Saturday, February 19, 2005

Looking at Flickr

Years ago, as a teenager in Ottawa, I had a summer job developing photos at a one-hour photo shop in a mall. You'd think looking at other people's photos would be fascinating in a voyeuristic way, but most of them were very boring. Maybe 90% of them were of people standing around smiling drunkenly or uncomfortably at the camera. Also, you would not believe the number of people who think it's hilarious to yank open the bathroom door while their spouse is in there and take a flash photo. We got another one of those every week or so.

So the thing that surprises me about flickr is how few of the photos suck. Log onto the main photostream at any given time, and sure, there'll be a couple of party shots, but most of the photos you see will be interesting or compelling in some way, and one or two of them will be really striking. Partly I think this is a function of digital photography. It's difficult to take a bad photo with a digital camera, and when bad photos do happen they can be instantly erased. And the freedom to take as many pictures as you like emboldens people to be much more experimental in what they photograph. True, there seem to be a lot of professional or serious amateur photographers on flickr, which must have something to do with the overall quality of the content, but anyone can join. I like to think that people who are smart enough to find flickr and sign up for an account are generally too bright to post snapshots of their partners bare-assed and brushing their teeth.

More tales from the one-hour photo booth: As well as the nekkid bathroom photos, we saw a steady stream of kinky-sex photos: people wearing strap-on dildoes, handcuffed to furniture, that sort of thing. I got the impression that the people who brought these in believed that the whole developing process was done by machines, and that humans never saw their photos. But of course we had to look at each photo to check the exposure and colour balance, so we all saw those photos, and in fact I had one creepy co-worker who printed up doubles of all the "special" pictures and kept them in a drawer. Remember this if you're ever getting prints made.

Another thing: a roll of film came in once full of photos of an ecstatic-looking woman standing next to Melissa Etheridge, backstage at a club. When the woman came in to pick up her prints I said, "Oh, neat, you met Melissa Etheridge," and she replied, "Yep. Gonna meet her again someday," which still strikes me as kind of disturbing.

Back to Flickr: There are some great public photogroups on it -- check out
Praise and curse of the city, an endless stream of pictures from Barcelona, Paris, Baltimore, Sydney, Tokyo, Montreal, etc. etc. I have to get in on that one.


Anonymous Joots said...

A friend of mine had a similar job in high school. They got mug shots.
Small town.
Mug shots.
Small town.
Mug shots.

(C'est Julie from Lex, by the way.)

9:27 a.m., February 20, 2005  
Blogger striatic said...

my personal take is that context shapes behaviour, and that on flickr there is a social disincentive to posting Bad Photos.. or at least publicly posting them.

that, and the primary user narrative at the moment is that artful shots are good shots. this could change over time, leaving strap on dildo shots as the new Good Photos and artful shots as the new Bad Photos.

this leaves the current difficulty surrounding artful shots of strap on dildos.. which, if you'd like more views on your photostream, i would suggest posting.

4:57 a.m., April 18, 2005  

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