Social media and photography

A recent discussion in the Australian Street Photography group on flickr got me thinking – Is flickr dead? (group membership required). The sentiment of the group is mixed, but there’s broad agreement that a longstanding lack of innovation has seen many leave the site, and that it is definitely not what it once was. Flickr has been around for nearly 10 years, and has built up an impressive community; I believe it is still the largeset photography-related community on the web. But I think one quote from the thread sums it up: “Had I been a brand new user, I wouldn’t come back after the second visit.” There are promises of site rejuvenation from Yahoo!, but the community consensus is certainly an impatient ‘what’s next?’.

ASP screenshotThere are a few things to really like about flickr. It’s part of what you might call a democratisation of artistic endeavour: a photographic community that shares, discusses and nurtures, that gives many opportunity for expression they wouldn’t otherwise have. Flickr community sites like JPG Magazine and Utata are also definitely pluses. It’s also part of the web firmament, with a popular though sometimes clunky API, and a broad range of sharing options. My favourite is a plugin for Lightroom.

On the negative side, much of the flickr setup is more frustrating than enabling. Interestingness is rubbish. The kind of images that get ‘Explored’ are generally showy eye candy (not all, of course). The cream does definitely not rise to the top. And I feel that the critical mass is no longer there. The groups are very valuable: there are plenty of knowledgable, entertaining and talented users. There’s an argument for going where the people are.

So what are the options?

Stay with flickr? I definitely will, for some time. I’m in a number of excellent groups (Australian Street Photography is one, and recently organised a successful exhibition as part of HeadOn), and plenty of talented photographers that I want to follow. The broader WWW doesn’t facilitate that sort of relationship.

Google+ – while I think it’s a good experience technically, it doesn’t have the critical mass of discussion or images, nor much potential for in depth discussion.

Facebook – I stopped using the site regularly around a year ago due to privacy concerns. They’re not a good corporate citizen, and don’t deserve my ‘business’, and certainly not my personal details. I understand that for regular users, the discussions can be worthwhile though.

Of the other social networking sites, LinkedIn is good for professionals, but unsuitable for me. Picasa and Instagram shares a similar prognosis to flickr. I’ve never found Redbubble very engaging, and am not keen on the selling angle. DeviantArt doesn’t appeal for similar reasons. Pinterest and Tumblr are not fit for purpose. Twitter is becoming more useful, but more as an alternative channel than a forum for discussion and sharing.

Of course, there are the online magazines, zines and blogs. They tend to be more specialist, and more one-way traffic. FLAK is a good example. Publishing a wide range of works is a different exercise however to a series from time to time. They can be inspirational, but magazines are typically curatorial rather than community-based. Everyone should foster their own inspiration, but that’s not the same as getting regular feedback on your own work, and contibuting to a bigger discussion.

Which leaves 500px. This is the site they say can replace flickr. It’s newer, and focuses on the display of images; it does make flickr look a little dated. But it’s less social: no groups, and much less discussion. Bit I’m hoping to see a little more of the cream rising to the top…

In conclusion? If there’s any wisdom in “going where the people are”, then I should check out 500px for inspiration.

A couple of discussions on the topic to end:

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Posted on June 3, 2012

2 Responses to “Social media and photography”

  1. Drew says:

    And more recently, Pinterest…

  2. […] the juggernaut that it is today, and flickr afforded perhaps the best way to share photos online. I’ve discussed this before, and still haven’t found a site to replace flickr’s mix of interesting practitioners. […]

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