Flickr Treks: Part 1 of Challenges for the Contemporary Photographer
By June Perkins
Introduction to the series
Constantly, changing technologies bring to those of us who wish to express our creative vision three major challenges:
- The first is the ability to adapt and learn the techniques of new technologies.
- The second is to create work that astounds the consumer or audience and moves them to engage with and purchase the works.
- The third is to not be so consumed by the technique and technologies so that nothing is left for the imagination and vision which creates art that uplifts the human spirit.
Technology itself is like art in that it is also the outcome of creativity and invention. Yet, it is a tool, a vehicle which can be both uplifting and degrading to the human spirit in the final outcomes. My thesis is that technique is the servant to message and that technology is not guarantee of success. Art is about what you want to say, not just how good the technology which you employ is to create what you do. You can become a better artist by participating in both real and online communities, especially by emerging yourself in the process of gaining knowledge of technique and yourself. This post deals with the first of these challenges.
© ‘Gumboot Girl’ by June Perkins, all rights reserved.
Adapting and Learning Through Flickr Treks
(Part 1 of 3 posts)
Art is about what you want to say not just how good the technology which you employ is to create what you do. You can become a better artist by participating in both real and online communities, especially by emerging yourself in the process of gaining knowledge of technique and yourself.
I did not go to art-college. When I was ten I was given a simple Kodak camera that had no settings except click and take. I once had access to a decent camera when I took a short course in black and white photography at high school. I was so excited when my photographs were being processed and went to collect them only to find that the teacher had not bothered to print them for me and had thrown out the roll of film. I was shattered, for my artistic heart had been slashed even before it began to beat. Why teach us to take photos and not develop them? My photography was sporadic after this.
It picked up a bit when I had children and wanted to take photographs of them. I was overwhelmed by the technology to take photos that were astounding and didn’t consider going further than the simple snapshot.
Now, however, I am part of a new generation of self-taught photographers, armed with a digital SLR and wishing to push arts practice to the limit. I document community events and friends’ happenings, long for a new lens for my camera, and to talk photography with similar others. I have been inspired to find out about women surrealists in art, and to keep exploring my artistic practice, to move beyond my initial image and work with digital manipulations to heighten the expressive capacity of an image. My photography accompanies my poetry and I think it may be time to make digital stories, as many other poets are now doing.
The journey from average family documenter to passionate self-taught photographer with strong artistic leanings began when I moved to Northern Queensland, further away from my family than ever before. I wanted to capture the images of my new home for my blog. I soon realized that my very cheap digital camera was not allowing me to capture this Northern environment the way I wanted it to.
For my birthday a couple of years ago I received a digital SLR, a Nikon DX40. Revelation! I had to discover how to use my camera. I did try to read the manual, honest, but it was not much help. Instead I began to play with my camera and I joined flickr. I did work out, of course, what was happening with light, speed, close-ups, and zoom, and now laugh at my limited knowledge at the beginning of my journey.
© ‘Leaf Hand’ by June Perkins, all rights reserved.
Flickr , launched in 2004 by Ludicorp based in Vancouver, is an image and video web hosting site, an online community (or more accurately a collection of online communities), which is widely used by bloggers. It was taken over by Yahoo in 2005. I came to flickr shortly after blogging and found it useful for embedding images into my posts.
Uploading photographs to flickr allows bloggers to reduce their storage space on their blogs and enables use of applications for editing, like picnik (online editing program) and experiments in bighugelabs (online community/program for making things like magazine covers, trading cards, paintings and collages with your photos).
Flickr has developed my photography:
- By being the photography school I never went to – with groups that focus on technique, colour, bokeh (the blur), colour, less is more, rusty things (and so on).
- By providing a place to virtually meet other photographers – some professional, some self-taught like myself – and learn why they take their photographs and about their home environments and art.
- It provides a forum for social interest groups who use the image to highlight social issues around the world. flickr provides its full services to these groups for free now.
Some of the challenges with flickr are the sheer volume of images, 4 billion in October 2009. So where do you start? How many people are genuine? Are there unsavory types and images there? Will your images be ripped off even with copyright attributions written on them? Where did I start?
I started by surfing through groups and adding contacts. I looked for images that captured me and then explored a little more.
© ‘Ripple’ by June Perkins, all rights reserved. Not digitally manipulated.
Favourite Flickr Photographers
Here is a selection of my favourite flickr photographers, with a little bit about what each has taught me.
1. Image Peace
(10 testimonials, 546 contacts)
Also known as Janet Tallarigo-Murphy
Based in California, USA, Portrait Photographer and Conceptual Artist.
© ‘Self Portrait’ by Janet Tallarigo Murphy/Image Peace, all rights reserved. Permission kindly granted for use on this blog.
Image Peace has taught me that you can make art out of photography, and have a social conscience as you post on flickr. She is perhaps the person who appeals to my social sensibilities the most, with groups on tranquility, peace and other themes I find important. She amazes me with her manipulated creations. I feel I have come to know her family, her philosophy and outlook on life.
2. Notley Hawkins
(61 testimonials, 3221 contacts)
Based in Missouri.
Originally trained in painting and drawing.
© ‘Jess Hall Redux’ by Notley Hawkins, all rights reserved. Permission kindly granted for the use on this blog.
I find I gain such a sense of place, although at time he makes our world unworldly and it’s just like being in a Doctor Who Episode. It must be something about the colours.
In my flickr treks I find myself thinking how Notely would photograph the buildings, gas stations, cane fields and creeks near where I live. He is audacious in seeking out the occasional interesting person to photograph. He makes me realise that rural life can be incredibly interesting to photograph.
3. Livhouse the paronmeister
(9 Testimonials, 219 contacts)
Scotland, Working in IT, Carer- also known as Danny Letham.
He photographs the world as he sees it and nothing is off limits, the titles of his sets are quirky, whimsical and political. With sets like Election 2010, Songs without Words, Sunshine Breakfast, he experiments with digital manipulations like Negativity.
© by livhouse paronmeister, all rights reserved. Permission kindly granted for use on this blog.
I wonder how Livhouse would sardonically comment on some of our local newspaper headlines, as much as he would photographically contemplate a misty night or mountain. He is happy to photograph a computer screen as much as a delicate blade of grass. He is also a Tonmeister, a person with a thorough knowledge of sound recording, according to Andrea Kitten, one of his regular visitors. Livhouse has taught me to have fun while titling my pictures, and to photograph produce at the local shops when I was revisiting Tasmania.
(66 testimonials, 1000 contacts)
Homebase- Cebu, Phillipines, Chemist, Husband, Father, Photographer, Traveller
Farl inhabits a world that fascinates me, although I have not yet travelled to many of the places he depicts. His flickr space is filled with photographs of his family and we all know how the wedding went, what his Mum looks like and where he has travelled to. The posts under his pictures are thoughtful and informative, of both camera method, and culture. It is not surprising to me that Farl is also an active blogger, sharing his photos with even more notes.
I love the colour, culture, movement, energy, and family reflected in Farl’s photographs. He seems to keep track of the work of many his contacts, and always returns a visit to his photostream with a comment on one’s own.I often scroll through whole sets of his photographs, and he has taught me a lot about compiling a varied and interesting set to depict a social or cultural event.
© ‘Flower Rush’ by Farl, all rights reserved. Permission kindly granted for use on this blog.
5. Adrian’s Art
(53 testimonials, 1211 contacts)
Homebase England, Wildlife Artist, Photographer, Covers Racing Events amongst other things.
© ‘Two Horse Power’ by Adrian’s Art, all rights reserved. Permission kindly granted for use on this website.
Every time I go to check my flickr pages there’s another image from Adrian that just grabs my attention. His capturing of sunrise, sunsets and all those things people love to see is simply inspiring. Yet, he takes it to another level, pushing himself to make his photography into art. I keep promising myself that when I have some spare cash I would really love to buy one of his horse photographs for my daughter.
6. Sam’s Exotic Travels
(7 testimonials, 1433 contacts)
Home base-Hong Kong (originally from North America),Traveller, Photographer, Business man
Sam, like Farl, is another traveller who photographs.
© ‘Face from India’ by Sam’s Exotic Travels, all rights reserved. Permission kindly granted for use on this blog.
Every time I go to Sam’s photostream I really want to pack up a kit bag, take my camera and travel, but for now Sam can do it for me. Like Farl, he is also informative and likes to do a travel log under his photographs. Sometimes people comment that Sam’s photographs are as good as any published in National Geographic, Sam humbly says he has had ‘one picture used by National Geographic for a book entitled Sacred Places of a Lifetime. Sam told me it can be quite difficult to make it as a paid travel photographer, even if you are very talented and have the opportunity to do it. Some of Sam’s most visited photographs are to be found in the favourites collection.
Sam also adds: ‘Flickr is a great site – if you are active in any of the groups and offer comments, the group members will also visit your posts and make comments as well. If, however, you just don’t take the time to stay active and make comments on others, you will find that your new postings get minimal or no viewings, let alone comments. But I guess this is as it should be, as it is better to give than receive.’
There are others who I hear from time to time as I flick through my modest contact list, but I find the vast flickr world is like a large party room, where my personality means I end up in a corner talking to my favourite ones. I must admit I am a more active blogger of late, and have not visited the flickr groups enough.
Self-Taught Photographer’s Quick User Guide to Flickr
1) Join groups that have titles that appeal to you and pick a range that will help develop your technical and poetic skills. Don’t join too many as it is crazy to keep up with them all.
2) Check out their rules and regulations and comment on others’ photos when you upload, not just your own. People who never comment on anyone’s work at all are not engaging in dialogue, but just showcasing their work for admirers.
3) Place copyright in words under your photos (yes the internet is full of rip off merchants) and add watermarks if you can.
4) Be selective with your contacts, some may come from the blogging community who you know also through their writing.
5) Seek inspiration from the ones who seem to really know what they are doing and what they want to say with their images.
6) Seek inspiration from the technically skilled who are prepared to share that.
7) Browse using tags on photographs, looking at interestingness.
8 ) If someone is not allowing you to see their photographs but has added you as a contact block them (they look like trouble). Do not be afraid to block people who make you feel uncomfortable with what they photograph.
9) If you are serious get a pro account, but remember you can get these free if you are a not for profit group.
10) Do compliment talent when you see it!
Now I am about to show my work more publicly in my local community with other photographers who I can talk to in ‘physical/real space’ not just the virtual/cyber space. I am exploring the world of digital artists, and finding out about the history of the camera. I am about to Image Peace for a feature interview.
I am not as involved in the flickr community but will return from time to time to see what is going on, and explore the latest interesting images, and maybe find something truly astounding that makes me add a new contact and push my own artistic expression further.
My next post will be on why we need astounding images to call ourselves photographers not just snapshot artists.
Thanks so much to Imagepeace, Notley, Livhouse, Farl, Adrian’s Art, Sam for permission to share their images. Please take the time to visit their sites and leave comments on their work.
© June Perkins, all rights reserved, for article and her own images. All other photographers retain rights to their own image.