At the National Portrait Gallery.
All posts in photography
Becca finds little odd items and photographs them, selling prints via her Etsy shop, BeccaShoots. Lovely gift idea.
“Initially conceived as a slide projection, The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven consists of eight rows of ten photographs, shot at ten-minute intervals through a window of the museum, registering the winter solstice from the dimmest light of sunrise to the end of sunset.” –MoMA
Maybe I complain about Flickr so much because I’m personally disappointed. I was an early adopter (pre-Yahoo), and for years it was one of the sites I visited numerous times a day. It was an archive, a sharing tool, a hosting platform and a social network (that last part is huge, considering it was 2004), and over the years it’s been hard to watch it shrivel.
Perhaps most disappointing is that it still has potential. Yes, we use Facebook and Instagram more frequently, and they’re both better at real time and social sharing, but Flickr’s community still has value for photography (and could, on some other planet, compete with the more on the go platforms) proper. The groups still have value. The user influenced tagging system still has value. The people who curate their own streams have value. Just recently I found an old high school friend’s account full of photos from my youth that I had no idea existed. I couldn’t find that on Instagram. Privacy variants on Facebook make it less than ideal when it comes to search and universal sharing. Additionally, Flickr offers tools for gathering stock images, desktop backgrounds, free-to-use photos of bands and events, etc. and could continue to be a sort of social database for American culture if anyone really gave a damn about the users, but no one really seems to anymore.
Regardless, the bottom line is still true: Flickr is mostly dead. The Gizmodo article “How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet” is a great historical read, explaining the history of the company’s relationship with Yahoo and what went wrong (and more). I highly recommend reading it and am glad to see that its loss is something the web community sympathizes with and mourns.
“There’s a difference between a missed opportunity and a complete fuck-up. When Yahoo failed to capitalize on Flickr’s social potential, that was a missed opportunity. But if you want to see where it completely fucked up, where it just butchered Flickr with dull knives and duller wit, turn on your phone and launch the Flickr app. Oh, what’s that, you don’t have one? Exactly.”
There’s a lot of real talk in there, and it’s all completely on point. I’m sure that Fake and Butterfield and Champ all feel a twinge of angst when they see articles like this one, but they made a choice. The bigger question in all of this is around startups selling out to big companies with Corporate Dev divisions and bosses who might not always truly understand the potential in a platform or app. That’s ok, it’s not always crystal clear. But leaving something as promising as Flickr by the side of the road is maybe one of the saddest things that’s ever happened to the historically social Internet user base. The only way it could become viable again is if it was purchased by Facebook – and then we’d have a whole different beast and set of problems.
In the last couple months, Flickr has made a couple updates to their viewing interface. As you can see above, the ‘justified’ view that launched for contact viewing has now been implemented on the user favorites page as well. I’m happy to see the Flickr team being given the priority of updating the service in a way that encourages interaction and ‘pretty’ viewing, but it does seem clear that if Flickr is going to become a photo sharing standard once again, it needs more development (not just style) so it can play better with other apps and sharing services. For instance: on this favorites page, a pro is that I get photo info from there and click through to see comments or the image page itself. I can also select an option to view the photo in Lightbox. Just clicking on the photo takes me to the photo page.
But step back and consider what a user would be doing on their favorites page. Sure they might want to see that landing page for the image again and see all the comments … but is Flickr’s primary function to comment? For me, considering the road that Flickr must head down in order to compete, the quick sharing process should be at the forefront of design decisions. Why not make Lightbox the default option when you click an image? Take the time to develop a robust compatibility system and enable those overlays with sharing functions and (in respect to photo rights) make the purpose of it to promote the photographer’s work. Why does this matter? Because I for one am not looking at my favorites to go check on the comment count. I’m going back because I either want to share someone’s work on my blog or remember/share a personal moment or event that was captured in an image. Sure, I can do some sharing from the photo image page itself, but considering the ease with which Flickr’s competitors enable sharing, it seems like a miss to force another click. Unless the goal is pageviews – which seems to be missing the point of where they’re at as a service.
Minor nits aside, I am very happy to have a reason to talk about Flickr improvements. I still use it almost daily – but in the last couple years it’s been more of an online archive for me than anything else. All the potential that has been there for ages (they allowed mobile uploads before anyone else!) can blossom, but for users to continue to pay an annual fee there needs to me a more competitive edge. An online archive isn’t enough – and the style has to reflect a strong developmental integration into the habits of people who are more accurately defined as social photographers.
Lytro is an amazing little camera with a very special claim to fame: it works beyond a single plane of light, and is able to capture complete field light data, making for amazing photos. Because all the light — traveling in every direction — is captured, you only need one easy button. Added bonus? You can focus your images anytime, even after you’ve taken the shot. Though many of us are quite comfortable using our iPhones for on the go image grabbing, Lytro offer social integration (no Instagram, but that’s ok) as well, and a higher quality than most handheld devices. There are three sizes (8GB to 16GB) and three colors to choose from, making Lytro the perfect gift for your photography friends on the go. Learn more.
The real clever part of Instagram is the audience component. Most articles tend to focus on the social or community aspect of the Instagram app, but labeling it a social networking tool is a mistake, because it’s not just social. It’s about having an audience for what you produce, and participating in an audience for other peoples’ photos. Basically, the same rewarding experience that people get (got?) from Flickr is what makes Instagram popular…
Check out this amazing collection of photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick during his time a a photojournalist in Chicago.
Dear Photograph is an incredible site that asks users to take a photo of an old photo in the same location. There’s lots of amazing images to peruse and simple instructions on how to submit your own.