The Flickr Phenomenon
I am an amateur photographer in the real sense of the word. Although I worked in a commercial photography studio for a while, I found taking shots that other people wanted me to take (for money) unsatisfying compared with the pleasure of capturing images that appealed to me personally on an emotional or intellectual level. In the studio, almost everything is controlled and the objective is to convert an idea to film (or pixels, nowadays). In candid photography, on the other hand, opportunities present themselves unexpectedly and I find that very exciting.
So, since my studio days, I have indulged myself by only taking photographs that resonate with me in some way; that literally beg me to take them. I rarely take photographs that could be described as “dramatic” and I often can’t say why a particular subject appeals to me because the appeal is subliminal. But at the time it did appeal to me; and through the photograph I took, it continues to.
I first created a Flickr account a number of years ago because I found it a convenient way of sharing photos with family overseas. It wasn’t until late last year that I even thought about posting photos to “groups” (i.e. sharing my photos with strangers). That experience has been somewhat disappointing. My beloved photos, which mean so much to me, rarely rate a response from the millions of others who browse the Flickr libraries each day; while some others’ photos, in which I see little or no merit at all, provoke tens and even hundreds of comments, most of which are complementary!
I don’t get it. Are my photographs that bad after all? Does it mean that I am a poor judge of quality in photographs? That I wouldn’t know a good photograph if I saw one? Or is there some other dynamic at play in Flickr-world that I don’t understand? Is popularity based on something other than the pure aesthetic of the image?
In my forays into Flickr I have discovered many outstanding photographs and some brilliant photographers who consistently exhibit work of the highest quality and have a deserved following ready to congratulate them on every posting. So, I picked one at random and reviewed her work from her earliest submissions. I noted two things: first of all, the quality of her work has improved markedly since those early days; secondly, her early efforts, like mine, stimulated very little interest. But now, every posting is inundated with compliments. Recently, I suspect as a social experiment, she posted a picture of herself, in black and white, standing on her head, wearing jeans and a jumper (with nothing else in the frame). This image had generated 77 comments (all positive) last time I looked and had collected quite a number of awards. The photographer’s name is Jai Yung and I commend her to you because I think she is really, really good. And if the headstand photo was indeed an experiment in behavioural psychology, I applaud her for it because that appeals to me too.
So what is the answer? How does one get noticed on Flickr? How does one establish a following that will applaud even your most mundane shots? In the final analysis, I still take my photographs for my own pleasure and popularity is not my primary goal; but I am intrigued by this mystery.
To view my best on Flickr, please click here