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The Power of Flickr

I’ve been using Flickr since August 2005. It’s been a great site for sharing photos with friends and family (prior to Flickr I had a MSN groups site). I’m in my ninth year of living overseas now, and I know my friends and family have appreciated me keeping them up-to-date with my travels and life overseas through the photos. Over this time, I’ve come to appreciate the photographic arts and learned some of the basic rules of taking good photographs, striving to take quality photographs during my wanderings in the process. Thus, I guess I can claim photography as a small hobby of mine.

flickrstatsOne aspect of Flickr I didn’t expect when I first signed up was the exposure my photos would get on the world stage. Titles and tags given to photos on Flickr are completelysearchable through search engines like Google and Yahoo (see the photo of the stats of my photos being accessed through these search engines). So, over time, more than my family and friends end up seeing my photos as long as I’ve allowed the photos to be viewed publicly.

What I’m really amazed about in all this is that I have had four requests from complete strangers to publish my photos since I joined Flickr. Now I’m sure there’s other Flickr members that have gotten many more requests than that, but considering that I am not a professional photographer and have never solicited my work in any way, I find it amazing that four of my photos have been published!

This photo of Islamic tile work at the Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain was the first one to be published. In June 2006, A lady from the BBC contacted me to use the photo for a GCSE Art revision site. I was very flattered by this request. Of course, I agreed. Considering all the photos that are uploaded to Flickr (and other photo sharing sites) I thought this was just a one off situation. This photo was one of my favorites, so I was happy it was found nonetheless!

In August 2007, I received a second email from a lady working on publishing a story about new casinos in Macau on the website NowPublic. This situation was a little different in that she asked me to go to the NowPublic website to upload my photo(s) she saw on Flickr to be part of the story she was writing on NowPublic. This was my first experience with and exposure to citizen journalism. If you’ve never seen the NowPublic site or never heard of citizen journalism, go check it out. It’s great! Anyway, at this point, I thought it was another kind of random occurrence with another person asking to use my photos.

Elapse another year and 2 months, and I got a request from an editor of a small, independent, alternative magazine in British Columbia. She asked if she could use a photo of a mistranslated sign at the Beijing airport I took for an article she was writing on mistranslations from around the world. With this third request, I was starting to feel amazed as to the power of Flickr in how it gives the amateur photographer opportunities (even when not looking for them!) that would have been difficult to get a few years ago.

Come January 8 this year, I received a fourth request to use a photo, this time by a marketing representative for a surveyors’ institution in the UK. She was asking to use one of my photos of the Bird’s Nest (Olympic stadium in Beijing) for an upcoming book they are publishing on their organization and surveying. This time I was absolutely blown away- a book that will be printed and distributed in the traditional means of publishing would have one of my photos in it! Of course, I agreed.

With all of these examples, I haven’t asked for money, just a proper credit of my name with the photos. Beyond the credit, the magazine editor from B.C. graciously sent me a hard copy of the magazine and the surveyor’s institution will send me a scanned copy of the page on which my photo appears (they can’t afford to send the whole book right now, which I understand).

flickrviewsOne last element that has amazed me with Flickr is the amount of views my photos get in general. The Sungnyemun Gate photo I took during a trip to South Korea a couple of years ago has had 2044 views! When I first noticed this, I couldn’t figure out why. Then one day, I realized that people were probably brought to it in looking for photos of the Namdaemun Gate that was burned down nearly a year ago- a historical moment bringing people to my photo! If only my family and friends were viewing my photos, it would only amount to 10 – 20 views or so at most (A person actually has to fully open a photo by clicking on it to consider it a ‘view’. Many photos are easily seen in the photo stream, so people don’t click on them, thus not getting a ‘view’ stat). So, when I see my photos being viewed more than 20 times, I know others around the world are finding them somehow.

So to wrap this up, social media and Web 2.0 sites like Flickr have levelled the playing field in getting creative work out to the world. Any one can publish photos through this or other photo sharing sites, allowing others to find their work and publish it through other mediums. In the educational realm, we need to encourage and give our students opportunities to do the same. Along with these opportunities to publish meaningful work to the world, teaching how to tag and title creative works effectively will be an important of the process. At the same time, helping students to understand Creative Commons and how the rules of copyright affect them and their work will be incredibly important in this world of easily accessible creative property, file sharing, and mash ups.

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