and one self-proclaimed photo groupie.
Rasmussen told the crowd that he doesn’t want Pattern Denver to be just an area to talk about and look at photography, but rather a place where people can come together as a community.
Freelancer Rachel Woolf, who recently moved to Denver, was in attendance at a May Projections Event. Woolf spoke about and showed her project called "Deported: An American Division." I was not familiar with her work and met her for the first time that night. I was super inspired by her storytelling.
“I feel very lucky to have moved to Denver when I did,” Woolf said. “We had a very tight group of photographers back in Michigan, but never had a space like this to be in.”
Along with presenting work during the Projections Event, Woolf was part of the first gallery showing at Pattern Denver. Her current immigration project was featured.
After seeing Woolf’s story, I sat at the table and started thinking about the last rounds of layoffs that hit The Denver Post photo staff. It came to me that someday I might not have the staff of The Denver Post to lean on.
Seeing what Pattern Denver is doing to build a staff-like environment for independent photographers and freelancers makes me feel better. I know that if I need it I have the community at Pattern Denver.
Back when I arrived for the first Projections Event night at Pattern Denver, Ross Taylor’s familiar face greeted me. “It’s the elusive RJ,” he said.
Pattern Denver holds events once a month for area photographers. I plan to attend as many as I can. I may end up not being so elusive anymore. ■
In 2013, RJ Sangosti was named Photojournalist of the Year in the NPPA's Best of Photojournalism contest for large markets. His portfolio included photos of the Aurora theater shooting, which is a story that won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. In 2012, he was presented the Associated Press Member Showcase Photo of the Year and was also chosen for Time magazine’s top 10 photos of the year. Recently, RJ was honored to be part of the jury for the centennial year of the Pulitzer Prizes.