Flickr Disrupts the Rich?

I’ve been interested in photography since I was small, progressing through a simple fixed-focal-length compact camera to a basic 35mm SLR, playing with many cameras, including SLRs and compacts, and now back just to a digital compact camera I quite like. I’ve found digital sufficiently liberating that it has re-invigorated my interest in photography: primarily because it makes everything easier and cheaper. (Maybe one day I’ll invest in a 35mm digital SLR but I still want something smaller). Even my new phone has a camera that’s worth a second look.

Flickr, of course, has been a great success story of recent years, providing a simple and cheap way for anyone to upload and share photos. They have got the balance just right between the man-in-the-street and the enthusiastic amateur, so much so that many professionals now inhabit Flickr (don’t be fooled by the ‘pro’ logo, though; it means nothing more than that a subscriber is paying for more space - which is what I do). They’ve also spent a considerable amount of time getting the social aspects right, so much so that it’s easy to spend hours browsing Flickr for funky photos and talking with other keen photographers. Many of my friends are also into photography and most of them have Flickr accounts.

At the same time, Flickr makes it trivial to access mountains of excellent content that most photographers would be rightly jealous of. I’m proud of some of my best photos, but it doesn’t take long on Flickr to find stuff that’s miles ahead.

Despite the legal, moral, and practical issues involved in copying a photo (see the Creative Commons page for an indication of how unnecessarily complicated it can be to understand), I can’t help but think that all of this will reduce the average cost of a saleable photo for a professional photographer - whether they choose to participate online or not. In fact, it’s easy to see that this is true, simply by observing the rush of online stock photography websites selling stuff for pennies. Put in other terms, it makes it easier to become a professional photographer, whilst making it harder to make money from it. It’s a good substitution argument - if I don’t like the price you’re charging for your pretty picture, I’ll find another one (and Flickr and the web makes it easy). It’s no coincidence that the consequences of this digital enablement roughly mirror the struggles and increased opportunity that many music artists are going through with the rise of online music, file-sharing, etc.

None of this is designed to discourage anyone. It’s got to be more satisfying to beat the world than just those lucky few who can afford a camera. But like much of economic progress, the commoditisation of good photography is going to be easier for the consumer (viewer) than the producer (photographer).

Gallery to Flickr

Just spent a little while consolidating all my photos: moving the remainder from my Gallery installation on andrewferrier.com to their new and preferred home on Flickr. My Flickr account is now vastly more populated with photos (and more variable in quality). This script basically did all the work. It doesn’t support nested albums, so I had to move all sub-albums to the top level, as well as removing the few ‘symlinks’ I had on photos (later versions of Gallery support this). But apart from that, it was plain (if a little slow) sailing. A recommended approach.

Bit Literacy

Just finished reading Mark Hurst’s new book, Bit Literacy. Mark is a chap of many interests and the creative driver behind the excellent (and varied) euroGel conference I attended in Copenhagen last year.

The premise for the book is that the computer-using public are getting swamped by e-mails, web content, blogs, photos, files, and so on - something that most folk would probably agree with. Mark ranges over all of these topics, and gives recommendations for how to handle each. Some of the material borrows from elsewhere - for example, the chapter on email appears to be heavily influenced by David Allen’s now-infamous Getting Things Done method - but this is no bad thing: it’s obvious that Mark is trying to bring together a style guide for the technical world. The Elements of Style is mentioned at least once as a model from the world of the written word. Most of his recommendations are straightforward and backed up with a solid amount of reasoning.

I don’t entirely agree with all of Mark’s recommendations - I think he has a deliberate bias away from anything that removes one’s control over data. Whilst this is a noble and sensible aim within reason, there are other advantages to be wrought from keeping data on the network (and sometimes you have to just chill). He also advocates a degree of customisation - for example, changing one’s keyboard layout to Dvorak - again, something I’ve found to be unwise as you move from computer to computer. But maybe I just do that more than Mark, or maybe he’s more adaptable than me.

Irrespective, there’s a lot of sensible and useful material in the book. Some will be a little basic for some readers, but as The Elements of Style proved, sometimes the basic bears repeating. It’ll be a hard job, given the rapid pace of change in technology, but maybe this book will enter the annals of history in a similar way. I wish Mark the best of luck with the next edition ;)

Rome - Tick!

Got back from Rome - I had a great time with Laura, Minder, and Nick. Some photos and some impressions:

  • Don’t go there if you don’t like Italian food. Do if you do, it’s delicious.

  • Don’t go there if you like breakfast. Do if you don’t mind a half-arsed croissant.

  • Don’t go there if you like modern architecture. Do if you like crumbly stuff a few thousand years old.

  • Don’t go there if you like your shops to be open and accessible (grumble, continental Europe, grumble). Do if you don’t care.

Oslo Today

Some photos from Oslo today. I’m not sure what is about this city, but I’m really not gelling with it. Apart from the ludicrous expense attached to everything, it seems to lack much definition, centre, or character. The food, often a highlight of travel for me, is sorely lacking (with the exception of the bread - dark and flavourful). Having seen some of the Norwegian countryside whilst staying in Drammen this week, I suspect I’d much prefer rural Norway to the city. Maybe another time.

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