The return of Flickr?

In what seems to be good news for Flickr users, Smugmug are reported to have bought the venerable photo sharing platform.

A brief trawl through the internet reveals mixed fortunes in the story of this web institution. In recent years Flickr has been abandoned by some enthusiasts in favour of platforms like 500px or simply outshone by the rise of Instagram. But it’s still here and hopefully Flickr is about to see some new life.

I have used Flickr for a while but there have been seasons where I’ve focussed elsewhere. On a recent return to the iOS app, I found that finally the communities chat from groups is now easily viewed. The communities discussion is for me a top feature and previously was not viewable in the app. Another addition to the app is the ability to post an image in multiple groups simultaneously. I have no idea why this was not possible before.

Those user friendly changes were made while owned by Verizon and hopefully things will keep getting better. But what features would you want in a redeveloped Flickr?

Personally I’d prefer them not to continue to compete with Instagram. But that’s a huge challenge. How do you make a successful photo-sharing service without competing with other market leaders? I like Instagram but for me competing with them is a race to the bottom. A race to appeal by encouraging phone photography, filters, adverts and product placement.

The things I like about Flickr are also the most infuriating and least widely appealing. For example, I want to know about exif details; camera and settings etc. Flickr encourages such sharing. Instagram is not interested. They do not make such data public and may well remove them from the image.

This all probably makes Flickr more geeky and a little more elitist. Instagram, in contrast, has always been more encouraging, less critical and more vibrant. Yet, it is to Flickr not instagram I would turn for advice about photography. And it’s also usually Flickr I use to investigate a future holiday destination. Because on Flickr you’ll generally see fewer products and selfies and more actual landscapes.

I don’t envy Smugmug this challenge of making Flickr viable, appealing yet distinct and niche. But I do look forward to what they come up with.

Sharing life


Sadly I was awake early this morning but I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting the early morning tv was. 

There was an interview with the author Jonathan Franzen where he commented that in contemporary culture “being is replaced with sharing.” The irony of blogging about this is not lost on me, but the point is we are too busy sharing how we’re living to actually live well. We are too distracted by constant buzzing, pinging, flashing and notifying to pay attention to the real people around us. 

In street photography I feel unusually connected to the world around me. I feel hyper-observant rather than distracted. But does that me I am living well? Am I participating in life by photographing the lives of those around me? 

Or, in being overly observant, am I more detached from reality. Is searching for pattern, meaning, beauty, dissonance and even whim, placing too great an expectation on the ordinary? Is observing life from behind the lens really living?  


Street photography and distraction

Street photography is difficult in the sense that it’s hard to make images that have impact. It’s also difficult in that you have to overcome the fear of shooting in public and the potential to anger people.

But street photography is also very easy. It’s got to be one of the easiest forms of photography in the sense that you can do it every day. You only need one camera and lens that you can carry all the time.

Compared to the landscape, nature or wedding photographers with their bags of kit, wide range of zooms and primes and tripods etc, street photography is easy.

You don’t have to travel; you can shoot in your own street or town. You don’t need extra gear; lights, reflectors etc. All you have to do is get out and shoot.

But that’s the problem.

There are so many distractions. For me the main ones relate to social media. I think I spend more time reading about gear and technique than getting out and taking pictures. But there is so much to read. You have Japan Camera Hunter, Eric Kim, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Time Lightbox, not to mention WordPress. Then, once you’ve seen what others have shot and shared, there’s checking if anyone’s read or liked your creations.  

More images are shared today than in the history of humankind. There must also be more information available regarding photography than ever before. But I wonder if this information overload actually improves our creativity?  Are we better photographers than our predecessors? I suspect this question could be asked of other creative activities too.  Are we better artists and musicians now that we have access to so much material? 

Looking at other people’s images is surely beneficial but social media doesn’t lend itself to long periods of reflection or pondering.  We are encouraged to focus on frequency and volume rather than quality and appreciation.  To that end I’m trying to buy photography books, though I struggle to look at them on account of checking my Flickr feed and writing this blog. Also I’m trying to get to more galleries and exhibitions. I’m convinced that shaping my use of social media in a more disciplined way to give room to look at prints will be beneficial. 

But ultimately there remains the need to stop reading, discussing, commenting, liking and sharing and just get out and shoot.